As I get closer to the day of my birth. I realize….
Her name was Tina. A girl about my age. We knew each other because our brothers went to the same school. My birth mother and her Mom became friends. Tina’s mom seemed to really love her daughter. It was a love that you could just see. For me the greatest example of this was that they laughed together at the same things. She laughed with her daughter. Oh what a joy to see and experience: A happy, loving mother daughter relationship. My birth mother compared me to Tina often and with contempt. Apparently, Tina was a great daughter. Me? not so much. The solution? Become Tina.
When you are raised with the continued reinforcement that your birth mother doesn’t like you, EVERYTHING IS BROKEN. Your spirit, your sense of you, your trust, your character, your soul … YOU.
I learned early in life that apparently I was NOT what my mother wanted in a daughter. Or even a child. My solution? Be Tina. Study her? Now it wasn’t as calculated as the statement. I didn’t sit down and have a revelation and plan it. I just thought with a child’s mind: Tina’s mom seemed to really love Tina. No, actually adore Tina. My birth mother adored Tina. Since according to my birth mother I was awful, if i became Tina i would get love and attention and my mom would like me. See how the thought process of a child works? Even better, if i became Tina I wouldn’t hurt no more. Tina was the cure. See if I was Tina, my mom would have to love me. She thought so highly of Tina. Surly that would work.
Over time, I would study Tina: when we went to visit or she would come over I would take in everything. How she spoke, how she laughed, how she wrote, how she interacted with her mom. Her laugh. Her words. Her handwriting. I tried to learn to jump rope like she did. Anything and everything I could copy I tried. It was costly, as children can be cruel. I didn’t know how to jump double Dutch or turn. I tried but the kids would make fun of me. I tried to make jokes like she did, but i had no experience in joking with kids my age so i failed and was teased. I pressed on though cause my mom would like a Tina for a daughter so i had to become her. I would test out with my birth mother my “Tina” and sometimes it seemed to work, other times it didn’t. When it didn’t work i figured it was my fault. I didn’t do something right.
Needless to say being Tina blew up in my face one day right in front of Tina and her mom. Tina and I had practiced these “steps” or cheers as some may call them. We eventually ended up clapping and stomping our feet, saying the cheers together in front of our Moms. I thought: my birth mother will see how hard I’ve tried to become a better child and this will definitely win her over. While we were performing, Tina’s mom was laughing and smiling. However, my mom had that look. The look that ment I was in trouble. The “step” was done and I could hear Tina’s mom just laughing with her daughter. I laughed too as I fought the fear that was building inside me. I figured if I continued with me being “Tina”right next to her my mother would see. I mean, she would have to see how hard I had worked to be the perfect child.
I payed for learning that “step”. My birth mother was mad, angry and punished me. I learned one thing. Tina was not it… I had to find another “Tina”. Who else did my mother adore? Over the years there would be a laundry list of “Tina’s”… and with each one I moved farther and farther from who ever I was supposed to be…
Fast forward to adulthood. There was so many people I had impersonated through my childhood that the real me was dead. I was a walking tribute to all those that my birth mother loved.. all except me.
To reach your 20’s and have no sense of self is tragic in itself. To reach that age, get married and have a baby just compounds the tragedy and elevates it from a horrible situation to a horrific situation. I was living blind. I couldn’t see me.
Several years and three kids later I realized that I didn’t even know my favorite color anymore. When I was really little it was sunflower yellow. Like the bright yellow in the old crayon boxes. As an adult I couldn’t even tap into that. It was like me as an adult, and me as a child, we’re two totally different people. Two strangers.
I did peek through every once in a while in my childhood. A particular birthday I remember I peeled out and tried to be me. Only to end up embarrassed because I could only mimic what I watched others do. I didn’t know that it was ok to be me. I was me and felt awkward, dumb and stupid. The birthday was videoed and every time I watch it I am embarrassed to see ME.
Recently it’s been a revelation to realize that over the years when I was my most authentic self I felt a deep sense of embarrassment. Sometimes I still do.
A child, trying to become herself, while trying to mimic others, to obtain the love of a parent, is the explanation of what was going on from my adult view. But being that child and living that, with no vocabulary to explain it then, is a sad account of the abuse that broke me.
As a survivor who lives daily with PTSD, depression and anxiety, it is freeing to put words to the life I lived as a child. It is also depressing to realize that I’m still affected by the life of that child everyday.
A birthday, Thanksgiving, Christmas, my fathers passing, and New Years. October thru December every Year!
These are the months that I struggle the most. These are the ones where the secrets of who I am and how I became who I am battle most with who I am now.
I’ve done a lot of work to be me after the abuse, and to show up in this world as an authentic me, before my death. I’ve worked hard. Some days I’m more successful than others.
The greatest gift we can give our children is to allow them to be themselves. There is a big difference between raising a child, changing a child and breaking a child. There is a big difference between having a child and wanting a child. There is a big difference between liking a child and loving a child.
Drop a plate on the ground…
It shatters in a million pieces…