Sunday, October 24, 2010

What a Young AcadeMama Was Like

Since IntlExptr (from Here, There, and Everywhere) posed the inquiry in the comments to my last post, and since I'm in a writing mood, I thought I'd offer a little description of a young AcadeMama in the making. What was I like at 11 years old?

Well, my parents had just divorced, and my Mom got full custody after a very long, drawn-out, nasty court battle. At the time, in my head, I thought this was a horrible thing because I saw her as the disciplinarian. You see, while my Dad was off in the Middle East on an oil rig for a month at a time, my Mom was raising my brother and I, and she didn't have a lot of help. Shortly after the divorce, my Mom was diagnosed with a rare disease, Guillain Barre Syndrome (pronounce gee-YAN bah-RAY)...a rapid sickness, mediflight to Home State Capital City, and within a matter of hours, she was paralyzed from the neck down. One of her lungs collapsed, and she was on a ventilator for weeks. So, my brother and I "got" to go live with my Dad, who'd found himself a young, little barfly to act as stepmom/babysitter for us, while he continued to work. Oh, and he also told my brother and I that my Mom had a form of AIDS because she was, essentially a slut.

So, how does that affect a young girl like me? Well, I thought I was ugly, and thus adored my father's attention, despite the fact that he literally put the fear of God into me with his voice when he was angry. I was smart, I liked to play independently, but I knew more about adult things than any 11-year old should know. People around me didn't think that I was listening, but I was. I didn't always understand, but now I do. I felt horribly ugly and awkard. I was very tall, slim and athletic build, with no chest (things that resulted in me being tormented about for years). Add to that the fact that my stepmother decreed that I was not allowed to wear make-up or shave my legs, and I was virtually the laughing stock of 6th grade. I desperately sought attention from boys, even though I didn't "chase" them, if that makes sense. But never, I repeat NEVER, did I speak to my father or mother with the kind of disrespect with which Hannah speaks to me. If it were my father, I would have been hit with a belt...this was, after all, the man who headbutted me for opening a can of soup for breakfast. With my mother, and once I was a teenager, I was a smartass and sarcastic, and I thought I knew everything. I was shady and tried to break all sorts of rules (usually with great success...stealing her car in the middle of the night, drinking and smoking at friends' houses, etc.). But I always knew where the line was with her, and I never crossed it. Hannah? She jumps right over the line and doesn't even realize it.

I didn't have to try to do well in school. Basketball was the one thing that made me special because I was good...really, really good. But it wasn't enough to make me popular or pretty or rich enough to buy cool clothes (another hard thing to find when you're 6' at about 13 years old). I was non-confrontational because I had no self-esteem. I had an absent father, which simply added to my desire for a male voice that confirmed my worth. I thought I knew everything I needed to know, and I actually was mature in some ways. I always managed to balance my mischief with very clever deception, good grades, and the appearance of "normal behavoir."

Much of what I see from Hannah didn't come with me until I was well into my teens, and I'd decided to move back in with my mom (after she recovered and got out of the hospital). When I told my Dad that I wanted to move back in with Mom, he told me to take every picture of me in the house with me because he didn't want anything to remember me by. What does that do to a 12-year old?

I'm still trying to figure that one out...but none of it was good, which is why I have lots of baggage. I don't know how to be the parent Hannah needs me to be, the kind of wife and co-parent Hubby deserves, and carry all this baggage around too. Obviously, I had a fantastic mother, and my father taught me everything I needed to know about what *not* to do. I know what I need to do for myself, but I just don't have time to fit therapy in my schedule right now. There are some skeletons I'm just not ready to deal with right now, and taking care of my kids is my priority. For now, I pray....I pray for patience, strength, less swearing, less anger, the ability to distinguish between enabling a poor work ethic in Hannah and offering the opportunity for her to learn from failure. I pray with thankfulness, though, for all the gifts we have: health, each other, and the willingness to get through this together, no matter how long it takes. I literally fall asleep in prayer most nights, and I hope God understands.

1 comment:

Intlxpatr said...

First, falling asleep in prayer is about as good as it gets. :-)

You've had it rough, and, as you said, you have a lot of baggage to sort through, when you have the time and energy, etc. Even with counseling, that can take an entire life with what you've had to deal with (pardon the preposition at the end of the sentence)

I am glad you have some really good friends. :-)

Please find a good, supportive, loving church community to help you get through the day-to-day. Sometimes, just surviving what life is throwing at you takes all your focus and energy. Get what help you can from people who share your values and who give the kind of encouragement and support you need.

You DO have some areas in which I know you can take some pride in yourself, like getting your PhD. Please take time to recognize, too, how far you have come and how much you are succeeding with Hannah.