I had a lonely childhood. Had to fill time, usually with my 3 year younger sister without parental help. We would walk very long distances; to the library, to the pool in summer, or the ice skating rink in winter. Then I made a group of friends and we regularly rode 2 buses downtown and went to free kids movies at a museum. The Pink Panther is the only one I recall. My mother was like a background figure throughout my childhood with a few exceptions.
At age 13 I began menstruating. Upon telling her I was bleeding [and shocked at that first occurrence] she promptly slapped me across the face, welcomed me to womanly adulthood, and went back to her cigarette burning in the ashtray, and the telephone receiver sitting on the kitchen counter where her best friend waited to resume their phone conversation.
I tried out a few curse words around the same time; and had to carry the 1,000+ page dictionary upstairs or downstairs [it was always opposite where my mother was castigating me], to read aloud the word and definition. I’m unsure if I remember my mouth being soaped. I also know I stole a few candy bars from a small store in our neighborhood, and was found out and my mother made me go and apologize.
A bit later I was made to sit at the kitchen table while my mother drew diagrams of a woman’s reproductive organs– her means of teaching me about sex. The first time I actually had sex I had no clue what was meant by the statement; don’t worry, I used protection. So much for my education.
I quit college without talking to my parents. How could they possibly understand? They never really got involved in my present/future. My mother had taken my to a high school guidance counselor for tests and then to explain what I would be good at in adulthood. My father told me I should take courses to get a teaching degree, as a fall-back to help my husband, in case he needed me to work.
Both the vocational testing, and teaching degree fulfilled the “womanly” accepted role of nurturing others, prevalent thinking at the time I was growing up. Yet I filled my own emotional needs as a volunteer worker with children with disabilities beginning in my early teens onward. A college course stating psychiatric language placing people with low levels of cognition [due to disabilities] in “idiot” and “moron” boxes was the reason I left college. Had these superior people no humanity, I wondered?
It seemed obvious to me that I was alone in the world. Decisions were on my shoulders alone. And I couldn’t find my way through a dense forest of expectations and lack of help finding alternatives.
What I DID decide/ know was that if I ever became a mother, I would really, truly love my children, talk to them about anything and everything, not judge them, not put impossible demands on them of what I wanted for them, instead helping them find what they wanted, what they cared about, where each thought they might excel.
Today’s post came about after reading a comment on someone else’s post. Here’s an excerpt of the comment by Heather; “I want to say that this idea that love can come from the inside is a great one! But, it does not replace the very real pain of having a mother who doesn’t love you. And, worse, living in a society that says all mothers love you, you just don’t realize it! ”
Stay tuned for the next chapter in this story.
Cards here; created by me. First saying; “No act of kindness, no matter how small is every wasted.” by Aesop. Second saying; We’re every one of us imperfect. We’re every one of us, in some way, wounded animals. The most important thing is to take care of each other. ” by Barry Lopez.