Louder Than Words
January 25, 2007

I write this post with some trepidation for many reasons. One, I know that my little sister reads my blog (not that she's little any more) and I haven't discussed this in quite this way with her before. Two, because I started this blog with the intentions of discussing my adventures in teaching ... it never did quite pan out that way, but I made a decision early on for this not to be "one of those blogs. Blogs wailing about poor pitiful li'l ole me and my "horrible" life. And three, because the day that my mom discovers this blog, the shit will hit the proverbial fan.

And yet, this hypocritical brouhaha over whether or not gays should adopt, leaves me, personally, with little choice. I find that I have to write a few serious posts which will go into my childhood and talk about my family. There will be serious moments and funny moments. Because that's just how I am.

And here's why:

By the time I began the third grade, I knew that something was terribly wrong in my family. We had lived in seven homes in six towns by the time I started kindergarten. And despite the fact that we had not moved between kindergarten and the beginning of third grade, I'd already gone to two elementary schools. (The Catholic school experiment of second grade was simply an utter disaster ... go figure.)

In essence, by the time I was nine, I had "moved," in terms of any kind of socialization with others, a total of eight times. This helped to shape me into something of a loner. It might have made another child more outgoing and honed their social skills to a fine point ... for me, I drew inward. Why work hard to make friends when I would simply be moved away from them again in a short time?

I did make friends, just not quickly nor easily.

My best friends, and, in fact, my true "parents," were found in the library. I said in an earlier post that distancing myself from my parents had saved my life. And I ended the post by adding, "Well, that and the bookmobile." And the truth of the matter was that I learned far more about families and love from the books that I read than I did from my parents. (Note to my sister: and you and the extended family ... just not from Mom and Dad.)

So as I realized that something was terribly wrong in our family, I did what any little third grade TOTAL geek-child would do: I went to the library.

Heart banging in my chest, trying very hard NOT to look about furtively as I approached the 300s, I passed books of statistics on various countries, passed books on civil rights, on slavery, politics, economics ... and I was sure that by the time I got to the 360s that every person not just in the library, but the entire school, and possibly all of Austin, knew that I was pulling out the first book on child abuse that I saw.

I went to one of the little desks, sat down, began with the table of contents. Began paging through the book, heart still racing, watching the clock, trying not to panic when my teacher or the librarian walked past me. To this day, I can clearly recall the first chapter of the book describing cases of neglect, primarily in the inner city. There was a heavy implication that child neglect was obviously an inner city issue ... probably something inherent in "the blacks."

I was inclined to distrust the book already.

I was also horrified to read what some children had gone through. Having to fend completely for themselves, find their own food, water, even shelter.

We are shopping. I am talking to the artist about his work. Mom, bored, not finding what she was interested in, moves on to the next stall. I continue talking to the artist, babbling as only a three-year-old can. Question after question after - we are interrupted by my mother, voice high-pitched and tight. "THERE you are! Don't ever wander away from me again!" I protest that I never did wander away, I've been right here this whole time. I learn quickly that I have to watch for Mom or she will wander off without me and never realize it.

This child-neglect was not what I had come to find out about.

The next chapter or two covered physical abuse. Again, I was horrified to read about ... and in some cases, see ... the horrific things that some adults had done to infants, toddlers ... kids like me.

This was not what I had come to find out about either.

I am running through the apartment in Carmel, Indiana. I am running for my life, terrified beyond belief. I am literally flying up the stairs, if I can just get far enough ahead, he won't know where I hide. I'm really good at hiding. I fly into their room. Into their closet; I've got a plan. But he's too close behind me. The closet door opens ... there's a silhouette of a man, belt raised above his head.
Mommy is cooking dinner. Daddy is getting a beer from the fridge. I want to see dinner. Little hands struggle high over my head, grasping at the top of the stove, for what I don't know. "Don't you know that's hot? I'll show you how hot it is." And he removes the pot from the gas flame and holds my hand there ... not long enough to blister, but long enough to learn fire is bad.

Sure, my parents spanked me once in a while, but they never did the horrible things described in that book. Neglect was not what was wrong in my family. Physical abuse was not what was wrong with my family.

The next chapter or two dealt with sexual abuse.

I turned to the next chapter as quickly as possible without calling attention to myself. THAT was CERTAINLY NOT what was wrong with our family.

Evenings with Daddy, watching Planet of the Apes together up in their room. ... the little Red Riding Hood mask which terrified me before Daddy even showed it to me ... Jeannie's house ... the sickest feeling in the pit of my stomach, worse even than before I throw up. No, no, no, this could not be what was wrong with our family.

I leafed idly through the rest of the book. A chapter on alcoholism caught my attention for a while, but it didn't really seem like just drinking alone really counted enough to be abuse. Dejected, I replaced the book. Obviously Mom and Dad were right: I just didn't appreciate what I had.

After all, Mom told me over and over how lucky we were: we had two parents who loved us.

But the thing is, the real truth of the matter, is that Mom's favourite phrase would come back to haunt her. "Actions speak louder than words." And as often as she said that to us, I very rarely actually felt it. We had the "perfect" family. Mom, Dad, two kids. Mom stayed home with us. Dad had a great job, even if we did seem to have to move around a lot. But what I saw and felt were the constant complaints about having to clean up after us, about having to make us Kool-Aid all the time, about the trouble that i got in constantly (I didn't except for in her head), about driving us to school.

And, apparently, I didn't "play" right. So any time that I, or my sister and I together, convinced Mom to play a game with us, it didn't last long. I was too rough, rambunctious or loud. When we were colouring, and I proudly showed Mom how great I was colouring, she told me I was doing it wrong. Apparently five year olds should be able to do more than stay within the lines ... I should have been colouring in small circles so that diagonal patterns didn't appear in my picture.

So, I spent time with my Fisher Price Little People ... played with the kids a couple of doors down when I could, and tried to keep mostly to myself when at home.

What does any of this have to do with gay adoptions?

The reasoning takes a little more set-up. I'll get there, hang in with me.

Posted by Red Monkey at January 25, 2007 5:59 PM | Struggles | | StumbleUpon Toolbar Stumble |

 

Liz said:

I did the same thing as a kid. My family wasn't right either, but I can't say that my mother tried to hide it from us. We all hid it from everyone else. We moved a lot. I turned to books. I didn't bother to make friends when I knew we'd move again soon.

January 25, 2007 6:37 PM

 

JACKIE said:

well, now I'm hooked...that's a dirty trick...I'll be back..

January 25, 2007 10:43 PM

 

JACKIE said:

i cant tell if the comment showed up....hoo boy..I ll be back to see what happens...jac

January 25, 2007 10:44 PM

 

Beth said:

I can't wait to hear more!

January 26, 2007 1:32 AM

 

MsDemmie said:

Hanging in there with you - and for you.

January 26, 2007 11:31 AM

 

Erin said:

Reading this post makes me remember my childhood so well. Same deal: everything seems perfect and happy, but it just wasn't right. My mom was so much like yours; I had to be the perfect little girl and we all know that children aren't perfect.

I had a blackmark list. Every little thing I did wrong (for example, if I forgot to hang my towel up after a shower and left it in my bedroom), I got a black checkmark. 10 marks = grounded for a week. No friends, no TV, no anything. School and then home again. First time I got grounded, I was 2.5.

Anyway, I, too, will be back. :)

February 20, 2007 10:10 AM

 

Erin said:

Reading this post makes me remember my childhood so well. Same deal: everything seems perfect and happy, but it just wasn't right. My mom was so much like yours; I had to be the perfect little girl and we all know that children aren't perfect.

I had a blackmark list. Every little thing I did wrong (for example, if I forgot to hang my towel up after a shower and left it in my bedroom), I got a black checkmark. 10 marks = grounded for a week. No friends, no TV, no anything. School and then home again. First time I got grounded, I was two-and-a-half.

Anyway, I, too, will be back. :)

February 20, 2007 10:12 AM
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