Wednesday, August 14, 2013

Maternal Instinct

I was pregnant with my 5th child who was fathered
 by my ex-husband (who took the picture when
I did not feel like taking pictures, lol).
I love being a mother. I love everything about it. I enjoy being pregnant (after the morning sickness stage). I'm excited about giving birth. I adore breast feeding and I am passionate about raising children.  I was given a lot of responsibility at a young age and I am the eldest of a whole lot of siblings, but even before my parents burdened me with the care of my brother's and sisters, I wanted to nurture them before I was old enough to know what the word meant. I brushed my brother's hair when he was a baby (I was two). I begged my mom for opportunities to change my little sister (I was four). And by the time I was nine, for hours my parents would leave me home alone with three children and an infant to take care of.  I believe my maternal instinct is God given and not necessarily a conditioned behavior.

Chocolate Overload. Needs a glass of milk
 Arri's Three times chocolate chip cookies. 
This is my eldest daughter's recipe.

On a daily basis I am surrounded by adults in progress; which include my own offspring, and aaaaalllll of their friends. I'm known to them as Mommy or 'Z', and my home is the place to go for advice, fresh cookies, or to take a load off. Z's house is also the only place that some parents on my block will allow their children to stay past their curfew. Now like any other human being, I have my Calgon moments, but I think my affinity towards and high tolerance of young people, is because I didn't really have a childhood of my own. 

I remember when I was twelve, I asked my mother if because she and my father got married after I was born, did they only do so because she was pregnant. In my attempt to figure out why my parents treated me the way they did, I found it logical that my conception was the blame. I thought that maybe if I wasn't born, my parents would not have gotten married and none of what me and my siblings went through would have happened. My mother never answered, instead she told me to stop asking stupid questions.

I've long given up that idea, and now my mother answers every question I ask her. Which brings me to the inquiry I posed to her tonight: After all that's happened, what does she feel could have encouraged her to protect her children from her husband? To which she couldn't respond. I told her to think about it and get back to me.
I forgave my mother less than a year ago. And though she's given excuses like fear and shame for her behavior, I have yet to learn why her maternal instincts didn't kick in. 
When she gets back to me, I'll let you know. 

Food for thought:

According to the Department of Health and Human Services- Child Protective Services"Mothers who are consciously aware of the [sexual] victimization [of their child] and condone or accept it are extremely rare. However, some mothers ignore signs of sexual abuse, for a variety of reasons, or are preoccupied with matters other than their children's well-being."

Wednesday, August 7, 2013

Jack of many Trades. Master of some.

I write poetry you know. I'm also a chef. I know how to sheetrock rooms, paint and wallpaper, lay tile and carpet floors. I can sew, knit, crochet, build walls, and grow everything needed for a gourmet meal; I even know a thing or two about running electric wiring and plumbing, and most of these things I learned at my father's encouragement and coercions.
One of my culinary specialties.
 Seared salmon in coconut broth
with wilted spinach, ginger,
pine nuts and curry sauce. 

In every cloud there is a silver lining and even among the abuse and torture I grew up with, I know a lot of things others don't because my father made me learn them. Like most children do for their parents, I wanted to make mine proud. Though my father did everything he could to break my will, that didn't change the fact that him and my mother were the only two people that validated me. Sure we were punished when the dishes weren't clean enough or our beds weren't made on time, but I went out of my way to do more than my parents required. And with my eagerness to succeed, my parents loaded on the responsibility. There were times when I felt lost and defeated, but my relationship with God and my determination to go on, served me like the last drop of fuel that gets your car to the gas station just before it shuts off.

I've birthed five children. Four for my father and one for my ex husband, and they challenge me on a regular basis. I do my best to apply the things that I find are positive from the way my parents raised me, in my own childrearing. Things like thinking outside of the box, reading the dictionary and learning how everything works. But sometimes it can be difficult deciphering what methods were genuinely beneficial to me and my siblings' development, and what was meant as a tool of control. For instance: I was raised vegetarian because my dad taught us that ingesting meat was harmful to the human body. Now that I've done my own research I have found evidence that supports a diet free of animal flesh or at least it's use in moderation. But I can't help but wonder if the real reason my father limited mine and my siblings diets, was to keep us weak. Though there was animal products in the house such as milk and cheese, they were reserved mostly for my father's consumption, and when we were allowed to have a cheese sandwich, you could count the shreds on the roll.

My dad taught us that a child's role in a family was to serve the parents, and that we did in so many ways.  As a single mom I require my children to help in household chores, keep their rooms tidy and do their homework, but in the back of my mind I'm aware that I may be lenient on them because I'm trying to stay away from my father's philosophy. I see my children as gifts of opportunity and an investment in the future. Not slaves tied to me biologically meant to wait on me hand and foot.

Two of my children have inborn errors. My 16 year old has Phenylketonuria (PKU), and my 9 year old had both PKU and Spinal Muscular Atrophy (SMA). Incest doesn't cause deformities in the sense that if two family members have a baby it will be a two headed monster, but it does increase the possibility of a child born out of incest inheriting genetic weaknesses (if you carry the gene to birth a two headed monster...u get the point).  In my case PKU and SMA are recessive genetic deformities where both parents have to be the carrier of the gene to pass the disease on to the offspring. Since my father (who carried the genes) impregnated me- a direct relative- the chances that I would be a carrier as well was 1 in 4; which happens to be the same chances that we had in creating a child with the disease. 

All of this could serve as constant reminders of the dark parts of my life, but the reality is, there are other people that were not raped and taken advantage of by a family member that have children with the same challenges mine have. My reasoning is that me and my children aren't that different from others out there, making me feel less alone. And compared to the abandon that I felt when I was a child, less alone is all the company I could wish for. 
My foundation is crooked, cracked, twisted and full of holes. But with the right amount of mortar mixed in the fitting consistency, layered with the appropriately shaped bricks, I know my skyscraper will touch stars that haven't been discovered yet (I can to lay brick too. Lol!).

Food for thought:

The Child MolestationPrevention Study (Abel and Harlow 2001) states that the effects of child molestation can result in suicide due to overwhelming feelings of guilt and confusion (I remember those days), causing a child to become harmful to themselves. Other consequences which are carried into adulthood include, severe depression (been there, done that), sexual problems, promiscuity, multiple personality disorder, physical illness (check), asthma (got it), immune system complications (hmmm?) and drug and alcohol abuse.

Thursday, August 1, 2013

Mommy Dearest.

Aww man! The last few days have been liberating, motivating, inspiring, challenging and scary all at once. I read the articles posted about my father's sentencing and amidst the inaccuracies, paraphrases, truths and opinions, the thing that stands out the most to me are comments from people about my mother. I guess where contrary to my father's position in my life, my mother is still very active and present. We talk every day; she always calls me for advice. We shop together, I wash my clothes at her house, she has a relationship with her grandchildren, and we go to church together. So to have the public (and some friends) condemn her along with my father (though I know they do this out of concern), almost makes me question my own interaction with the woman that brought me into this world.

A painting that I love called I Remember, by the amazing artist RepDavinci
No, she did not protect me or my siblings from the man she chose to marry. Yes, her actions were selfish and unacceptable. No, I in no way condone her behavior. And definitely, it's a direct reflection on her ability to parent; yet I still forgive her. I am not responsible for her path in this life, so I take no responsibility. I maintain a relationship with my mom because I know she is regretful, and remorseful and does her best to atone. It took me a while to get to this place within myself; to let go of the past and focus on our present relationship, and sometimes I even find myself regressing; but, I tell you it's liberating and freeing as heaven to know that it's all under my control.

Emotions like hate, resentment and animosity take a lot of energy. In the long run, the person holding on to these feelings is the one that suffers. You think my dad is sitting in his cell right now giving a shit if I'm mad at him or not? But if I walked around still angry and hurt I may not be able to function. And as for my mother; when I was younger and I acted out towards her because I didn't know how to process what was happening to me, she didn't care. She punished for "talking back", "being feisty" or expressing emotion, as she busied herself trying to please her husband.  If I dwelled on those and the other mean and irresponsible things she did, I would still be mentally existing in that period. I'd still be thinking about the 'what if's', and 'could have beens', hindering my personal progression. 

And here lies the key. I can talk about my experiences, and write about my challenges because my heart is no longer in the time where my suffering took place; I am no longer there. I acknowledge the pain I felt and the confusion I suffered, but I've moved and continue to move passed them. I'm not afraid to look back, because I can truly appreciate that, that was then and this is now. I am no longer a victim plain and simple.

My mom and I have very candid conversations about the past; things she did wrong and why she did them. I tell her all the time she is the perfect example of what NOT to do. What I feel lacked in our relationship, I make sure to include in my relationship with my own daughters. The way my mother surrendered herself to her love for my father, I am conscious to not do that with any man. And the blind faith she followed him with, I reserve only for God. 

Some doctors believe that pedophilia is a condition. They suspect that to be aroused by a child is a sexual orientation that establishes itself during puberty. If caught early in life it can be treated. And yes, it's found mostly in men and rarely in women. I have my own reservations on this theory. I don't like giving people that have the gift of choice, an excuse of having no control. But that's just me. Either way, I truly believe in most cases, it is the mother's responsibility to protect her offspring. But not all mother's have that natural ability, and those that do still need help. I have read many books on parenting but I've yet to find one with a chapter on 'how to protect your child from sexual exploitation' and/or 'what to do if this happens to your precious one'.

I hope that through all of my experiences good and bad, and by continuing to use my mom as a model of 'what not to do', I will be able to write those chapters myself.