I survived a tumultuous and dysfunctional childhood. It wasn’t all bad but there was plenty of bad in it. My dad emerged from Nazi Germany as a toddler without his birth mother; she died of tuberculosis during the war. My mum emerged from her Finnish home at the same time in world history. They both endured and survived their own childhoods. Stories for another time.
As an adult, in this house actually, I have spoken to both of my parents (separately) about their lives before me, and their own childhood stories and experiences. I also spoke to them at length about my perception of my childhood under their reign. With tears, they both acknowledged responsibility for the dysfunction.
This enabled me to forgive them and move forward; away from childhood pain and wounds that were manifesting negatively in my adult self. And when I say I forgave them, this didn’t happen overnight. It had been a process towards understanding that I initiated in my early twenties. My logic was that if I could understand their stories, so why they made the choices they did that inevitably impacted on my childhood, then I would be able to move forward. I would understand why.
What I haven’t acknowledged prior to now, is what a huge gift this was from my parents.
It was a difficult journey for both of them to acknowledge responsibility for my childhood. It hurt both of them immensely. And I was cold in exacting that acknowledgement. In retrospect, it was necessary for me to move forward and have the relationships I have with both of my parents now, but it hurt them at the time. And I am so proud of them both for doing it, and immensely grateful.
I felt that my parents didn’t protect me during my childhood. Due to their own significant issues, they weren’t able to ensure my safety or the safety of my sisters. They were absent even though they were physically present.
But in our adult relationships, well, they have become closer to the ideal parents we all long for. They both step up when they know there is a problem. Stepping up for them means that they have to suspend their own fears and patterns of behaviour, and I am grateful that they do. I don’t say that enough. Or ever, really. And I should.
As I said, it was a process of forgiveness through understanding, and I think it is important for all of us to realize how important forgiveness is in our lives. I will always have damaged parts of myself.
But they do not define me.
Most people wouldn’t even realize I was damaged and broken. My childhood is not the sum of me.
And I have been able to embrace the positive aspects of myself that resulted from my experiences throughout childhood. I am empathetic. I am strong. I am compassionate. I am resilient. I survived. And I grew. I understand. And I share my knowledge. I make a difference in this world because I can.
These are some of the gifts that my dysfunctional childhood empowered me with. And I am grateful for them and the experiences that gave them to me.
I don’t think I wish my life would have been different.
And this is big. My childhood encompassed sexual, physical and emotional/psychological violence. Fairly consistently. Pretty much until I moved out at sixteen and a half (for the first time).
And moving through it as an adult, dealing with the memories and the lack of memories, with the trauma and the fear that manifests in bouts of depression, self harm and dark thoughts of suicide, has been lonely and terrifying at times. But I have moved through it and I am stronger as a result.
And now, I feel quite happy and calm. I am quite at peace in my life.
As I have aged, I have become more grateful for my parents. A lot of my friends have lost one or both of their parents, and I see the impact of the loss. I am grateful that we have resolved my childhood together; it has been empowering. And whilst my parents weren’t brilliant when I was growing up, I don’t doubt their love for me. And as an adult child, they have stepped up and if I ask for help, they try to provide whatever assistance they are able to.
Together, and as individuals, we have moved forward.
I am very grateful for that.
Thank you mum and dad!
I love you always.