At this particular moment of my life, my mother and I are going through something of a power struggle. I have lost my ability act like the child she expects of me, and I have lost the ability to pretend to be the child that my family expects to see.
When I was younger, I imagine that my relationship with my mother was a delight. When she tucked me in at night, she would say cute things like “Remember, Mommy ___ loves you and gentle Jesus loves you too!” It was just the two of us, and as it tends to occur in most single parent households, once I grew older we treated each other like equals. This system of equality was fine for the two of us. I don’t think I ever took undue advantage of the situation, but once my (at the time *SD2B now just plain) SD stepped in, things began to come to a major catalyst. With this in mind, and the current degree of animosity that runs between us, I’ve decided to go digging into some realisations I had long before the ripe old age of almost 18. Please note that this a ramble of thoughts that I am trying to sort through, so I can assure you that my mother is probably not a devil in disguise.
** Disclaimer: I will be blasting most of the things that my mother does that bother me, so yes, I am about to sound like a demon child.**
Did she really not realise?
I wouldn’t say that this is a question I think of on a regular basis, because based on my actions at the time, I’ve come to stop thinking of the molestation, as a violation against myself. The matter is simply too complex for me to fully work out without more memory, and I really don’t want to go digging deeper into my mind. However, since this involves my mother, I have to think back. This is the second memory I have of actual sexual interaction with my uncle. I had spent the afternoon in my uncle’s room while his father took care of the gardens he grew around the yard. I don’t even remember the bedroom door being locked. I also don’t think we were on the bed, I think I was lying on the floor. Anyway, skipping the details, things happened and then I was sent home. When I got home, it was time for my bath, sometime close to dusk. My mom had sent me off to the bathroom and followed me so that she could help me wash the essentials efficiently. As we finally made it to that particular essential, I tried to stay still, I really did, but being a child who was One-severely ticklish and Two- uncomfortable with being touched, this was difficult. However, the real difficulty lay in masking how sore I was in the region. Try as I might, I simply couldn’t let my mother touch me there without making my discomfort obvious. Finally, completely confused with my behaviour, she asked me what was wrong. I then calmly proceeded to explain that my uncle had made me sore there. I didn’t give any details, I think I simply said his name and maybe one or two other lines. She left me standing there as she went to the phone and called him for an explanation. He then proceeded to tell her that I had been riding my bike and fallen, and in the process hurt myself. Even to this day I cannot fathom what particular details he could have given her that explained it away so clearly.
On another day, we were watching television upstairs with granny. The programme seemed to deal with the topic of being a virgin. I think I was seven at the time. As I sat listening, I found that I understood the things that they were discussing. As the programme went on, I’m not sure what exactly passed through my seven year old mind, but as my mother went toward the kitchen, I called out to her.
Imagine this conversation with your seven year old daughter. Note these are the exact words.
K: “Mommy, a virgin is someone who has never had sex, right?”
M: “Yes, that’s true.”
K (with child-like innocence at some major discovery): “So that means that I’m not a virgin.”
M: “Girl! Don’t talk nonsense! Look! If you don’t have anything proper to say, don’t speak!”
K: “Ok then.”
And to this day, that is exactly the way I left it. My mother and I have never, ever had discussions regarding sexuality, boys, inappropriate old men, sexually explicit shows. Nothing, nada, zilch, since that day. Note, I am going to be eighteen in August.
Frustrated and depressed
When I was younger, I always knew that my mother had been hurt and embarrassed by what occurred with my father. She, along with the rest of her siblings had been raised as Christians by their mom and dad. They later converted from Methodist Christian to Seventh Day Adventist Christian- an even stricter form of Christianity. As such, being from a well respected family; having to deal with her mother’s words of disgust and anger at her careless, immoral actions that led to having a child out of wedlock; and then having her child’s father refuse to accept the paternity; would most definitely create some form of depression and frustration. So while I do remember being purposely oblivious to the situation, and possibly sympathetic, I think some form of resentment began to grow in relation to this. Simply because I found myself always wanting to help my mother- getting to cook in the kitchen, offering to the wash the dishes, and just simply acting crazy with her, I couldn’t. She saw me in him, and to some extent I know she resented me for it. I’m not denying that she loved/ or loves me, but when I was younger, it was just there between us. I just wanted her affection, but simply couldn’t seem to find it anymore. I remember one particular incident in which she had just reprimanded me for something, and I simply couldn’t figure out what I done that was so wrong. I think I was nine at the time, or maybe a year or two older. I looked up at her, perplexed to see this woman who was supposed to be the example of self-restraint and maturity shouting at me for a reason I could not fathom. My facial expression must have angered her more, because I remember her shouting at me with these words, “Don’t look at me like your father!” Then she proceeded to throw the pen she was holding at me. The pen hit me in the forehead. It didn’t hurt me physically, it stung more than anything else. What it did do was make me feel upset and hurt that she could possibly do something like that to me. After that, I think I asked her why she had done that, and told her that she could have damaged my eyes if the offending object had slipped a bit lower and more to the right or left. I’m not quite sure what happened after that 😉 . Anyway, I think this was the night I stood on my bed, trying to figure out how to hang myself from the beam that ran across my ceiling with an old shirt -__-. Unfortunately/ fortunately, I couldn’t quite figure out the dynamics of that, so I settled for wrapping the shirt around my neck until I saw black. There was also that other time when I could have sworn she said that she wished I had never been born. Though according to her,when I inquired a few days later, she had never said such a thing. Anyway, for the sake of the argument, I will say that it sounded like that to me. So I then proceeded to drink twenty- two Ibuprofen between that night and the next morning. Nothing obviously bad happened, except that my poor liver probably had a little more toxin than it’s ever had to deal with before. I found that I simply couldn’t kill myself, so I left well enough alone.
Other people’s children
In any family, every now and then, parents can be heard comparing their beloved, yet inadequate children to the “wonderful” children of their closest friends or the child’s school friends. Personally, I’ve tried not to make this an issue, but on some occasions it has really irked me.
During my younger days, I noticed that my mother tended to be more gentle and saccharine with the other children she interacted with. Since I was mature for my age, I would sometimes try to reason it away by thinking that parents were harder on their children because they expected better from them than from other children. However, I can tell you, that my cousins and I have been hurt on occasion to see our parents treating us differently in comparison to each other. The thing is, I think that my mother once did it more frequently to the other cousins, than their parents did it to me. By this I mean, that the cousins’ parents have always treated me just like one of their children, except for a few occurrences, but let’s not dwell on that. On the other hand, my mother has most definitely treated the cousins more affectionately than me. At the time, I concluded that she did this because she felt indebted to her sisters and brother, seeing that I was the firstborn in the household, and as such was extremely pampered by them. Also, as I grew older they helped out financially, knowing that mother couldn’t quite balance the household with her teacher’s salary after all those darned taxes. Now this I understood, but constantly being reminded that my friends, and darling cousins were doing better than me at school, and that they were so well- behaved with their parents really annoyed me. I thought that this didn’t bother me, but since I’m writing about it, there must be something still floating around. Mother always brought up the fact that she dealt with other children each day at her job, and that she just couldn’t understand why I was incapable of giving her the respect that they gave her. She also said that she was ashamed over the grades that I had begun to bring home, because everyone knew how much potential I had, and that her teacher friends were constantly asking how I was doing, and that she was so glad that she hadn’t brought me to her school where I would have been embarrassing her. When I look back at some of this, it probably seems harsh, but I had detached myself from my feelings by this time, so whatever she said would simply wash over me and down the drain. I
Corporal punishment, Insolence, and Parental Censoring
In Guyana, physical punishment is legal. Personally, I have no particular feelings toward the issue where my mother is concerned, atleast not anymore. While growing up, I have been beaten on occasion. I don’t think I’ve been beaten wrongfully on any occasions, or maybe I just really don’t care enough to remember. This is just to show you where things stand now.
Like most Guyanese children, I have been beaten for lying, or breaking something or going somewhere when I was told to stay at a particular place. Since I was never particularly bad, most of my beatings came from lying or being insolent. I have a tendency to state what’s on my mind when I’m being reprimanded. There is also something we Guyanese call “dumb insolence” or staring at your parents like “if cow bus’ rope” (staring blankly and dumbly at a person as if you’re confused by the words flowing out of their mouth), believe me when I say that for about three years, I mastered that facial expression. After getting into trouble for responding while being reprimanded or chastised, I decided that if talking was so much trouble, why not stick to silence 😉 This wasn’t simply based on punishments, but by the fact that no matter what I said, my mother has always found a way to misinterpret the meaning of my words. So I developed the technique of simply not responding to all those tricky little “rhetorical” questions that I was asked during the application of any punishments. This meant that while being beaten, I refused to cry or respond in any particular way. I saw this as my way of controlling the situation, if I was going to be punished without to my observation a specific reason other than the fact that my “tone” of voice implied insolence I was simply not going to give her the satisfaction of seeing me cry.
Respect or rather the lack thereof
This is the biggest problem between us. Sometimes, I think that she feels threatened by my self-sufficiency, other times I know it’s simply because I really have been disrespectful, but I really can’t help it anymore. I’ve always been a bit snippy when it comes to the things I say. I find it very hard to relinquish control of my life to my parents, in particular to my mother. As such, we have frequent arguments- where I’m quiet and she shouts at me- over my disrespectful mannerisms. Believe me, when I say I find it hard to give her the due respect she expects. Personally, I could have had a worse mother, so there is obviously something wrong with me when you consider my insolence, however my mother’s behaviour when it concerns me, simply fuels my inability to show her the required respect. So these are the things that I consider whenever the respect issue comes up:
- The question of whether she knew or not.
- Her constant manipulation of my words to suit her purposes.
- The picture that she has painted of me before my family-which I have kindly made very colourful to suit their perceptions.
- The fact that I cannot voice my opinion in any format without being considered disrespectful or having my words twisted in such a way that they don’t even come close to my original intent.
- The manner in which she reacts when I refuse to do what she commands (in relation to certain things) because I cannot see the reasoning that drives her to these fits of unnecessary nagging.
- The fact that she is frustrated with the way uncle SLF lives in the apartment, in terms of contribution to household chores and tasks, and instead of telling him, takes it out on me. Muttering a “scundle of bunt” toward me that I know is really meant for him.
- The petty things that she creates pointless arguments over. I remember on one occasion that I had sat down in one of the chairs to look at television. There I was with my bowl of cereal, when she came to order me out of the chair. She then proceeded to blow up at me because I wanted to stay in that chair while she wanted to put her feet up in it. -__-
- When I know that she is calling me to wash dishes that I usually don’t contribute to just because she can, simply because my uncle SLF deems it unnecessary to wash his dishes, except on miraculous occasions.
- The vulgar nonsense she shouted at me last evening that I simply cannot excuse, no matter how angry she may have been.
- The fact that the SD2B was allowed to sleep over in her room before she married him. While I really believe that they never actually had sex, I just cannot ignore the level of complacency that came out of that. The SD and she are supposed to be devout Seventh Day Adventists and while this really is none of my business, it bothered me at the time.
As you might guess, I’ve got quite a list stored up in my mind over the years. I don’t hate my mother, and I agree, I am probably one of the worst children alive.
Miscellaneous mish-mash and the conclusion of my rant
I’ve noticed that whenever I’ve acted out, or did something inappropriate, the first thing that usually pops out of my mother’s mouth is that my actions reflect back on her. There is never an actual interest in why I did something, whether it was a mistake or any other such offering of platitude. It has always been this one line. To me, it always feels like it is about her. There was once a time in our relationship when I wondered who was really the child and who was the adult now that I think about it; anyway the only reason my feelings regarding anything were ever discussed, was because the SD wanted us all to try to understand each other better. This would have worked just fine, if it weren’t for that little issue where my mother tends to fling back every single thing I say when some other completely unrelated incident shows up. As it stands, I am currently battling my desire to shut her out completely and my once good nature in which I actually was a loving a child ( a long, long, long, time ago). She expects these feelings of affection and love from me which I no longer have to give. When I offered them, they were not accepted as the gifts that they were, and there is no way I am emotionally reconnecting myself to deal with any of that now. I only just recently got over the back and forth between her and my father during which they had apparently decided to ship me off to my dad- something that she has been threatening ever since my attitude has reached “unmanageable” realms. If you’re wondering, no, I don’t sneak out of the house or go drinking through the night. Frankly, the most worrisome thing the parents have against me is that I took some provocative photos of myself- no I wasn’t naked. Having them go behind my back and do that, although they didn’t bother to go through with it, just felt like some sort of betrayal. Those issues, along with the fact that now I am working, has mommy dearest convinced that I consider my self an adult. In some aspects, her reasoning is right. After all, to me, if I am going to be shipped out to the world of work, and am expected to contribute toward rent and utilities, as well as pay my own bills, it sounds kindof like adulthood to me. However, that isn’t really a complete issue to me, it’s just that in my eyes,I have never been a child. Sure, I may have looked like a child, I may have wanted to be a child, but I have done and experienced things that children should not. The older I grow, the harder it is for me to act like the subservient child she keeps expecting, which of course makes it easier for her to exaggerate to the rest of the family, and has just driven me to a point where I no longer care what any of them think about me. I guess we’ve both pushed each other to the point of no return, atleast for now. What’s done is done.
Uncles SLF- not the uncle
SD2B- Stepdad to be
SD- Step Dad
Scundle of Bunt- a jocular spin on an actual cuss phrase that exists in Guyana
Kadeen Nichelle Oksana Waldron