For the Kid’s Sake

I was eighteen when I was told by my mother I had to move out of the house.

Well, that isn’t exactly right.  I was also given the option of staying and paying half the mortgage, utilities, and other expenses in order to stay.  After all, I was now an adult and she was done raising me, and would get no child support for me either.  It was March and I had three more months of high school left.

Rather than stay home, pay the bills and not be able to save the money for college, I decided to move out.  My boyfriend and I had been dating about a year and all was grand. We were in LOVE.  I could move in, have fewer expenses, not have a curfew, drive to and from high school and then work for six months and enter college a little later than my friends.  He was seven years older, settled and would support my decision to better myself and get away from the toxic family dynamic.

All was fine, all was grand.  Sure, he had a temper, but he never hit me, just yelled a lot.  Nothing like how my mother used to yell, so I was fine.  He would throw tantrums if he didn’t get his way about something.  Again, I grew up with the master emotional manipulator.  I could put up with anything.

This guy loved me, though I always strived to better myself by trying to get thinner or be prettier for him.  I had a good, full-time job with benefits at 18, so I was able to give him money when he wanted something.  I didn’t mind.  You aren’t supposed to keep score when you are in love.   And, if he has a slip-up and cheats on you, you believe him when he says he was thinking of you the entire time and forgive him.

Then I got pregnant.  I had a good job, was living away from home, had health benefits and was in love.  I made the decision to keep the baby.

The temper tantrums became more frequent.  He started to throw things, not hitting me at first but one night getting me good in the face with one of my Doc Martens.   The first time I went to work with a black eye, I blamed it on running into a door due to my pregnant belly throwing me off balance.

Things escalated.  He started drinking and smoking who-knows-what.  He cheated constantly, and blatantly this time. When I questioned him or asked why he didn’t love me anymore, he would lose his temper and hit or kick me, including in my belly where our son was growing.   More black eyes, along with bruised arms and legs, were to follow.

One time in a parking lot he started to hit me and I laid on the horn, hoping someone would come by and make him stop.  Nobody ever came or even looked our way.  I no longer wanted to live. He would tease me about my eating disorder or dare me to kill myself.

The kid was born, six weeks early, when I was 19 1/2.  M was small, but otherwise fine and came home after the standard two-day stay.    You may say I should have considered adoption then, but I couldn’t.   I loved my little boy.  As selfish as it may be, he gave me a reason not to try to kill myself.

He changed for a short time.  Then the beatings on me started again.  It was different this time.   This was no longer about me, I had M to look after and keep safe.

Finally, and reluctantly, I reached out to family.  We hadn’t talked much since I got pregnant since they were very against me having the baby.  But I had to deal with it; it wasn’t about just me anymore.  I had not told them anything of what was going on in the relationship. I called my mother on a night that he hit me and in a panic I had run outside and gotten locked out of the house.

Help came in the form of relatives who had wanted me to terminate the pregnancy.  They offered to help me press charges and let me stay with them.  The only thing they wanted was for me to put the baby up for adoption.  16 years later and I still hear the words “He isn’t that old.  It isn’t like you have had a chance to get attached to him yet.”  To this day, they still bring up my refusal of their help in a roundabout way, though they leave out the condition of their offer.

My family was still toxic.  My kid literally was the only thing I had left in the world.  And he didn’t ask for any of this.  I grew up hearing my mother’s complaints about kids forcing her to stay in a bad marriage.  I was already a failure in my family’s eyes for being an irresponsible teenager, could I really live with the fact that my relationship was over and deal with that mark against me too?  What about the abuse?  What if he decided to hurt M one day?  What if M grew up thinking this was the way relationships worked?

The choice was clear to me that night.  My kid would not be the reason for staying, he would be my reason for leaving.

I made the decision to leave, but on my terms.  I declined the offer for “help” and came up with a plan of my own.  Lots of nights when I was driving back from work I would make hasty calls to the one domestic violence shelter in the area from a phone booth.  When that didn’t work out (not many resources in 1996 in the town where I lived), I asked friends for help and slept on different couches for months with the baby crib nearby.  I drove an hour one way to daycare and back to keep M safe and away from his father until a custody hearing could be held.

My legal fights against this person I once loved lasted almost three years between custody, support, stalking, vandalism, breaking and entry, and sexual assault.  Things finally resolved around the time M turned three, when I met his future “dad”.  My husband, M’s stepfather, loved him and treated him like his own. Thankfully, he still does now, seven years after our divorce.

The jerk moved on, getting another person pregnant while stalking me.  They eventually married and had more children that he is no longer allowed to see.  Recently, he moved back to my state after disappearing in 2001 (yes, no support for 12 years) and tried to re-acquaint himself with M.    Maybe not surprisingly, shortly after he came back was when M’s depression hit its lowest point and he tried to take his own life.

I have not told M the story about why I left his biological father, and while I am sure he has figured quite a bit out by now, I am not sure if I will.  He has formed his own opinions about this guy who can claim responsibility for him getting into this world, though he cannot claim any real responsibility for the person M is today.

Who is M? He is a strong, empathetic kid who cares for others, has a great sense of humor and lousy grades.  He has strong feelings on what is right and wrong and gets teary-eyed during “The Iron Giant” and “Free Willy”.   He loves cats and hates watermelon.  He knows friends can be more precious than family, and that family can take on many different meanings and configurations.

Most of all, he is the reason I managed to keep living then.  He is why I am still here today.  Just don’t tell him that; I don’t want him to get an ego about it.

About the Author:

SortaGingerDorky mom, nail polish addict, reality TV mocker, fledgling blogger. Overweight 36-year-old with bulimia, finally attempting to recover for the first time in 15+ years. And sarcastic. Very sarcastic.

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33 comments

  1. “You are who you choose to be.”
    “I am Superman.”
    Who doesn’t get teary eyed watching Iron Giant?!!

    Wow… you both have had quite the ride. I’m in shock for the way your family treated you, the conditions they put on their offers of “help.” I just can’t even imagine why they would do that… I’m glad you were able to find your own way.

    1. That is one of those movies that even a teenage boy will admit to crying over without shame (the others being Toy Story 3 and Free Willy).

      I finally learned in the last two years that friends can be my family. I have been lucky in that regard.

      1. Friends can definitely count as family! I’d say more of my family is comprised of friends than actual blood relatives at this point anyway.

        Oh, Toy Story 3… the tears were streaming down my cheeks the first time I watched that. I’ve, er, um, never seen Free Willy… I was a bit too old when it first came out (and didn’t have anyone younger than me at home that made me watch it).

  2. Thanks for sharing your story… All the best to you and M

  3. My neck is sore from nodding through this entire reading. Donkeys sure are prolific, aren’t they…Keep your head up, sis–from one preemie mom to another!

  4. This is a terrible, terrible story. I am so sorry you went through this. But I have to say, for a 19 year old, you had some balls!

    You should be proud of yourself for the demands and choices you made. You’re obviously a very strong woman.

    Ps. I enjoyed the sarcasm. 🙂

    1. Thank you 🙂

      I did what I had to do to survive, but some days I look back and ask “what the hell was I thinking?”

      1. Don’t regret your choices. Never forget: you got where you are now, because of your choices. No one else got you here. 🙂

        1. Oh, I definitely agree. I always say I didn’t follow plan A when it came to the typical order of life goals (school, work, marriage, kid), but plan B (work, kid, marriage, divorce, eventually school) has worked out just fine.

          1. Loads of people that follow the typical plan A, push themselves to much, and become too stiff to practice any input of their own. They end up focusing on the typical, leaving emotions out of the equation completely. You’ll often find that people that follow their own plan, had to do that, cause had to. And because they had to struggle to get their, they live a more quality life and are much happier with what they have.

            You did good, absolutely.

  5. twindaddy · · Reply

    Ginger, your bravery and love for your son is admirable. To have done so well by him despite having a toxic relationship with the rest of your family is amazing.

    1. Thank you, as always, TD.

  6. Thanks for sharing your terrible story. You are strong. xoxo.

    1. Thank you, Goldie.

  7. Aw hun. I applaud you and your bravery. I’m glad you were able to leave him and become stronger. You are so strong and I love it.

    1. I don’t feel that strong, but I get what you are saying. Thanks!

  8. I’m so sorry you went through all that, it’s awful but I have to admire that you did what you had to, to protect yourself and your child especially at such a young age! Thank you for sharing this.

  9. I’m glad you won. *hugs* Love to you & me. 🙂

    1. You & M. Not me. Although I guess I love me, too. But that isn’t the point of the comment, haha. Oh typos. *sighs* The inability to edit comments is literally half the reason I don’t comment on things. I was all horrified and sad, and then happy, and proud of you through the story, and worked up the energy to write something… and ended up sounding crazier than I am. 🙂

      But you get the point, yes? The point is you’re a hero. Yay!

      1. We do need an edit window. Until we get one, feel free to email me and I’ll edit for you. I’ve done it for others. I don’t mind.

      2. LOL! Blogging is “me”-centric, right, so it is understandable that you made that error ;-).

        And thank you 🙂

  10. As a 15 year police officer, I am not lying when I tell you that there have been no less than 500 of these types of men I’ve met and wanted to murder with my bare hands. Boys will always be curious about their dads though, so don’t begrudge him that. He sounds like a good boy.

    1. OK, I had a long reply typed out and then my computer stopped. So, I will just say thank you again for the comment. M knows he can ask any questions any time, and that any future interactions with his father will be on his own terms. No rush on that one, M needs to process events so far on his own and develop the tools to handle future interactions first.

      And the police were awesome during all my struggles with the jerk, it was just a matter of catching him in the act during the time of no cell phone coverage in a very rural place.

  11. I’m glad to hear you had an ok experience with the police. So many women don’t and it just makes thing worse.

  12. There’s a saying that friends are God’s way of making up for families. I’m glad you got M to give you the reason to get out and get safe – and to keep him safe too.

    1. Thank you, FHC!

  13. Awesome writer, incredible words.

    1. Thank you 🙂

  14. […] the unknown…lots of different reasons.  I left my kid’s father in the Spring of 1997 (back story here) but my nightmare didn’t end […]

speak loudly, donkeys are sleeping

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