“So for the first few years of my life my Mother wasn’t there, for the next five years of my life I was a group chore, with little to no idea who she was to me. Then, for the next six to eight years, I was a latchkey kid while she tried to make a life for us.
“So the question is… when did my Mother and I have time to bond? How much of the yelling and screaming and threats that we went through for my early-to-mid teens had to do with the lack of understanding who we were as individuals?”
–“Bonding Part One: Two Choices She Made That Made Me”… the one I wrote before this one.
“Yeah, you’ve got to help us Doc, we’ve tried nothing and we’re all out of ideas.”
Mona Flanders, ‘The Simpsons’, “Hurricane Neddy”; Season 8, Episode 8, 1989
“I definitely don’t hate my mom, she was a complicated and nuanced person.”
— Jennette McCurdy, on ‘The Daily Show’; Sept. 17, 2022.
I was never really disciplined as a child. The Cult I grew up in believed that the Individual couldn’t have a connection to the children over anyone else. Therefore the care of the children belonged to the Group. We were on a daily chore list — on Tuesday, John was in charge of making sure we were fed and in school. On Wednesday it was Barry. But there was no list for what to do when I misbehaved.
I remember a few occasions where I was punished for doing Something by being put into a small room and being forced to transcribe books onto blank paper using crayons. But, really, that was it. There were also Criticism Sessions, where a person had to admit wrongdoing in front of the Group, then hear from the Rest of the Collective about how they were each affected by the ‘misdeed’. The children were mostly immune from the Criticism Sessions, but I do remember once having to stand in front of everyone and admit to having dropped a bag of milk. The adults, however, were constantly in debate mode.
…imagine a group of highly intelligent, educated young teachers and University students tearing into each other almost daily over things as random as whether French Fries are boiled or fried, to whether or not a young mother could breastfeed her own child. They were cruel to each other, as each one tried to prove to the others that they were the most pious, the most pure…
…anyway. Mostly I was just left on my own. This didn’t change after we escaped. After we left the Cult, and we were on our own, my mother did her best to keep us fed, showered, and in clean clothes, and she tried her best to be around, but she was receiving no child support from my Father, and working low paying jobs that usually had weird hours.
But she couldn’t be there and, over the years, what happened was things would build up and build up, until there was an explosion. Not at first, though. At first we were just gliding along, trying to get to know each other. Plus I was too young to understand anything that was going on, or what had already happened. All I knew was that we went from a house full of people, sharing a bedroom with six other kids, to a three person unit headed up by someone I barely knew.
The results of such a lack of discipline really began to manifest around the time I was entering high school. I was lost in school. Nobody was around to help me.
…our biggest trigger while I was growing up, was me asking questions about my past. Any questions about the Cult we grew up in, or anything regarding my father, or even anything regarding my father’s side of the family, were absolutely forbidden. Any conversation about either was predetermined to end up with my mother yelling at me.
The next biggest trigger were my marks in school… but it was a close second. I was never more than a C+ student, and that was never a major issue for my mother. But when I was sixteen I started skipping school. My marks gradually went into the toilet. By the time I was seventeen, I was failing everything.
There were never any consequences, just yelling on the day my report card would come in. But it wasn’t just simple yelling, it was a Criticism Session. It was her loudly and passionately telling me all the things I was doing wrong, but with no solutions, and me just standing there, speechless and with a cocked arm ready to hit her.
When I seventeen, this is how our triggers manifested themselves. Months of ignoring the problems, never mind finding solutions, then a nuclear explosion when confronted with the failures. This was her idea of discipline. This is also when my mother started threatening me with Foster Care.
But nothing worked because only Nothing was offered as a solution, and the occasional threats of her sending me to live with another family only pushed me further away.
…my marks continued to be bad, if not horrible. Instead of admitting to some culpability in the mess, and spending more time with me after school, and just fucking helping out with my homework, she took me to visit my uncle up in the mountains. My mother’s idea was to have “a man” talk to me. As if her brother, who was missing for most of my life, could suddenly become a father-figure. Someone who could influence my choices and put me on the right track.
Instead he sat us down at the kitchen table, and proceeded to threaten me with a beating. After examining my latest report card, filled with failure, he pointed to a thick paddle hanging on his wall and told me that for every failing mark I received in the future, I would get hit with it.
Of course it changed nothing. I never got hit, I kept getting getting shitty marks because I was on my own, I had always been on my own. I never failed a Grade, although I should have many times. I kept moving up in my Grades because my teachers saw potential. Or they were just lazy or clueless.
…I don’t remember what the conversation / argument was but, on the way back from her parents home, in the middle of the night, on a rural back road two-lane highway, we were discussing Family Matters… and I told my mother to go fuck herself. I was sixteen or seventeen. She dared me to say it again, so I did… much quieter, but still. So she pulled over and kicked me out of the truck. We were seven miles from home, on a chilly Fall night. I had been walking for almost forty-five minutes when the police found me.
They pulled over, and asked where I was coming from. I could have narced on my mother, but I didn’t. I told the police that I was coming from a party. They asked where the party was, and I waved my hand towards a dark house maybe half a mile from where we were standing. The policeman obviously didn’t believe me.
He asked where I lived, and I was honest with him. So they put me in the backseat, and drove me home… they followed me into the house when I walked in. My brother and mother were sitting on the couch, watching TV. My mother, seeing the police, bolted up from the couch. I do remember the shock on her face. But I don’t remember much after that, except going upstairs to my room.
Of course we never spoke of the incident again. Because that’s was how we continue to deal with our triggers.