I am a mother of two sometimes wonderful little girls. I am the mother of two sometimes little jerks. I feel like I can not go on with out adding the mandatory, “they get it from their father” line, which may have some truth to it. My oldest also gets it from her mother, of which I am not. By all means, I play the role and have for almost a decade. I categorically fill this role financially, emotionally, physically and in any other possible ways I can. I go above and beyond to make up for the first three years and nine months I have missed. I am not trying to replace her mother by any means. I could never lower myself to the level of a woman who’s biggest gift to her daughter would be letting her go. I am simply trying to fill the huge gaping hole she left behind and continues to expand with every broken promise, every bad word and every manipulative conversation.
The worst part about not being her mother is paying for the sins of someone else. Among playing every other role whole heartedly since day one, I also play the reluctant role of punching bag. Believe me, if I needed a good target to help me land a hit, her face would be the perfect image. Would I imagine her face at every precinct pick-up where instead of greeting her child, she completely ignored her while either not putting down the phone, or simply glaring at her father? Would I imagine her face when we had to drop her daughter off on Christmas morning for the first time after we found out about her allowing her boyfriend, who was standing right next to her, to abuse her daughter while she cried to her for help and she did nothing. Whatever faces I can imagine are pale in comparison to the faces she has displayed to my child.
I guess I should feel lucky because children take their pain out on the person they trust the most, but it is hard to feel lucky when you are on the receiving end of an outpouring of 12 years of suffering, that only seems to be getting larger. We can go to therapists. I can make sure she has trusting adults to talk to. I can get her journals, keep her safe, meet her needs, show her love, give her endless attention, even at the expense of my six year old, but I cannot help her come to terms with the absence, or even worse, the manipulative, abusive, dismissive, random presence of the one person she is biologically predisposed to need. Her mother neither lets go so she can begin to heal, or steps up to the role of parent to prevent further harm.
So where does this leave me? Shortly after our household won full legal and physical custody, and all the celebrating was done, I looked around and found my mind quoting the namesake of my blog, “I am in a world of shit.” Four years later, I find that I can shovel it no quicker than it falls. I went from having a needy child that would look for love and acceptance at home and never find enough to fill her void to one who is starting to care more about what her peers and boys think about her. This is the definition of looking for love in all the wrong places. I am not even saying looking for it at home is the right place. I believe, until she loves herself, there is no safe place to look for love. You become a model of what you think other people will love, losing yourself in the process and leaving an even bigger trail in the journey for self acceptance.
I know that one can recover from a loss as deep as a parent, but I also know a living loss is more difficult as you never will truly get closure. You will always hope that next phone call or next visit will validate you, and in this case it never does. And in the case my daughter does hear the right words, how long will that high last? How long until the rebound and the guilt kick in? She can never get what she wants from her mother, as it is already lost. She will never get back her innocence, her childhood. She will have to learn in the cold hard world of adolescence or even adulthood what it feels like to feel safe and loved. As humans, we best learn these as children when we are in the arms of loving parents who can shield us from some of the more horrible realities in the world. That was stolen from her, with no appology, no remorse, but instead with manipulation and blame, as a 5 year old who suffers abuse should keep her mouth shut and endure it to stay with her mother all while she is trying to keep her away from her father who loved her and would never hurt her.
In the movie, Full Metal Jacket, the one man of whom i quoted could not handle the pressure and opted out before the war. Which means he didnt even make it to the hardest part. Maybe my daughter does not realize the immense strength and courage it took her to get this far, but she made it. From grueling interveiws with ACS representatives that she hated, to court appointed psychologists repeatedly asking her to recount her worst memories, to sitting under oath in front of many strangers and having to testify against her own mother while in her presence. From every time she reluctanly had to get in the car and be driven back home to her mother and her boyfriends house, sometimes in tears. From her mother telling her if she did not recant her cries of abuse she would get beat, to making her lie to police that the boyfriend who she had a restraining order against was not just there after he jumped out of the window, to making her listen to her tell lies about her father in a false police report to punish her for telling on her and then telling her that her daddy was going to jail forever. All of this going on while she constantly questioned why the court that was supposed to protect her, instead favored her abusive mother. Hearing this tiny sample of what this child endured would make one think she is a survivor and the best is yet to come, but this was only bootcamp. The real struggle is still ahead and either way she loses a part of herself as the war is within her.