Although I don’t have her in my life any more, in many ways I feel sorry for my mother. She had a rotten childhood and it’s no wonder she turned out the way she did. My Grandfather was killed young, in a road accident, and left behind my Grandma who was pregnant with their sixth child, along with five kids aged between one and ten. They were living in the States at the time, and she came back to the UK to raise her family alone, and never allowed another man into their lives. She went to work six days a week and her kids all resented for it. They would have preferred to have had a mum who was home more, but she thought she was doing the best thing by ensuring there was always money for a roof overhead and food on the table.
Grandma was one of three, a very respectable lady who could always hold her head up high. Her sister and husband on the other hand were classic dole bludgers. They would regularly have their electricity cut off and not have any food to give their children. Fortunately for them help was never far away, although I can’t help but feel having a back up just exacerbates a situation like that. All I know about Grandma’s brother is that he was a businessman who was out of the country lots. When he came to the UK and stayed with the family, he would creep into my mother’s bedroom late at night. This hideous abuse would shape her entire life, much to its detriment.
My eldest aunt married young was left for another woman, and brought up their two kids alone. Aunt #2 married a violent drunk and endured a life of domestic abuse (towards her and their two kids). Next is uncle #1, the success story of the family – despite getting his wife pregnant at 15 they worked hard to have a decent life. He didn’t have much to do with his family when I was still in touch though. Then there’s my mother, who you’ll hear about on this blog. Next is aunt #3, a classic damsel in distress, always has a drama but always seemed fine in the end. Then there is uncle #2, the baby of the family who was given the name of the father he never met. Back in the early noughties before I was estranged from them all he was totally messed up in the head. He’d regularly get hammered on drugs and alcohol, and frequent ladies of the night even though he had a lovely wife and three kids at home. Oddly enough most of my cousins seem to have done fairly well for themselves, although my half brother and sister are another matter (more on them another time).
The psychologist and Guardian columnist Oliver James has written a series of books about how your parents mess you up. No matter how hard they try not to repeat history it almost always ends up happening. Classic example of this is my mother being hell bent on her girls not going through what she did with her uncle, but unfortunately for me, not doing enough to prevent it from happening. More on this later too, I’m not quite ready to open up that particular can of worms just yet.
I guess my point is that for my mothers lot, their childhood really did dictate their lives. The girls all chose partners badly and they and their kids all suffered the consequences. You have to actively break the cycle of dysfunction to ensure your own children do not have to endure the bad experiences you did. Rather than just talking about what I am or am not going to do, I’d like to think my actions speak louder than words and this will count for more when it ultimately comes to protecting them from the demons that stole my childhood.