Every time I saw the title, “Times my mother stood up for me” I cringed. This has been brewing in my head for a whole month now. I decided to wait until after Mother’s Day, so I wouldn’t dampen the parade…..
My first memory of childhood was when I was 5 or 6. I remember walking in to my parent’s room and seeing my father, his hands tightly gripped around my mother’s wrists. He had her pinned against the tile wall of their walk in shower. I know that he was yelling at her, but I think that I have blocked out what he was saying. That or I heard the same stuff from him so many times in the years to come, that it doesn’t matter.
I can still see their faces crystal clear. My dad’s face was red with rage. The absolute terror in my mother’s eyes is something that I will never forget. I remember that they noticed that I was standing there, watching them, and yet he didn’t stop his tirade and she didn’t even plead with him to stop for even my sake. It was if I wasn’t there or didn’t matter.
I don’t remember much else of my childhood, but as you can see, that is probably a good thing. The problem is that even if I don’t remember the specifics, I do remember what I learned from growing up in that household.
My father, god bless him, was an angry person and an even angrier drunk. You never knew what you were going to find when you opened the door. What should have been a refuge was the place that I ran from.
My mother, my best friend, didn’t care enough about herself to say enough was enough. She only thought she had value if she had someone else. I can’t tell you the number of times that I pleaded with her to leave, but her response was always, “But I don’t want to be alone.” This was a woman with a college degree and a fantastic job that paid her well over a hundred thousand a year in the 80’s! She was in banking and she could travel the world managing clients like Wal-Mart and Nike, but still she felt like she was nothing if she was without a man.
We used to play a game. I call it a game now, but then I thought that she was serious. After a bad night with my dad, we would go house shopping. We were going to move out! Yeah! I would run excitedly through each new prospect picking out my room and finding the right spot for this or that article of furniture. I felt so free and hopeful, but it didn’t last long. On Sunday’s we would go to church and that good ole Catholic guilt would set in. She couldn’t leave; the church says it’s a sin or that old standby of not being alone.
I grew up thinking that women were nobodies unless they had somebody and that God expects you to put up with everything, no matter what. The thing that hurts the most even right now, years later, is that she taught me that I mattered even less.
I became a teenager about the time my mom started really traveling internationally for work. She would be gone two weeks at a time, leaving just my dad and I at home. What does one do when they are even angrier because their spouse is more successful and isn’t home much anymore??? They find a new punching bag. I won’t go into it, but let’s just say that even when she found out, she still didn’t leave. It is one thing not to leave for yourself, but it is quite another to stay when your child becomes the target.
She did finally leave after I had gone away to college. It seems she finally realized that being alone was better. For me though, the damage had been done. I am still working through issues from my childhood and it has been almost 20 years since I left. I understand, we all have issues from childhood, but I have had to learn some big ones and often the hard way. I spent many years with the wrong men thinking that the occasional trip to the ER for a broken arm or rib was normal. I spent years in the bottle that I still struggle with one day at a time. The one that I am still working on is my self esteem and self image. It takes many years to change 17 years of someone telling you that you are worthless and even more to get over your mom not standing up and saying no she’s not and I’m not either.
My mom is happy now. She isn’t alone. She doesn’t get beaten up or belittled at every turn. I just wish that she had stood up for herself sooner and in turn for me.
I am happy too. I spent many years finding myself and am still looking for some pieces, but I feel better. I now walk into my home without fear. I have found love an acceptance in my few friends and my boyfriend. I finally feel that the world is a tad bit better because I am here. I also decided not to have children. Maybe I expected too much from my mom and I just can’t bear the thought of not living up to what I “should be” in my child’s eyes.
So moms……remember, standing up for yourself could be the best way to stand up for your kids. Thanks for reading.