Wednesday, September 26, 2012

Between a rock and a hard place

Something happened recently that made me remember something from my childhood, something that lead to lots of therapy.  My childhood was far from easy, I was raised by a young single mom, who came from an abusive background and had alcohol and substance abuse problems.  My dad was present in my life maybe a day or two a year.  I am very lucky and blessed to have a wonderful extended family of aunts and uncles and cousins who have been there for me my whole life, but I remember asking myself, and God, often, why did no-one come get me and take me out of the situation I was in?

I lived far from this side of my family for most of my life, visiting a month in the summer and march break.  I remember my aunts and grandparents crying when they came to get me, and crying when I left.  I remember them saying that they wished I could stay forever.  I told them what it was like at home, they knew, and yet, no one came to get me.  Eventually I stopped talking about home, it changed nothing, and I poured my energy into making the most of the little time I got to spend in this stable, loving environment.

When I moved here at the age of 22, to be closer to them and the support/love they offered, I finally asked, why did they leave me there?  They explained that they had offered to take me when I was very little and my mom wanted to move away, but my mom refused, and said that if they ever tried, she would run away with me and they would never see me again. 

They also explained that this was in the early 80s, and the mindset at the time was that a situation had to be extreme to get the law to take a child away from its mother, hard enough if you were the father, nearly impossible if you were only extended family.  Since my father was worse off than my mother, they weighed the situation, and saw that the chances were remote that they would win, and that if they tried and lost, they were afraid that my mother would make good on her threat and they would lose me forever.  They decided that it would be better to give the best they could while I was with them.

I realise now that they made the right choice at the time, had they tried, they would have lost, and my mother, being a US citizen, would have been able to disappear easily.  The reason I am able to have the life I have today was because of that decision.  I avoided the common trap of thinking that things were normal at home, or that that was just how things were.  Because of that, I was able to get help sooner, and begin the therapy process much earlier than most people coming out of that type of childhood.  I was able to have great role models, and aspire to a better more stable life and loving relationships.

That is not to say that it was easy, or that there still isn’t that little kid inside me that doesn’t understand why no one will rescue her.  I spent a lot of my life doubting other people’s love because the people I loved, and who said they loved me, seemed to just leave me there in a terrible situation to fend for myself.  I was too young to understand how complicated it was, how heart wrenching it must have been for them to put me back on that plane every year, knowing exactly what I was going back to.

Now it’s me who is the one wondering what to do, what’s best.  The situation in question is not as dire as mine was, but when does it become too much?  Times have changed, but the situation isn’t any simpler. 

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