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The Squirt Bottle

Unable to have children of our own, my then-husband and I had the opportunity to have a foster-to-adopt situation with a precious little girl.

Just before her adoption, we were asked to also foster her little sister, who was about to be born.

I was hesitant. I didn’t want to take on a child who had a high chance of returning to her birth parents. But I couldn’t let my little girl’s sister go to strangers, so we said yes.

As time passed, the birth parents weren’t doing their part, and I felt more and more like she was my baby, and I would have her forever.

I should have been happy. I had everything I’d ever wanted!

The money the state paid us to take care of foster children made it possible for me to be home with those two pretty little girls all day. I had always wanted to be a stay-at-home-mom. And now I had not one, but two children to take care of! The girls were happy, and the best sound in the world was their laughter as they played together.

glitter on woman eye mommy wants vodka

I wish I could say my husband felt the same way.

He was resentful of that baby as soon as she entered our home.

He hated all the time I was spending with her, instead of him.

He was jealous.

Of an infant.

This one particular night breaks my heart. I wish I could go back and change things, but he had trained me for years not to question him. Fear of his anger kept me frozen.

The baby had learned to stand. She was so proud of herself! There was no stopping her now!

From the time she was a newborn, she had always hated going to sleep, and getting her to settle down for bed was a long, drawn-out process. But with her newly developed skill of standing, it became much worse. I would lay her down, she would stand up. I would put her down again, she would stand right back up.

One night, he had enough. “I”ll make her learn she has to lay down when it’s bedtime,” he said.

He came into the girls’ bedroom with me when I put her to bed.

I laid her down in her crib, telling her goodnight, same as I always did. She stood up, and he sprayed her right in the face with the water bottle we used on the cats when they were doing something wrong. I was horrified!

But what was I supposed to do? He was my husband, and I was afraid to question him.

The battle of wills between a man in his 40’s and a less-than-year-old baby went on for a while. I would lay her down, she would stand up, he would spray her in the face.

Finally, he pushed me too far. She was soaking wet, dripping on her sheets. I knew even if she did go to sleep, she would end up getting sick from trying to sleep in her wet clothes and bed. I took a chance and said, “That’s enough!”

Amazingly, he walked out the door without saying a word.

I took her out of her bed, pulled her wet clothes off of her, dried her with her little hooded towel, then put clean, dry pajamas on her. Then I changed the bedding in her crib and started the bedtime process again.

When I walked out of the bedroom, she was back to standing in the crib. I walked out to the living room where he was watching TV. I looked him dead in the eye and said, “Your way didn’t work, and you’re never doing that again.”

He didn’t argue, and he never tried that stunt again.

I think he figured out that there was only so far he could push me when it came to the children.

He could belittle me and mistreat me all he wanted, but don’t mess with the Mama Grizzly Bear.

Breaking The Cycle: The Bipolar Monster Inside My Mother

Growing up with a mentally ill parent is a challenge under the best of circumstances.

This is their story:

I want to tell you about the monster that tries to eat me.

Each day there’s a new challenge to overcome.

Living and breathing are a luxury.

I live with her.

I’ve known her.

Nobody knows her the way I do.

Nobody has met the monster inside of her, the one they call Bipolar Disorder.

Abusers either target everyone around them or one person in particular. I am the person she targets.

Maybe it’s because I am the only child or maybe it is because I resemble my father, whom she despises.

The monster has two faces; one is sweet and caring in front of everyone who is watching, and one violently screams and tries to break me to the point of no return.

People often see her as a victim, a victim of a spontaneously rebellious child.

I’m called spoiled, a rebel, bad, violent. For years, I’ve felt guilty for these things.

But I realized I’m not an angry person – I’m just pissed off at everything that has happened.

I’ve also realized I am not guilty or responsible for her demons.

I have my ways to beat the monster, to tame it. But ignoring is not one of them; neither is feeding it.

Quick wit can get you far, as will patience, but you can’t be tolerant because with tolerance comes more abuse. You have to show it that you won’t be broken down, that you won’t stay passive to everything it does.

Giving into the victimizing is as big a deal not as engaging in a screaming fit.

How can you deal with it?

The formula is simple: you don’t give it what it wants. It confuses the monster, and it puts it down.

Think ahead.

This is a survival game; every day you’re on defense.

Every day, you need to examine the opponent, and every moment you have to be ready.

It can drag you down or make you stronger, whichever you choose.

Bear it until you are able to really escape.

Ask The Band: Coping With Domestic Abuse

ask band domestic abuse

Dear The Band,

My husband and I got into a very heated fight (to say the least). We were in each other’s face and things got physical and turned into domestic abuse.

Alcohol was involved.

I ended up going to the ER and was diagnosed with a head injury and a bruised rib. The police came to the hospital to ask me what happened – if I’d been the victim of domestic abuse – and I kept my mouth shut because I didn’t want both of us to to to jail.

I was charged with a domestic abuse charge. He would have been too, if I’d said anything.

Anyway, there’s a no contact order between him and I, but he has my children: my 2 1/2 son and my 9 year old daughter. I am only allowed to communicate through my attorney or at the family resource center.

Right now? He won’t answer the phone to either number.

It has been nine excruciating days since I’ve seen my children.

I learned that he’d filed a restraining order on me. He then shut my phone off and took all the money I had out of my bank account.

I’m staying with family now.

I want to see my children but he will not let me see them and I’m devastated.

We have a hearing for the restraining order on the 11th. I don’t know what to do to prepare for it. I have the hospital records of my injuries. I don’t want him in trouble because he is my husband and I still love him very much – we both need help and things got out of hand.

Without my kids, it’s hard to get up in the morning.

Has anyone else been in this situation? 

domestic abuse

 *UPDATE* I finally got in touch with my attorney and let him know all the details. He told me to bring the hospital records to the hearing. As much as I wish this never had happened, I’m not going to be a doormat and let him scare me.

Dear Friend,

This is part of a letter to a friend in response to her mom’s suicide.

Dear Sarah,

It’s been a long time since you’ve asked me to comment on the book you wrote about your mom’s suicide. I think you are amazing to write about it and I’m glad that you did. I don’t enjoy bringing that chapter of life to mind, given the chaos of those years, but I’ve thought about it often. Especially when I think about what it means to be a mother and uncovering fresh layers of fucked up that we both learned from our mothers.

I know it’s not fair of me to judge them now — but it’s hard not to. 

I took your mom’s suicide hard.

Talking about my relationship with your mom is hard for me because I admired her very much — I was flabbergasted by the way that she slipped back into drugs and addiction.

I was shocked that she abandoned you like that. I was just shocked.

I couldn’t believe your mom would die by suicide.

I still can’t.

I remember the first time I met your mom, I was playing in the front yard while she moved in across the street. She introduced herself from over the fence and told me that she had a daughter just my age, with my name: “I have a Sarah too.”

By the time you came to visit for the summer she had already arranged that we would be playmates.  She even arranged a phone call between us before your visit.

When you showed up at my front door, I knew we would be lifelong friends.

mom's suicide

My mom worked a lot and my dad was physically or mentally absent most of the time, so your home was like a second home to me.

During these years, your house felt like a Norman Rockwell to me, though now I see that it was far from it.  

My mom remarried a man who was addicted to heroin, while at your house, your mom packed lunches, set up the tent in the backyard for us to “camp,” and made goody bags filled with candy. She took us to the zoo, the mall, and the flea market. She prescreened movies, took us for mint chocolate chip ice cream cones, and insisted that you wore a bike helmet. I remember going with her to an NA picnic in the park and how proud she was of her sober chips. We’d to admire the shiny metal coins she earned for racking up months and years of sobriety. 

I envied the amount of time and attention that your mom spent with you when she was sober  As a kid, I saw your mom as kind, fair, the type who would take the time to listen.

When your mom died by suicide, I was glad that she had doted on you those years before she started using again.

As my home life became marked by violence and fear, I began that the world was full of bad people. I quickly became withdrawn to protect myself.

Beth was a reminder that there were safe adults in the world.

When my stepfather and my mom first started fighting, I called your house in the middle of the night. I was so scared. I didn’t know what was happening or what to do.

It was very late and your mom answered the phone and insisted that I tell her what was happening. My stepfather hadn’t started hitting my mom yet, but the yelling was really over the top. She gave me a speech about how adults sometimes argue and it can be scary for children to hear and explained that my mom and step dad would never want to do anything to scare me. She told me to go downstairs and tell them that they were scaring me and I couldn’t sleep. They told me to go back up to my room.

mom's suicide

Many nights of fighting followed with growing intensity and I tried to call you but ended up talking to Beth.

Beth eventually called my mom and told her that she was concerned about me – I was in big trouble. I was forbidden to speak about “private family business.” It worked: I didn’t speak of the violence again until after his death.

The violence escalated and my stepfather began beating my mom and my brother when he was angry. We moved on several occasions to get away from him.

The emotional abuse from my stepfather became our new normal and we began spending school nights on random people’s sofas, hiding our car down the street.  

I spent as much time as possible at friend’s houses and took up babysitting to get out of the house on weekends.

Beth was the only person who knew what was happening; I’d assumed that she would be the person to help me out of that situation. I’m no longer sure she understood how bad things had gotten. She provided me a safe place to go whenever I needed one and a reminder that there are kind people in the world. She told me that I should become one of them. She affirmed that there were a lot of fucked-up things in the world and they would probably never make sense.

Honestly, I don’t know how I would have turned out without Beth as a moral reference point during those years.

Beth became addicted to codeine cough syrup and her behavior changed: she didn’t take us on outings she slept all day everyday. One occasion when she woke up, I remember her running down the hallway singing “boo boop be boo.” This is when I learned that there was something wrong. I was pretty sure that people with bronchitis didn’t do that kind of thing normally.

I knew things were coming unhinged for you, but was too young to appreciate the full weight of what was happening.

I lived in Beth’s house twice, once for a short time when I ran away after my stepfather died and for the school term after that.

By the time I officially lived with Beth she was pretty far gone in her addiction. She slept or was gone most of the time. 

It seemed that you were on your own, too.

I still cared what Beth thought of me. She seemed one of the few people who didn’t see me as a lost cause and so I didn’t see myself that way when I was around her.

On Fridays, Beth would take us to the grocery store. She taught us how to grocery shop and some very basic cooking skills.

Things went sour when my mom suspected Beth was using the money she gave her for things other than my upkeep. You and Beth were at odds more often than not. I decided it was best to move back home. Home was a sort of hell, but it was my own hell and I knew how to navigate it. 

I didn’t see much of Beth after that.

I’d spend weekends at her apartment while she agreed to leave us totally unattended. The last time I saw her, she’d picked me up from my house to bring me back to your house for the weekend.  I remember her being warm and chatting with me for the ride, though I can’t remember what about.

I remember her smiling and I remember that she mentioned that you were unhappy with her these days. 

The next time I saw her she was in a coma.

Atrophied hands, hair cut short, dead to the world.

No warm smile, no more sun-kissed freckles, no more frizzy bun atop her head.

She was gone to the world and she couldn’t recover. That’s the last I saw her.

died by suicide

I couldn’t talk about her death with you. It didn’t seem like you wanted to and then you were gone I knew that she let you down and ultimately abandoned you with her suicide. You have every right to be angry with her; hell I was angry on your behalf.

I was just shocked and sad. I think I felt abandoned too.

The next few years were hard for us; the one person I saw as a safe adult had succumbed to drugs and took her own life. It didn’t add up.

Suicide was cruel and yet I remembered her as such a kind person.

There was nothing I could say that would lessen the pain for you so I said nothing.

You remind me of her because you look so much like her now. If you want to talk about what happened, I’d let you start.

What is there to say now, after all of these years?

That was fucked up. There is some fucked up bad shit in the world and it will never make sense, but there is some wonderful stuff too. I think that, despite it all, we both turned out to be people who contribute more to the good than to the uglyl.

I hold you close in my heart, my sister and my dear friend.

With much love,

Sarah 

Ask The Band: When Can A Child Decide Not To See The Other Parent?

Welcome, one and all to our semi-weekly event where YOU get to be bossy! 

Have an issue? Click here to Ask The Band!

ask the band afraid of daughter

Hello The Band!

This is my first post ever here, I’m very private about personal things, especially having to do with my daughter, but I really need some input or suggestions as my daughter is afraid of her father.

My daughter is a nine-year old, straight A student who has received honor of the Principal’s Scholar Award. Smart cookie; so smart that she is afraid of her father – for really good reason.

We’ve got issues with the people on her father’s side of the family, that make me and my daughter afraid of her father. When I told his family that he was abusing me, it was assumed that I was lying because their Golden Boy would never!

I left him when my daughter was a baby by sneaking out one night through an open window, leaving a note behind suggesting that my ex get help – I was tired of the emotional abuse and domestic physical abuse. 

Now, he’s got a new wife and stepson and still has an every other weekend arrangement to see my daughter. Rather than do anything with her, he most often picks her up and takes her to his parent’s house – he actually sees our daughter very infrequently, but boy when he does, she’s afraid of her father.

See, he  treats her like she’s in boot camp or something. She told me she was terrified of him and he [alcoholic] drinks in the car. His wife isn’t much better, not only is she unstable like he is, but they fight and scream around my daughter. She’ll frequently use her as a pawn “Get your kid out of here!” He doesn’t spank our daughter since I established a no-spanking rule but she’s scared of her father nonetheless.

daughter afraid of father

She hates the environment they put her in: her supposed protectors spend their time with her swearing, fighting, throwing things at each other, and kicking each other out of the house on the regular.

His parents try to bribe my daughter with money, toys, and clothes if she agrees to live with them full-time, though they have no rights to custody. My daughter is really smart and she’s picked up on the fact that her father and his parents liked to say mean and ugly things about my family – especially me. I refuse to speak ill of her paternal side because I knew she’d see it when she was old enough and formed her own opinion.

She has.

My daughter is scared of her father, his temper, and the unhealthy environment where those who are supposed to protect her are abusing each other. She’s explained that she doesn’t want to see his side of the family or go to their houses any more; she’s just too scared of the volatility and is afraid of her father.

I’ve made an appointment with the magistrate to discuss our options; while I am the primary parent, legally I can’t keep her from seeing her father and their abusive family every other weekend. Most adults are afraid to speak in public but my daughter announced she would speak to a courtroom of people about how and why she never wants to be around them again – she’s so scared of them.

I guess I’m just wondering if anyone has been in a similar situation -what do you do when your child is afraid of the other parent

Do any of you have opinions on this?

What age is old enough to be able to tell them how she feels and for her to say NO I don’t want to see you?

What should I do?

Thank you for reading this, The Band.

13 Is My Happy Number

We at The Band do understand that a lot of our subject matter can be very dark and dense. This, however, is not a story of sadness, but of rebirth, finding a place in the world, and knowing just how valuable you are. 
We encourage each of you to tell us one of your stories – happy or not.
This is her incredible journey:

13 has always been my happy number.

Today is no different.

13 years ago today I left my first, abusive marriage. I didn’t know where I was going, what I was doing, or how I was going to survive or take care of my two boys (and their sister who was due in five months. But I did know this: the best place for all of us was NOT with their father.

Leaving was the first hard decision I’ve made as an adult, the first time I felt like an adult, the first time I ever felt like I had the ABILITY to make a decision for myself or my children.

a photo of carnival people on swings

Life after his abuse was not an easy time. it was easily one of the three hardest times I’ve ever experienced in my life.

I am so thankful that a support system came out of the woodwork when I needed it and helped us get through the transition and helped me feel secure enough in my choice to leave that I didn’t end up going back.

I can’t imagine where my children or I would be today if we hadn’t had that.

Mike and I met shortly after that fateful day, in a chatroom. Two years later on August 20th we found out we were having a baby! Baby Eliza blessed us with her presence on April 21st.

I know that it’s no coincidence that today would also have been my father-in-law’s birthday, may he rest in peace. I wish I’d had the chance to meet him.

Today has so many memories, meanings and significance for all of us. This is truly a day we will all cherish forever.

a crowd of people hands shaped into a heart

13 happy years of freedom, 12 years knowing my true love, and so many other memories. Amazing memories.

Before, After, and Between.

Today is a good day every year, and always will be.

How about you? Do YOU have a happy or lucky number or thing?