I am the mother of 3 daughters. All 3 are intelligent, well adjusted, trusting young women. They are successful in their education, devote themselves to hours of community services, give freely of their friendships, show their love of God in word and deed, and dream of futures filled with love, adventure, service and promise. They are 17, 14 and 10 and have lived lives with very little pain, stuggle or difficulty– just the way I planned and hoped.
Their lives thus far have been just like the life I laid awake dreaming of having as a child.
Never have they gone without food, power, water, warmth. Never have they missed school to wait for boxes of government food. Never have they lived in squaller hoping to avoid rats or hoping roaches wouldn’t creep from their backpacks at school. Never have they had to sleep with siblings on cold winter nights to keep warm. Never have they stolen water from the neighbor’s water hose to drink or cook. Never have they washed clothing in the sink in hopes they’d be dry by morning. Never have they worn shoes far too small because they had no others to wear. Never have they sat night after night with only candlelight to see in a dark, powerless home.
And, thank God, they have never, NEVER lain in a dark room, hours before the world awoke, begging God that “that man” wouldn’t come after their mother left for work. Never have they prayed not to hear his footsteps or the sound of that belt unbuckling. Never have they wished just to die under the pressure of so much hate instead of breathing him in or hearing him in their ear. Never have sat in absolute stillness next to their torturer at a Sunday meal at a table of food and deafening silence. Never have they hurt with the weight of such betrayal, pain or heartbreak. Never have they died only to live and die again.
In those pain filled years, I could not dream of a future. I did not see myself living that long. Each birthday I met with some level of amazement. In all those moments he demonstrated his power, I lost a piece of my ability to dream. But the day I escaped from him, I “buried” the old me. I promised myself to never return to that pain. And I promised myself that, if I could ever have children, they would never know any of that pain… Ever.
Now, I look back on my childhood and compare it to that of my children. I am amazed at the wonders I have created and know I’ve been blessed to see them grow with such amazing lives. I am their mother. And, unlike MY mother, I AM their protector.
Never will they know the pain or horror of my childhood. I’d do anything to give them what my parents didn’t give me. I’d give the world to save them from my pain. And, If my pain was, in some twisted way, payment for the lives they live now– then it was worth it.
But I look at my children and find peace in understanding that they won’t ever know.