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Re: ... and another story (response is long, too) » wendy b.

Posted by leeran on April 27, 2003, at 14:14:05

In reply to Re: ... and another story (long) » leeran, posted by wendy b. on April 26, 2003, at 13:42:32


I’m going to go ahead and copy and paste this mishmash of words. I read your other post regarding posting and hearing back, and I realized that I could work on this ‘til the thread moved off the page and what good would that do?

In answer to your comment that I’m brave – believe me, I find myself the polar opposite of brave, but thank you for your kind words. I was so moved by your post that I read a few of the more generic portions aloud to my husband.

I want to keep this brief* . . . I'm testing my ability to do so . . .

First off, I'm glad you mentioned the caveat, which I so blatantly left out of both posts (or maybe I tried to cover my butt in my subsequent "adult view" post, but I didn't do it very well).

Regarding, as you so aptly put it, “the caveat:"

One reason I've never liked to grouse too much about my childhood is because I know that there are so many others who have had it a million times worse. And, given my personality, when that comes to mind, I feel even guiltier for feeling negative about what wasn't all that bad (?). Ahhhhh, the mind chases its own tail - around and around and around.

Your recount of your childhood reminds me of what an innocent time we seemed to grow up in (for some reason I've gotten the impression that we're in the same age group, but maybe not . . . if I've aged you with that statement, forgive me). Innocent in some respects, and horribly naive in others.

When my son was about two or three (he's 15 now), I would watch the little neighbor girl (the same age as my son), wandering down the driveway, unattended, clad only in her diaper. I was so conflicted . . . it happened nearly every Saturday and Sunday afternoon - and her parents were nowhere to be seen, nor were her three older brothers. I'm sure she would get up from her nap and just walk out the back door without being noticed. Her mother and I had a kind of “stand-offish” relationship and I was afraid she might become defensive if I walked her daughter back to the front door. She had three older children and I just had one and was already semi-jokingly considered to be the most protective mother in the neighborhood.

Sometimes, I would take the baby monitor with me (while my son slept upstairs in his room) and read on the front steps just to make sure she wouldn't wander out into the road. Eventually, someone would come out to retrieve her and I would keep my nose in the newspaper or a magazine so I wouldn't appear to be a nosey (nosey/nosy - Merriam Webster gives two options, I hate it when that happens) neighbor . . .

I finally got to the point that, if I saw her outside alone, I would go inside and sit away from a window because I couldn't stand the anxiety. Note: I also cover my eyes during movies that are only mildly nerve-wracking.

Not that this matters, but this was a very nice neighborhood across from a golf course (where there was quite a bit of traffic on weekend afternoons). She was the developer's daughter and their home had every amenity imaginable. Her family was well known in the community. I'm sure they "knew better" (that sounds so judgmental on my part) and they were probably busy with their other children. I don't know. I'm making excuses for them. It didn’t just happen once. It was usually every weekend (I worked outside the home so it may have been weekdays, too). Sometimes it would be 30 - 40 minutes that she would be outside in the driveway or on the sidewalk before anyone noticed (occasionally a close friend of the mother’s who lived across the street and who felt more comfortable taking her back inside would come to the rescue). As you can see, I’m still torn over my handling of that situation, which perhaps roots back to our society’s hesitation to interfere in “other people’s business.”

Thank God that you, Wendy B., returned safely home in your wanderings. A friend told me that each of us have a guardian angel that accompanies us everywhere we go. Although I’m more spiritual than religious (maybe I can’t say that here?), and I don’t want to inject religious tones into my posts, it would seem that your guardian angel was following you very closely during those walks of yours.

So much of everything seems to boil down to rationalizations. I'm sure my father thought "there's an adult in the house, I leave her with her mother all the time when things are 'normal.'" And it's true, I suppose I could have crept down there to the basement and asked her what was wrong but I was too afraid. Not that she would hit me, she never did that (nor did she ever physically abuse me in any manner), but just because I didn't want to see her crying, or hear the cold tone of her voice.

Over the years I've made many rationalizations in regard to my own son - #1 being the decision to divorce his father and then, five or so years later, the decision to move him 2000 miles away from his father. All the "wince worthy" stuff . . . "should I have stayed with his father and been miserable for years like my parents were? Should I have waited until my son was 18?"

Another moment of synchronicity occurred yesterday afternoon when I was originally writing this post. My son left a handwritten draft of a paper on my desk after typing it last week. I set it to the side because I wanted to read it, but it fell to the bottom of a stack. The teacher’s assignment to the class was an essay about one of the most significant events in each of their lives. My son’s subject was moving to California.

This is not the first time he’s written about this (I think this is a common subject every couple of years). Reading his views as a fifteen year old, after being here for almost four years was actually scary, given the last few days of examining my own childhood with a lice comb. After the first paragraph I thought “Oh no, HERE’S the other shoe. Everything I feel like I’ve opened myself up to personally in the last two days is going to come crashing down as my punishment (someone once told me my “God” is a punitive God) for writing about my own childhood on a public message board.”

His matter of fact words describing his goodbyes to his dad, stepmother, little sister and grandparents made my heart ache for him all over again. But then, in the subsequent paragraphs the descriptions of arriving here, the first year, the subsequent years were incredibly positive. Anything negative he experienced (and believe me, there were some negative moments of being bullied, made fun of for not taking drugs, etc.) didn’t even come through between the lines. I was amazed.

My perception of the last four years has been so clouded with guilt, fear, and worry that I’ve concentrated on the negative events he experienced and totally dismissed the positive aspects. He talked about bringing his grades up, making friends, taking up skateboarding, and at his last sentence was “Moving to California was one of the best decisions I have ever made.”

I don’t know my point. I think that it has something to do with the rationalizations we make that are sometimes healthy and other times unhealthy. In reality, my son didn’t really have a choice in the matter because he was younger than 14 and I had primary custody. My ex-husband didn’t dispute the matter when I filed my request with the courts, probably because he owed so much back child-support. However, during the six to eight months prior to moving my son and I went to counseling every other week regarding the move. Somehow, out of all of that he felt like he had a choice and could take some kind of ownership over the event.

Who knows, someday he might be talking about me on a message board, or sitting in a therapist’s office, but I know this – I would rather have him talk it all out, now, then, whenever – than carry the burden around by himself.

My point? Again, I don’t know. I rarely do. Maybe it’s better NOT to have a point? A marriage counselor told me years ago (when I was still trying to get over my first husband’s infidelity years after it happened): “If you were holding on to a hot piece of metal what would you do?” The obvious answer was “let it go.” Of course, the analogy being that if something is still hurting you, you have to eventually let it go. But, I don’t think I can throw it away without looking at it again.

Your story, Wendy, was painful to read, and I’m sure painful to tell (and even more painful to live), but getting it all out before letting it go has to help. Don’t you think? I have to believe that to be the case because it’s the only way I can hold onto hope, and isn’t that what got us through some of those unsavory childhood moments in the first place? I will never forget the little girl who came to the conclusion that the sidewalk wasn’t a safe place. But, I’ve also seen a glimpse of how it all turns out – a loving, intelligent mother with a daughter who means the world to her.

Each story I read makes me feel more nurturing – and nurtured. And makes me more willing to sit down with another human being, face to face (for a change), to tape up the package before I send it on its way one and for all. For me, Psycho-babble equals “pre-qualification of benefit.”

Thanks again, Wendy, for sharing so many wise words, and for taking us on a walk through your childhood. With every post I read I feel the loneliness of my own childhood drifting away. I agree with Pax. What makes pain so unbearable is bearing it alone.


*note - this experiment in brevity did NOT work




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