For a boy of only three, you have quite a story. Any attempt to write it all down will be like a Polaroid picture of an HD film – nothing will capture the life in your eyes. I am okay with that, I just need to put this all down.
My son, you are loved more than anyone could ever tell you. I know EVERYONE says that about their children, but you truly are. When we made the decision to place you with another family, I made sure that your bio-dad and I were on the same page – longing for your perfect future.
I am sorry – deeply, painfully sorry – that I could not see through your adoptive Mom’s lies. I kick myself for that. We’d hand-picked that family, a big family, for you. You have no shortage of siblings, cousins, aunts and uncles. Even before the whole of you would fill the face of a quarter, I knew you deserved that.
I just found out that your parents are divorcing. I am sorry. I never wanted you to grow up in a single-parent family. I missed out on having a dad growing up, so I know the value of having two adults around to love and cherish you. I know two incomes are easier than one. We placed you because we were weak in our relationship and we wanted you raised in a mature, loving, rock-solid marriage. Now, I find out the marriage we trusted was a sham.
I know that your family still loves you dearly.
My son, my child, I am wrestling with the idea of fighting for custody. Your Mom has recently displayed violent tendencies. I cannot, in good conscience, leave you in that situation. Please forgive me. Your Dad adores you, as do your sisters and brother. I hate that I’m thinking of fighting for custody, but I don’t know how anyone can raise 5 children as a single parent.
I wish there was a crystal ball for me to shake, to see what the right answer is. I wish trusted the woman I picked to raise you, the woman that was there for all of your ultrasounds, your birth, your firsts.
I am having problems trusting myself at all. The decision to place you was one thing I’d been solid in.
I knew I had done what was right. Except now? Even that is shaky.
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.
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.
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.
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.
April is child abuse awareness month and we at The Band intend to highlight the stories of those who’ve suffered from this form of abuse. There damage child abuse leaves in its wake can last a lifetime:
This is her story:
Her first memory became her second memory once they started coming back, a piece at a time.
The old first memory, in her words:
“My stepfather has brought me into the back part of the house that we used as a living room. I am maybe four years old, maybe younger. I am very happy, as the Monster is being nice to me. I have a dress on, black patent-leather shoes with buckles and white ankle socks with ruffles. The couch is plaid – brown, yellow, green. His hand is on my knee and he is rubbing my leg, smiling at me. I don’t remember him taking off my panties, but they are gone. I am not concerned, I am just happy he is not hitting me, he is not yelling at me, he is smiling at me and I feel safe for the first time in a long time. His hand is under my dress and he is rubbing me and I have this strange feeling in my belly.
Out of nowhere, the most tremendous blinding pain I have ever felt. I try to scream, I try to move. He has his hand over my mouth and is holding down. The pain is unbearable. He is smiling. I can’t breathe. The pain is excruciating. Am I dying? Is he finally killing me? What is he doing? Why is he hurting me like this? As suddenly as it started, it is over. He gets up and leaves the room and I curl up in a ball sobbing. He returns with a washrag and rolls me over on my back spreading my legs again. The rag is moist and cold, he wipes me. I lay there terrified the pain will start again. When I see the rag, it is covered in blood and still he is smiling.”
She ran away then, into the fields of purple flowers. She ran and ran, finally falling down into the tall grass. The sun went down, it got dark, and though she was afraid of the dark, she was more afraid of him. Later she hears voices calling her name. Her mother, her aunt, her brother. Her mother crying for her, she stands up and hollers “Mama!” Her mother runs to her, crying, saying “My baby is OK! My baby is OK!”
Back at the house, her mother asks her why she ran away. She tells her.
“She slapped me so hard across the face that I was knocked several feet backwards and fell to the floor. She screamed at me, that I was a liar and sent me to my room. I sobbed, hurting from the pain in my bottom and the pain in my heart, knowing that I was going to die. He was going to kill me. There was no one to stop him. So I did what all good Christian girls did: I prayed to God that I would die in my sleep before morning.
That was the longest night of my life. Somewhere in the night I fell asleep. When I woke up, the Monster was smiling down at me once more. My heart was racing and I knew I was about to die and he just kept smiling. He puts one hand on either side of my head holding me down by my long brown hair, and smiling the whole time, he said, ‘She didn’t believe you, she never will and if you ever try to tell again I will kill you.’ Then, like nothing ever happened, he walks to the door, opens it, and calmly says, ‘Breakfast is ready when you are.’”
She later remembered a time in the car, when she was much smaller. Three, maybe, almost four. Her mother was asleep in the back. She was on his lap, “driving”, a policeman is yelling at her Daddy. “Where are your shoes? Why are your pants unzipped? What is going on here?” She had a little dress on. He hadn’t hurt her yet.
How did her mother sleep through the policeman, through the yelling? Or was she asleep at all?
“After the first night when I was raped by my stepfather and ran away, two things happened. Because I had run away, a lock was placed on the outside of my door. Every night when I went to bed I was locked into my room. From then on, when mother passed out at night from her ‘nerve pills’ and alcohol, Monster was guaranteed easy access to me.”
The abuse came from her mother as well. She wasn’t “Vicki” anymore, she was “bitch, slut, liar, whore.” Any infraction of any kind was met with blunt force, blows to the head, back, ribs, whatever was closest. Her fingers were held over an open flame until the skin bubbled and blistered.
In a few years, it was not just Vicki who was being sexually tortured, it was her two brothers. And then the brother and sister that her mother had with the Monster.
When did it end?
You want to know how long it went on?
Vicki was fourteen years old when her stepfather finally went to prison for his crimes. A caring neighbor finally heard her, believed her, and confronted her mother. Her mother had the option to help provide evidence against him or be charged as an accomplice.
Perhaps worst of all, her mother did not leave the Monster. When the Monster got out of prison? He left HER.
Vicki is my sister.
Vicki is my hero.
Vicki has spent most of her life overcoming the most horrific kind of abuse imaginable and despite it, despite every bit of it – the foster care, the beatings, the years of alcohol and drug abuse to blur and erase the memories – she has not only survived, she has overcome. She has raised a son who is now in college. She was married to the love of her life until she lost him to a sudden heart attack. She is the strongest, most self sufficient woman I have ever had the privilege to meet in my life.
I thank God for many things, but most often I thank Him for two things:
That Vicki is my sister. And that I? Was relinquished by her mother at birth to adoption.
My sister thanks God that I was given up for adoption. Which makes me weep.
Some days, despite the blessings I have, I am reminded over and over and over again that I do not have the one thing in my life I thought I would have: a child.
It seems like everyone I know is expecting their first, their second child. And I try really hard to be happy for them. I try so hard to mouth the right things, because I am happy for them. But every one of those words of congratulations tears open the scars – I will never have a child. Not a child of my own. (And I do very much consider an adopted child to be my own, by the way.)
My wife is not just simply not ready, but also not…capable. I’m not talking physically, but emotionally. I’m already keeping our home together, taking over pretty much every responsibility.
I may be a bad person, but I can’t take care of all of our details, make sure she’s taking all of her medications, and be the sole caretaker of a child as well. Hell, I doubt we’d be able to qualify for adoption if I have to somehow bind everything together, and honestly, I don’t think that would be a good environment for a child anyway.
So. I’m left with a bitter choice that I can’t actually make: my wife, or my life-long dream of a child.
Welcome to Father’s Day 2019, here at The Band Back Together. Today, we celebrate fathers-to-be, fathers whose treasures who are in heaven, fathers who don’t deserve the title, fathers who have shaped who we are for good, for bad, for life.
Wherever you are, whatever you are doing, Happy Father’s Day.
To The Man Who “Raised” Me-
You married my mother when I was barely three-years-old.
I don’t have any memories of that day, but the pictures show a happy little girl. I don’t know what was going on in your mind as you allowed me to grow up believing you were my father.
I’ve seen all the pictures. I know they portray the quintessential American family.
I have memories that tell me those pictures were lies.
On the surface, I never wanted for anything. I had clothes that fit me, food in my belly and most of the coolest toys. What I didn’t have, was you.
Even at a young age, I remember feeling that I was somehow less than my sisters, somehow different in your eyes. As I got older, I picked up that it had something to do with having a different last name.
But I never got any explanation as to why.
I was only nine when you brought your daughter from a previous marriage to live with us. I was NINE YEARS OLD when you and Mom sat us down and explained that you weren’t really my father.
You asked for my permission to adopt me.
A chance to finally be YOURS?! Who could turn that down? Did you realize that I didn’t have the cognitive ability to understand what was happening? Did you know how desperately I wanted to have your last name? To be a part of the family, to no longer be different?
Why you and Mom went through with the adoption, I’ll never know. You were already fighting so much. A mere six months later, you were divorced.
Do you know what it cost me to tell my mother that I wanted to live with you instead of her? Do you realize that my desire to please you, to matter to you, caused a chasm between Mom and me that can never be repaired?
And what did I gain? A step-mother who made sure I continued to feel like less, separate from her family. The privilege of being your built-in-baby-sitter and maid. And constantly being bullied by my step-sisters every day of my teenage years. All while you turned a blind eye.
Somewhere along the line, I stopped trying to win your love and started to seek what I was missing from boys.
Even the negative attention I received when I acted out was better than feeling invisible.
For years I called you “Dad.” I bought you cards on Father’s Day every year, signing them, “with all my love.” For most of my life, I’ve tried to please you. I stood by you when others wouldn’t, and made excuses for you when you hurt others. Or me.
I can’t do it anymore.
I have a son now and while I may not get along with his father, I see what a strong relationship they have. I have removed the blinders – I see that we’ve never had a relationship. It’s not really a relationship if one person doesn’t even acknowledge the other.
So this Father’s Day, there won’t be a card from me in the mailbox. You won’t get a phone call or a text.
For once, I’ll be just as invisible as you always made me feel.