Author’s Note: This is one of the rawest things I’ve written in a long time. I cried a lot. Especially at the end.
I feel like I’m missing pieces.
I never really had a mother.
I remember talking to my friend Lori about this a few months ago, and how she said to me, “You know, one day you’re going to have to find someone to be that figure for you. Otherwise you’re going to have this huge missing space in your soul.”
And I’m really feeling that a lot lately. It’s like this wound I never really knew was there has opened up. I feel a heaviness in my chest that isn’t exactly mine and a need to sob and get it all out. But they aren’t really my feelings. They’re little 5 year old me. She’s still in me somewhere and she’s been badly hurt and I just want more than anything to pick her up and pet her hair and tell her that she’s enough that there isn’t anything wrong with her. I want more than anything in the world for someone to hold me. To make me feel small again and tell me it’s okay. Not for me but for the little girl version of me who’s still hurt and can’t figure out why so she just pushes the feelings away.
I’m mourning the loss of myself. The loss of my childhood which I never truly got to have. And I’m mourning the loss of a mother I never felt loved by. No wonder I was always considered a “daddy’s girl” now that I’m thinking about.
Growing up I remember he was always working. My sisters always were busy with school and friends. (In Chloe’s case it was mostly school and being depressed). My mom though… she was a stay at home mom. You would think that would be fine and fun for me. But all I really remember is her always being on her laptop. Playing games like bejeweled until Facebook became a thing and then that was all she spent her time doing.
I remember times when I would ask her to play with me or I would ask her take me to the park and she would tell me no. And I don’t know why. All I remember is her being on her computer. And I guess that must have been more important than me. One time in particular I remember asking her to watch an episode of Veggie Tales with me, one that I knew was her favorite hoping it would help persuade her. And she still said no. And I remember I couldn’t figure out why.
I remember the day other little girls in my neighborhood that were my age came up to my door and asked me to play with them.
I wonder how relieved my mom must have been then.
It feels obvious to me that she didn’t want to parent a five year old anymore. That she wished I was older or that she didn’t get pregnant again in the first place. If I hadn’t come along she would have been able to move on with her life by now. Both kids would be grown up and she could move where ever she wanted and she could live whatever life she wanted with my dad and not have to think too hard about her kids.
But she had me. And she had to put her life on hold for an added 6 years. She didn’t even necessarily have a strong desire for kids. She just saw it as the “next step” in her life and in her relationship with my father.
And I’m sure my dad cheating on her shortly after they had me didn’t help. Maybe she blamed me for feelings of unattractiveness after the pregnancy that didn’t go away and she thought that that may have made him less interested. Maybe that’s where her feelings of resentment started, whether they were conscious or not. I feel like the footnote, an after thought.
I loved my dad the most when I was little. But that love was also shrouded in a layer of fear. He was the one who instilled a… physical (?) authority. I don’t mean that as in he hit me or physically abused me. He never did anything like that. But sometimes his yell felt like a slap in the face and being kicked to the ground. He would pick me up when I threw a tantrum and leave me in my room to stew in emotions I had no idea how to handle. I remember looking to my mom, sitting on the couch, as he slung me over his shoulder. Kicking and screaming, begging her to tell him to put me down and let me stay, to not make me go to my room. And all she ever did was just sit there. Maybe a few times she said “I’m sorry, but not until you can calm down…”
When dad gets mad he makes low blows. He uses his “authority” as an adult against you and tells you about your immaturity and childishness. He doesn’t hold back when it comes to tearing down all the values and high standards you try to hold yourself too. And he’s an adult, so you can’t possibly argue against him, right? Unless you’re Chloe. She’ll get a free pass every now and then because of how fragile her emotions are and how they have no idea what to do with her when she shuts down.
And mom… when she got mad she yelled too. They both yelled. And I remember being so scared whenever they would yell. Mom has a short fuse. Little things would set her off sometimes, especially if she was stressed out and she would take it out on us. She’d blame us for something so little. It’s hard for me to remember specific examples with details, but I do remember one time being 4 or 5 and in the kitchen, maybe asking my mom for something or complaining about Chloe. And the oven door was open and she was cooking. And then she was yelling but I can’t remember what about.
I was really, really alone growing up. Aside from my friends. I didn’t have much of a family life at all.
The time I remember spending with my family when I was little mostly took place at the dinner table. That was pretty much the only time we were all ever together in the same place. And I remember it was mostly filled with picking on each other. Especially me.
And whenever I complained because I didn’t like it (who likes to be bullied? Especially as a 5 year old by your own family) I remember being told “hey we all had to go through it too. You’re the youngest now, so it’s your turn.” But that never felt fair. I didn’t like it. Why should you be allowed to keep doing something I don’t like just because I’m the youngest and you had to go through it too? Can’t that be considered some type of revenge?
“I went through it too, growing up.” My mom said. “It builds character, helps you grow thicker skin.”
But it didn’t. I remember being overly sensitive. Little things people would say or do would make me feel uncomfortable and like I was being attacked.
It’s little things that make you feel loved. Like your mom making your lunch for you for school. She never did that. Even if I asked. “You can make it yourself.” she’d say. “Yeah but my friends parents do it for them!” and she’d laugh like it was some kind of ridiculous joke and say “I’m not your friends parents though, am I?”
And of course as a child you can’t exactly understand that what you really want isn’t for her to make you lunch because you’re lazy. It’s because there’s a level of love and affection you can feel and get from lunch homemade by your mom. That thought process is too complex for a 6 or 7 year old to really, fully grasp and understand. Let alone convey to someone.
It feels like she never wanted to do anything with me or for me growing up. At least not anymore than was the bare minimum. And now I’m almost 17 and both of them are seeing that they’re really losing me. And I’m their last kid. Their last chance to really say “we were successful parents”. And it feels like now whatever effort they’re making or trying to make is just to try and prove something to themselves. And it doesn’t feel like any of it for the Naomi who’s sitting alone in her room wondering why her family doesn’t like playing with her. Wondering what’s wrong with her and how to be accepted and why everything she does seems to be met with ridicule. It feels like they don’t remember any of that. All they can see is that one slip up where they read my journal and saw how depressed I felt and now they have to make it up to me somehow.
What I want is for them to be able to go back in time and hold little me and tell me that I’m enough That I’m good. But that’s not possible. And that won’t work now because I’m not that little girl anymore. I’m finding other ways and people to help me feel like I’m enough and that I’m good because they couldn’t do that for me. I’m trying to find a way to live my life without seeking their approval and love because it felt like I was never going to be able to truly attain it when I was little.
And all I know is that this weekend, when I was at Once and I said goodnight to my sister Lily, and without even thinking about it she kissed my hair and told me goodnight back. I remember how my heart felt so light and for some reason that made me feel more genuinely loved than I had in a long time. It was one of the purest forms of happiness I had felt in a long time. And I know she’s not my mom and I can’t and won’t ask her to be that for me. But in that moment it felt like that was all I needed. Was my hair to be kissed and told goodnight. It sounds so silly and simple. But that never happens. We haven’t really figured out how physical affection fits into our relationship yet. And that felt like enough. It was pure. And I don’t know if my mom or dad could ever do something as genuine as that.
I’m trying to learn what it means to be loved.