We each have a child inside of us. This is the seven year old version of me. It’s my favorite childhood picture because I was in second grade and that’s when all the letters finally came together to form words and I discovered I love to read.
This is the girl who wanted to read her stories in church until her father took the stories away and told her to listen to the sermon. I struggled to be quiet but my attention span was short. Suddenly, I felt the big strong arms that usually swung me around in love pick me up and carry me to the opposite end of the church. We went into the children’s room where I was belted. I screamed for help, but no one heard me. My father told me that I needed to be quiet or he would give me something else to cry about. So I went back into the church with hand in my father’s, while black and blue bruises formed under my fuzzy white tights. I didn’t understand the sermon that day, but I did get a message, “Whoever is bigger than you, will hurt you, if you don’t do what they want.”
From that day on, my life became an exercise in avoiding the belt. I began monitor my father’s mood swings and tiptoe on eggshells to avoid my father’s wrath. My mother said she hated when my father belted me in anger, but she didn’t intervene. No parents are perfect and I forgave my parents for my unorthodox childhood, but the belt and their refusal to allow me a high school education seriously affected my life. Some people think it means we are bitter to remember the past, but I’m not bitter, I am better for it.
My parents didn’t care that I forgave them for my dysfunctional and peripatetic childhood, they were more concerned about shutting me up. They didn’t care than I loved and served them for years, they had no interest in appreciating me as my own person or even as a free human being. They only wanted to control me and keep me as an extension of them. They criticized nearly everything I did and I was often groveling and begging for their acceptance until I was given this gift of understanding.
I’m all the ages I have ever been.
If people want to hang out with me, they’ll have to allow me to be myself. This self includes the little girl beaten, the teenager isolated and refused a high school education, the young woman who dropped out of college for lack of math and science background and the woman who spent years feeling responsible for her family. I’ve discovered others can learn from my stories, so I am writing a childhood memoir hoping someone else can avoid the pitfalls that tripped me up.
I was often told we have to forget if we want to truly forgive. I disagree. If we forgot how we got burned, we would burn ourselves on the stove all the time. I don’t believe God or the Universe has asked us to forget any portion of our lives.
When I sat down to write out my messy life stories, I began to feel whole and authentic for the first time in my life. When I faced the truth, I set myself free. By taking responsibility for my spiritual, emotional and physical health, I’ve decided to live an entirely integrated life. And I believe it is just as true for you. I wrote this verse because it is the prayer of my heart for my family members.
Meet me at the place of honor
Where past is not a dirty word
And memories–good and bad,
Can both be heard.
Where truth we welcome and lies we shun.
With nothing between us, we can be one.