Wednesday, May 17, 2017

Hidden Secrets: Surviving a Dysfunctional Childhood, The Early Years Part 2

dysfunctional childhood

Before I get into the nitty-gritty of this post, which continues my story from last week, I really wanted to take a moment and say thank you.  Thank you to all of my readers for continuing to click on my links and spend some of life's precious time reading my words.  Thank you to my subscribers!  I am grateful to have you joining me on this journey.  And, especially, thank you to the readers who sent me comments and messages last week.  It was a difficult decision to put myself out there like that, one that I have struggled with for the several years I have been blogging.  But it was something I knew I needed to do...for me, and for others.  Having such supportive feedback actually made me cry a little bit.  Not much...I'm a tough cookie! 😜😜 But it was truly moving to hear from you about such a sensitive topic for me.  Thank you.  Much love to you all!

Sharing Hidden Family Secrets
Sharing about a dysfunctional family is tricky.  While it can be liberating and healing for you, it can be hurtful to other people.  My intention for writing about this is NOT to hurt anyone.  Inevitably, though, I am sure someone will end up hurt, and for that I am truly sorry. 😒 It can even be painful for my readers that I do not personally know who have experienced situations similar to mine--because it can make fresh again the old wounds; wounds that probably have not healed.  So, please know that if this is causing you undo stress or grief to read my blog post, I am sorry.  And I hope that if you think this post could possibly trigger harmful effects for you, that you will go ahead and sit this one out.  But it is my hope, too, that if this post (and the one before it) can help, in any way, to make you feel "more normal," then you will continue reading and possibly even join in on the conversation--when you are ready.

All week long, I have thought about how my sharing could also be painful for my family, too.  It might remind them of the past, a past that they are hurt, ashamed, or embarrassed by (and possibly do not want what is part of their history to be shared with the general public).  They may wish I could just keep my mouth shut and sweep it all under the rug like we've been taught.

They say that the truth, though, can set you free.  I really believe that.  And I really believe that there needs to be more dialogue about these hidden secrets that affect so many families.  Too, for me, this is what I need to do to come to terms with the pain of my past so that I can continue to move forward...for myself and for my family.

I have always purposely left out the names of my friends and family so that they could remain anonymous, and I will continue to do so.  I will also work very hard at being as sensitive as I can be with what I share.  I hope to accomplish what I need to...without doing any significant damage.  That is probably going to be very difficult, but I will do the absolute best that I can.

With all of these caveats in mind, buckle up everyone! You're in for a bumpy ride on the roadmap of my life.  Here we go...

A New Daddy in My Dysfunctional Childhood
To be completely honest, I don't really remember everything from my childhood.  I have blocked out a lot of it--probably as a coping mechanism.  But there are significant moments that do stand out for me.  In my last post, I ended the synopsis of the beginning of my childhood right after my kindergarten year.  This week, I will focus on the years where I was in first through fourth grades. 

I am not one hundred percent on the exact timeline, but somewhere between kindergarten and second grade, my mother met someone...we'll call him George. We moved out of my grandparents' home and into a house we rented in town, with George.  He was going to be our  "new daddy".  The house we lived in was very temporary.  It was old and needed a lot of work, which my mother and George started working on.  They soon realized that it was too much and they were in over their heads, so we moved again, this time into a double-wide trailer that had an addition built onto it. And my mother married George. 

I don't remember much about him at all.  I do remember, though, that he laid around on the couch a lot.  I also remember that he would beat on my brother.  Gosh.  Writing that is so much harder than remembering it, even.  This full-grown man would give my brother a "whaling,"  as he called it, when my brother was less than 11 years old, for doing things that were ridiculously small or uncontrollable.  For example, if my brother wet the bed at night...on accident, he would get a whaling.  I can still hear the sounds of my brother screeching and crying in pain.  I HATED George.  I remember thinking about wanting to go into my brother's room and help him...scream at George, hit him...do something!  But I was such a young girl.  And I was afraid.  I was afraid of this man who was hurting my brother.  I was fearful that he would hurt me, too.  Of course, realistically, there wasn't anything I could've done.  Still, there has always been this lingering guilt for not having done anything to help my brother. 

That marriage did not last very long, thankfully, but during the time George and my mother were married, he legally adopted us.  My biological father signed-off all of his rights to my sister, brother, and I, which made it legal for George to adopt us...complete with our "new last name".  Naturally, as a young student in school, having my last name changed had been confusing, but I had been happy enough that we had a "new daddy" because this was before I knew what a jerk he was.

Feeling Abandoned 
With regards to the fact that my biological father signed-off all of his rights to my siblings and I, now that I am a mother of my own precious little loves, I cannot imagine, for the life of me, how someone could possibly just walk away from their children...and not even just physically, but to legally give up all of your rights to your children...for life.  I cannot fathom it.  Of course, when you are a kid, knowing that your father doesn't want to ever see you again is painful...even if you are afraid of him
But I think it becomes much more than simple heartache over time.  I have a fear of abandonment, for example, and an innate distrust in men.  (Sorry guys!)  Knowing this about myself, I have to work extra-hard to not allow that distrust to color my interactions with other people...friends, family, and men in general.  But no matter how successful my life has become, this has always followed me...this complete abandonment.  It's not something you just forget, forgive, and move on from like you might from a soured friendship...this is your own flesh and blood rejecting you in the most basic form.  You are not worthy enough to be loved, cared for, or even thought about from your own parent.  And don't even get me started on Father's Day!  As a kid, Father's Day was always awkward and heartbreaking. 

At this point in my life (somewhere before 4th grade), I had had two different last names and lived in at least 7 different homes, and about 4 or 5 different towns.  In this town, though, where my grandparents live(d), I began to feel safer to some extent.  The trailer we now lived in was right down the road from my grandparents' house.  We spent a lot of time with them.  They helped us out when we needed it, and even when my mother and George split, we were still close to them. 

Public Assistance
We stayed in the double-wide for a few years while my mother went back to school.  And we went on public assistance.  I know that we received food stamps several different times in our lives, but I am not sure what, if anything, else there was.  These days, there is so much controversy over public assistance.  Well, as a product of the welfare system, I can tell you first-hand, that it helped my family out immensely.  My mother was a single-mother at this point, raising us three kids by herself, and trying to change our path in life by earning her college degree.  Without food stamps, we wouldn't have had food to eat.  It's just that simple.

I know that being a single-mom is extremely difficult.  I give all the credit in the world to single-moms.  But I want to say that being the child of a single-mother is not easy, either.  Her having gone back to school to change our lives for the better--it must've been wicked hard on her.  It was hard on us kids, too.  We didn't understand all of the ways in which that affected us at the time.  It's only in retrospect that you can see how and why things were the way they were.  We were a family under great duress.  We often arrived to school late and unkempt.  I even had a truant officer speak with me at school at one point, which had left me feeling guilty, like I was a bad kid. 

This, to me, is an example of where our society fails.  A single-mom, trying to make something of herself, needs more support from the community.  The overload of stress on her is too much to bear and can lead to negative outcomes for the whole family...emotionally, physically, and mentally.  Is it fair that other people should have to support a woman "who went and got herself knocked-up"?  Honestly, if she is trying to make a better life for herself and her children, all of whom will become stronger and smarter citizens of our communities, then, YES!  It is fair.  And it is right.  And it is just.  But I could go on forever about that topic...

In any case, although it probably wasn't quite enough help, I'm sure that having my grandparents nearby was very helpful to her.  It was incredibly important to us kids, too.  We loved our grandparents so very much.  They were there for us when she couldn't be there (for the most part).  We did have many different babysitters over the years, too, and for a while we were latch-key kids, as well.  But we still spent a lot of time with our grandparents.  They were a major part of our lives.

Another New Daddy
During this time when my mother was attending college classes, she somehow met a new man.  I don't remember much about him or the situation.  What I DO remember, though, was driving by his home...late at night...on several different occasions.  At the time, I had no idea what was happening, but as an adult, I've realized that we were stalking him. I do not know what transpired between them, only that he was supposed to be our "new daddy" and we were going to move away, build a house, and we could each have our own bedrooms.  We used to sit at the dinner table and fantasize together about what our new house would look like.  As an outsider, that may seem just like harmless creative imagining.  But to a young child who desperately wanted a "new daddy," the promise of him, plus a dream home was thrilling!  Reality, of course, crushed all of those dreams. 

Life-Altering Move
Once my mother graduated from college, she decided to continue her education and work toward a Master's Degree at another college...in another part of the state.  We moved away from my grandparents.  We moved away from our town.  Away from our friends, teachers, community.  And, as luck would have it, the threat of my biological father was still looming.  Because of this, we were not allowed to tell ANYONE where we were moving to.  We were also going to be changing our names again, and we were not allowed to share that with anyone, either.  We were adopting an assumed alias and going off-grid (sort of...not really).  We took my grandparents' last name and moved so far away from them that we rarely ever saw them much again.  We completely severed ties from everyone else and I never saw or spoke with any of my elementary school friends again (until the advent of Facebook, that is!😜).  It was, as a child...and to this day, still is, heart-wrenching. New county, new town, new school, new home, new job for my mother...and another potential "new daddy" promise...

All in my next blog post...where I will focus on the "middle years".  (Sorry for the cliff-hanger...I'm plain old exhausted!  Just another Fibro moment!) Until then, thank you for reading.  And may your coming days be filled with the love of your family and friends!  It's what makes this crazy-life-thing worth it!

Dysfunctionally yours,
Marathon Momma



  1. I knew some of your story, but not this much. You turned out to be a great woman, despite your awful childhood. Can't even imagine how upsetting all these events must have been.

    1. Thank you, my friend, for your friendship and support. It means the world to me! I'm so lucky to have you in my life!


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