Thursday, May 11, 2017

Hidden Secrets: Surviving a Dysfunctional Childhood The Early YearsPart 1

Dysfunctional Childhood

Life is Not Perfect
Life doesn't always wrap up in one neat little package.  We all know this.  Yet we strive for the perfect experience.  We want our marriages and friendships to be full of love, compassion, honesty...and fun.  We want our children to be wonderful little angels with a desire to please everyone (well, at least their parents, anyway), and a willingness to engage with and explore the world around them. We want our homes to be clean and neat, nothing out of order.  We want our cars shiny and new, running consistently and efficiently.  Heck!  We even want our dogs to play fetch or lay around and snuggle with us on our own time frame, no barking included.

But all of this perfection is not possible.  And if it were, our world would actually be quite boring.  Life is all about struggles that help make us stronger; challenges that teach us new things. 

As a young girl and eventually young lady, I had fully believed that when I became an adult, I could MAKE my life perfect like this.  Of course, having experienced many events in my adult life that I did not have control over, either, I have realized that this is an illusion; being able to MAKE life perfect. But it was an illusion I needed to believe in order to survive my childhood--a childhood marred with emotional and mental abuse, violence, fear, and uncertainty/insecurity.

I used to be embarrassed about my past.  I used to hide it from others because I was ashamed.  But I didn't have control over what happened when I was a child.  It was out of my hands. It was none of my doing.  I am a product of the choices other people made.  But I have always strongly believed that, no matter your early life circumstances, you have a choice in what you become.  You can choose to overcome your past.  Or you can choose to wallow in self-pity, head down a self-destructive path and do nothing with your life. It's up to you!

Over the next several posts, I will be sharing with you some of my imperfect past, with the hope that other people will learn that it's okay to talk about your childhood, regardless of how messed up or embarrassing it might seem.  You did not have control over how you were raised. And you are definitely not alone. There are so many other people that have lived experiences like yours, too.  And the power that comes from sharing those experiences is immense...Self-Empowerment Overload!  Without any further ado, here's what it was like to grow up...as me.

Violence in My Early Years
While I was growing up, my family faced challenges that most families never face.  Before I was five years old, I had already lived in several different homes and towns.  My biological father and my mother had separated and I clearly remember some scary moments from those early years. 

I can remember at one point, as a 3 or 4 year old, hearing my mother shrieking while I was upstairs.  My brother and I had raced down the stairs, crept into the kitchen and saw my father looming over my mother with her arm behind her back.  It was violent.  And it was frightening.  My mother has claimed that my father had been trying to break her arm.  My brother seems to remember my mother had a knife and my father was trying to get it away from her.  To this day I still do not know or understand the truth behind that event, only that it haunts the darkest recesses of my memory. 

At one point, probably after or somewhere around that time, my parents split up and my father had visitation rights.  One of the times I was supposed to go with him, I can remember that I was crying and afraid.  I did not want to go.  I'm not sure what my reasoning was at the time, but I did NOT want to go with him.  Was I scared of him?  Did I just want to stay home with my mother?  I don't remember what actually ended up happening that particular day...if I went or not.  But I do remember going on one visitation to his apartment.  I even remember the TV being on, and at one point, listening to Rick Springfield's "Jesse's Girl" on the radio.  It's funny because with what had transpired next, you might think that I would associate that song with negative emotions, but I still freaking LOVE that song!  I mean, who doesn't?!

Anyway, an adult's memory of an event that occurred under the age of 5 can be blurry.  But I will tell you, I clearly remember that we were supposed to go home.  He was supposed to take us.  But he didn't.  He told us that if my mother really wanted us back, she could come get us herself.  Well, she did just that. But she had to call upon the police to make sure she could get us back.  When they came to the apartment to get us out, it was terrifying.  My brother, sister, and I were ducking down, hiding behind the one side of the bed and I remember being afraid of getting shot by the police (I must've been some kind of big, bad criminal in those days of barely being able to reach the counter!). Of course, nothing like that happened.  But it DOES happen to other children in other families. Luckily, just not to mine. 

Moving to a New Town
We moved across the state and into my grandparents' vacation home after that.  This town is where we spent the next 5 or so years...one of the longest stretches we ever lived in one town.  So, this would also be where I began my illustrious education at the local elementary school, as a timid kindergartener afraid of the BIG, Scary World. 

On my first day of kindergarten, I climbed up the big yellow bus that would empty out into this new, ominous building with complete strangers.  When I walked through the doors and didn't know where to go, I stood in the hallway and began to cry.  My teacher, Mrs. Schuler, found me and put a loving arm around my trembling shoulders, guiding me into her classroom.  I loved her.  She was warm, welcoming, and always sang songs with us.  She had a piano in the classroom that she played "Suzie Snowflake" on, and she was simply glorious!

During that first year, I met many new friends...and even had a boyfriend!  Yup, that was me...the five-year-old floozy! πŸ˜†  His name was Jason.  And we played together on the playground a lot.  During nap time, we sometimes had our carpets (remember those?!) next to each other, too. 

This first year in my new town (my grandparents' weekend and summer town), we were always looking over our shoulders.  We were afraid of my biological father coming to kidnap us.  My brother, sister, and I overheard adult conversations, and were also taught all of the safety rules...don't go outside alone, don't tell anyone anything personal, and do NOT go with your father if he shows up to take you.  Also...he could try to take you at school, so the school knows that you are not to leave with him. But always be on the lookout for your crazy-ass father.

For the longest time, I never understood why my sister had a kindergarten graduation when she was finally in school, yet I hadn't had one.  And we had had the same teacher!  How unfair!  Yeah, well a few years back it finally, FINALLY dawned on me.  The reason why I hadn't had a kindergarten graduation was not because there wasn't one...it was because we were pulled out of school early that year to basically go into hiding.  After being picked up from school that day, us kids had to hide on the floor of the backseat of our light blue station wagon while my mother ran errands so that my father wouldn't see us, kidnap us, or shoot us.  (He was a sharp-shooter, you know.)

We lived in a world of fear. Which is why, one afternoon during my kindergarten nap, when a tall, strange man entered our classroom, went into the cubbies to grab a few things, and proceeded to remove my boyfriend, Jason, from the room, I thought he was coming for me.  It turns out that he was Jason's father, and yes, as the non-custodial parent, he actually did kidnap my friend.  He picked Jason up off of his napping carpet and carried him right out the door of the classroom, bookbag, coat, and shoes in hand. 

My teacher was clearly upset and worried, running out to the principal's office.  We didn't see Jason again for a very long time.  The local newspaper had run at least one story (that I remember) on Jason's disappearance.  Eventually, he was found and he returned to school.  But it was weeks or months later.  I cannot even imagine what his mother must've went through during this time.  To this day, I still think about how strange and coincidental it was that something like that happened to another child in my world, especially considering that it was a fear I lived every day.

In a nutshell, that's how my year of kindergarten shaped-up...fear of kidnapping, witnessing a kidnapping, missing out on my kindergarten graduation.  Were there good times/happy times?  Yes, of course there were!  Not having unlimited time to explore every single aspect of my childhood, though, I am focusing on the point of this series of posts.  Which, again, is to help other people realize that 1) childhood is a crap shoot...and you have absolutely NO say in how it turns out; 2) you have a choice in what happens AFTER childhood...what you become is all up to YOU; and 3) you are NOT alone...other people have grown up in messed-up families and have survived or THRIVED, so you can, too!  I am a prime example of that!

In my next post, I will continue sharing my early years with you.  I know that not everyone has experienced this type of childhood, but I hope some of you have connected with this post in some way.  Want to add to this conversation?  Feel free to write in the comments below!

No longer embarrassed,
Marathon Momma

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