Clipped wings

I was my mom’s best friend. There was nothing that happened in our house that I didn’t know about. In fact, I was an active part of the decision making. When my dad wasn’t terrorizing the house, he neglected us. He was angry if he had to take any responsibility at all for us and would often take it out on us. Most of the time when he wasn’t roaring or raging you could find him in front of the TV.

As next in line, my mom asked me. My mom couldn’t decide what to do with our dog when her intestine twisted. The vet took x-rays and said we would be taking our dog home to die a painful death. My mom couldn’t decide what to do. I wanted to take the dog home. As the night progressed, the dog’s suffering increased. She asked me if we should have the neighbor come over and shoot our dog. I told her I didn’t want that because the neighbor shot his puppy for chasing the chickens. I didn’t want him anywhere near my dog. Maybe our dog would live. I made the wrong call because I was too immature to make adult decisions as a child. Meanwhile, my dad laughed and talked with his friends in the other room.

At 6 years old, I was responsible for watching my 3 younger brothers swim in the lake. My parents wanted some time to themselves in the cabin. My brother almost drowned. I froze as he flailed and choked. I wanted to scream but I couldn’t move. I was not mature enough to handle the responsibility I was given. Yet somehow I felt like I was responsible and had to control the outcome of something I was incapable of doing.

I was responsible to comfort my mother after my dad was mean to her. I was responsible to help her feel better if she had a rough day with Matt. I listened to her and held her as she cried. I told her everything would be okay. Yet I was never comforted.

I was responsible for the outdoor cats. I fed them and cared for them. When one cat was a bad mom and let her kittens freeze to death, it was my responsibility to bury the kittens. I dug a hole, but after touching the first cold kitten I screamed and threw the box of dead kittens into the tall grass. It was horrifying.

My brothers and I had to do a lot of chores like hauling wood. One time I almost hurt myself carrying the biggest log. After that, I was no longer allowed to do men’s work. From that day on I was in charge of laundry, cleaning the kitchen, and when needed meal prep. I was allowed to play in my room when my brothers worked outside. All the while my dad called them lazy and yelled at them when they didn’t work hard enough. It always made me feel guilty watching them suffer.

I was responsible to care for my autistic brother. He was mean to me but I was responsible to make sure no one was mean to him at school. I helped shower him and make his meals. I was his second mother. It was my responsibility to take care of him forever. My mom didn’t want me to go far away for college. She was jealous when I had other friends because she was my best friend. She pretty much clipped my wings before I figured out I could fly.

When my brother Matt was at his most violent, my mom pulled us all out of school. I was home schooled from 8th to 10th grade. I rarely left the house. COVID was not the first time I lived in isolation. It was hard because my friends went on with life without me. I should’ve been allowed to be a child. In some ways I thought I was cool. Who doesn’t want to be an adult when they are a child? As an adult I wondered what it would be like to be a child. But it was too late to go back. I missed out on the magic and wonder. My biggest regret was that I was never allowed to live. I didn’t even realize it until it was too late.

I decided from a young age that my own children would only be allowed to be children. I didn’t want them to have any responsibilities or many chores. I was going to protect them by not telling them anything that was going on in the house. I was going to try to hide all problems from them and deceive them into believing the world was a good place. I took on that responsibility because it was already my burden to bear. I couldn’t break free from feeling like I was responsible for things I had no control over. I didn’t want my children to feel like I did.

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