I am very lucky to have had the honour of meeting Liz in person at a recent mummy meet up. From meeting Liz you would have no idea of the suffering she has experienced as a young girl. She is such a kind and bubbly woman and amazing mum that i was shocked to read her story when she sent it over to me. It took a bit of persuading Liz to come forward with her childhood journey as she was very nervous to share which made me think that it would be good for her to get it all out. Sharing my journey was a hard step for me but since this i have felt like a weight has been lifted and i hope for many of my guest writers this is the case. But after reading Liz’s story (a tear was shed) i hope that the weight has been lifted from this brave mumma. To lose a parent is a hard and painful experience at any age but then to have them replaced by a step parent can be extremely hard for all children. But for Liz this step mother was more classic fairy tale…..
So it all began in November 1980……something !
My parents lived in South London in a modest Council house with two of my older brothers…. and along I came, the golden child, the girl they’d always wanted (OK, slight exaggeration here) and from what I’ve been told….. Life was wonderful, my dad worked as a painter and decorator, my mother (who came over here from Seychelles) was a SAHM. My brothers attended the primary school next to our house and I was just pottering about I guess.
From photographs life looked pretty awesome, always with our aunties, uncles, cousins and my nan, we were always together at a relatives house. My mum and my dad’s sister were best mates. I’ve been told my mum used to love taking me out shopping.
But then the happy family life came to a swift halt. My mum got sick, really sick and passed away, I’d just turned two and it literally turned our world upside down. To this day, I still don’t know what actually happened.
However the next four years were happy for me, choc ices in my nans garden and all that! Then at age 6, the wicked step mother wormed her way into our lives. It was OK at first, I was desperate for a mum like everyone else had… So her moving in with her daughter and making us call her mum was alright with me. My older sister who used to visit had disappeared with no explanation so I was happy to have a sister too. Things were a ‘bit weird’ but I had no idea how two parent families worked so I just assumed this is how it was. My brothers and I had to eat packed lunch for dinner because we ‘got to eat school dinner’ and her daughter had packed lunch at school. So me and my brothers would sit together and have sandwiches after school, then later, my dad and those two sat at the table to have a family meal. Nothing bad, just now I’m older, looking back I see how things were a little ‘off’.
The woman did a bang up job, pretended to like us then when she was well and truly in, unmasked her hatred of me and one of my brothers (however, his story is his, so I will only share mine).
I distinctly remember my first taste of betrayal, I was 6, my brothers and I were out in the garden (we spent most days there, we were only allowed inside to go toilet, again just another odd thing that I assumed was the norm)…. We were called inside to a big cheesecake with a huge dig in it…. Without any chance of defence, I was told I did it and I must be punished (wanna hear something funny….. I didn’t even fucking like cheesecake!). Anyway, even though my dad knew I didn’t do it, he made me confess I did and I was punished. By punished, I mean beaten and forced to spend the next few days in bed, meals put outside the door like prison and let out for toilet breaks. I could see in his eyes and the way he wouldn’t look at me that he knew this was wrong…. But he followed her instructions anyway. It stung me, my dad was my hero, my only parent so my 6 year old mind was snookered. Complete betrayal. How could he not trust me? he should know I’d never do anything like that. How could he not believe me when I said I didn’t do it? But ah well, I ‘confessed’ because I didn’t have any other choice. I’d never been hit before, by anyone, so I just remember intense pain, yelping out and shooting under the covers to nurse the throbbing of my body and as cheesy as it sounds my heart.
From then on in, more incidents would occur that I’d get the automatic blame for and I’d be punished. Really stupid shit too, like bogey on the wall, eating her daughters chocolate, more bogey on the wall. Just stuff that now I’m older, I’m like really dudes?! Bogey on the wall, like who does that to incriminate someone?! While being held captive, I was allowed to read. Books became my escape, I’d transport myself to these magical world’s of secret gardens and nanny’s flying in on umbrellas and for those moments, I’d be happy.
My first primary school was the best place in the world, the teachers had known my mum and would always tell me how beautiful she was and that she doted on me, and I will always remember Mrs Bennett telling me a story of how my mum came to the school fete with me in a pram and pushed me around the field…. And I’d often just lie on the field at playtime running my fingers over the grass imagining my mum’s footsteps and a beautiful woman who loved me, looking back, no wonder I was considered the weird kid!
Things took another turn when one day, I asked a girl if I could join in their game and I got the response ‘no, cos you’re the colour of shit’…. I was 7, and although I wasn’t sure why, the comment hurt every part of my body and soul and left me confused. It led to an uncomfortable time, other kids began to exclude me, one girl said I couldn’t sit next to her because her mum said I was a mongrel. It was a weird experience, I couldn’t understand how people with the same skin as one side of my family, could say and think such things about me. Although I didn’t actually know at time that the term for it was racism, I just knew it was wrong and my heart sure knew it was hurt. I couldn’t tell anyone, especially not at home, I didn’t wanna risk another round of punishment. Eventually…. It kinda fizzled out, but the comments stayed with me. Not in a negative way, for some reason I’d always loved my brown skin and frizzy untamed hair. It made me feel closer to my mum. But I realised that these negative views exist and became a lot more guarded in case it was to come my way again. The year that I turned 8….christmas eve was a turn of events….my dad dropped my brothers and I off to our foster home and disappeared! We were informed he needed a break and he’d be back in 6 weeks, but I ended up being there for 10 years!! At the time, although I wasn’t told much, I didn’t care cos for the first time in years, there was stuff, actual stuff for me, not for the step mother’s daughter, but for me! My foster mum had gone out and bought my brothers and I a mountain of presents each and I remember the warm glow inside when I opened a pair of aladdin roller skates!….. I won’t say it was happily ever after from there, being a ‘Foster kid’ came with its own set of challenges, but in all honesty, it was the best thing my dad ever did. Even though it was done for himself, it actually benefited me. I got a decent education, I made the best friends I’ve ever had and now I have a family home, I’ve been blessed with two of the most beautiful babies I’ve ever seen and the most handsome, supportive and hilarious man who is the best father to our children. I know they will never feel betrayed like I did. Although there’s still a constant ache from yearning for my mum and a pang of resentment at my dad for ditching us, I couldn’t thank them enough for I now know that I need to try my hardest to be the parent I needed growing up. I work myself to the brink of insanity everyday, to ensure these two babies will never experience the feelings I have. I also now work in education, as I will never forget that support from my first primary school and hope that one day, a kid will look back and remember me with the same fondness as I do for those who helped me….. As for my dad, after years of radio silence, I decided to reach out after I birthed my first. The ball is in his court so we’ll see……
Childhood to me is a black cloud…. But now all I can do is make sure I don’t screw up my own kids, so that if one day they are asked what childhood means to them, they see clear skies 🙂