“This is not OK; this is not who I will be; I will love my children; violence will not be allowed in my home.”
At age 14, these were the promises that I repeated to myself in the mirror while trying to apply makeup to cover the bruises my mother gave me.
My father and mother divorced when I was eight. He left because she was violent with him but shortly after, the target moved to me.
Every week I would go to school with bruises, and there wasn’t a single time that anyone ever asked me about them. I chose to never tell my father. Because, in the end, what I wanted more than anything was to have my mother love me.
I believed if I was just more caring to her, a better daughter and kept the house cleaner, I could avoid making her angry.
At age 16, my mother’s actions sent me to the hospital completely blind. I spent 10 days waiting to see if the damage would be permanent. My father came, and now my father knew. He asked me to move in with him, but I declined. Surely after all this exposure, it would stop.
I healed, and it did stop; but not before one last confrontation. I was on the telephone with a friend as my mother came up and tried to wrap the cord around my throat.
But on that day, I was finally just big enough to stand up to her. We stood nose to nose staring in each other’s eyes when I whispered, “It ends today.”
I was never abused by my mother again, and left for a small college in the fall. Nine months after I reluctantly left him, my brother moved into my father’s house.
By my 40’s, I’d become a strong woman and mother of three children– all of whom were flourishing both socially and academically.
After 16 years of marriage, my husband and I separated. Under the guise of picking up the children for Christmas visitation, he pushed past me and began taking items from the house in armloads.
I made the mistake of standing in his way, and that’s when he hit me. It would be the first and only time.
I instantly heard the voice of my 14-year old self, repeating the promises I made to the mirror all those years ago. My children could not perceive this as acceptable. I called the police.
Within minutes there were police cars, people yelling, and tears streaming down my children’s faces.
The kids spent time in therapy, and I talked with them frequently about how you can’t always prevent everything bad from happening to you; you can only control how you handle it.
A decade later, I look back on this as a survivor with a successful career and a respectful, loving second marriage. But what I believe I’ve contributed most to the world are my children. I realized this while reading a passage from my child’s college entry essay:
“…My mother never took back my father and I do not blame her. I would not be the person I am today if my father had not left. I watched my mother work harder than ever to support our family. Even through times of despair, I learned you can get through anything if you push yourself and keep your head held high. My fathers’ actions showed me the person I never want to be and helped me form the morals that I live my life by today.”
I can see my 14 year old self smiling, and she says “They know that’s not OK; That is not who they will ever be; They will love their children; There will not be violence allowed in their homes.”
... I think that young girl would be proud of me.
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