What would the internet look like if a different sort of me too movement swept across it?
A #metoo movement for the people who were subject to physical, emotional, and verbal abuse as children.
I’d catch myself saying things like, “My abuse wasn’t that bad.” or “Other kids had it much worse than we did.” or “It was the 70s, everyone ignored or hit their kids.”
But the truth is I grew up in an emotionally and occasionally physically abusive home.
Yes, it was the 1970s and spanking kids was common.
But my neighborhood pals that got the occasional spanking had a good balancing dose of love, affection, and a sense that family meant you were all on the same team.
Not in my house. The environment turned us into adversaries, not teammates.
Our father was an authoritarian with a tendency to fly into unexpected rages.
I was screamed at, charged at, and hit across the face, and almost always it was a complete surprise.
Our mother was distant, somewhat depressed, and ambivalent about children.
Her form of attention was to notice our faults and compare us to all the other kids that were doing things right.
She was also doing her best to avoid my father’s tirades.
I never knew what to expect, and there was no safe place to go for comfort or reassurance.
That lead to a life of anxiety and a reluctance to trust people.
Because I didn’t want to admit I was scared, I was angry all the time instead.
I never wanted to use the words abuse or neglect, but that’s what it was.
I’ve been thinking about these things since the #metoo movement and also since our father has become angrier and more offensive with his mental decline.
He’s a bigot, a racist, a fat-shamer, and a bully. Women are “baby killers”, and blacks and gays are fine as long as they “know their place and don’t flaunt it.”
He’s also a very lonely man, as almost everyone has walked out of his life.
Even so, I’ve been tempted to minimize the abuse.
In the strictest sense, our parents did their jobs. We always had food, and a home, and access to a good education. I know that’s a hell of a lot more than many people get.
I know they worked hard and did their best. I’m grateful for the opportunities and privileges we had.
I don’t write this for any sort of sympathy.
I’m not looking for attention.
I’ve never written about this before, privately or publicly.
I barely ever talk about it.
There are only 2 people in this world who’ve heard this story before. My husband and my sister.
I was inspired to write this after reading Jessica Wildfire’s recent article:
I completely agree, sympathy is not the answer. Sympathy is a crutch, and it holds people down as victims.
I’m motivated to write this because I hope it leads to more compassion.
I’ve come across very few people in my life that truly experienced feeling unconditional love and a sense of safety and support as children.
When I do meet these people, I’m intrigued. And yes, my heart aches for wondering what it would have been like to be raised like that.
I’m writing to remind myself and others to go into every situation with a healthy dose of compassion.
Most people grew up with at best average or even crappy parents. We’re all carrying around scars and wounds from our childhood.
A lot of us don’t even know we have wounds, we just think that’s who we are.
We don’t immediately connect the dots of our abusive pasts with how we navigate and interact in the world today.
So be a little kinder, a little more forgiving, a little less defensive as you go about life.
That would be a great result of a different sort of #metoo movement.