This piece is dedicated to the children who were involuntarily given the role as a parent growing up. I know first hand how this tremendous task felt and how it still bares weight as we continue in our adult lives. Yes, it changes everything, how we perceive life, how we carry our own intimate relationships, the way we raise our own children, that ugly unspoken trauma that dwells in us in silence. I’m a 35 year old woman, married for over a decade and with two beautiful children. I’m sharing my story to heal my own wounds and to speak my truths, “I WAS A CHILD PARENT”.
My childhood as I remember had its deep sentimental memories like festive holidays, shared dinners every evening as family at the dinning room table & fun outings. But there was also darkness and moments that no child should experience. I don’t blame my parents because I have found peace with it after so many years and at the end of the day they tried their best after all, in their minds it sure was better than the upbringing they lived. Especially my father he had a difficult childhood in poverty and even abandoned where he had to survive on the streets in his country on his own at the young age of 13, you want to know the irony of it all he was also a child parent to all his siblings. But even so he would take his shirt off his back and give it to someone in need in a heartbeat no questions asked he had a heart of gold. But under all that kindness and love he gave, addiction, anxiety and depression had a hold on him.
Everyday was a challenge for him to stay clean, he had good days where he was happy and loving and he had bad days where he was edgy, irritable and violent. It felt as if we were walking on egg shells on those bad days, I was so scared and nervous during those times because my main fear was that he was going to give up on his sobriety go get drunk, get verbally abusive with my mother and then run off in the midst of the night to go seek his happiness, the high he was truly chasing, his antidote, his means for coping, his escape from his darkness, his drug of choice was crack cocaine. He will leave for days on end and this only made my anxiety (which I didn’t know what it was as child) to stay on high alert at all times. I was terrified that he will never come back home and we will get that call that he was found dead somewhere, or that he will come home so intoxicated and we would all pay for his fury for all that pain and depression that he suffered in silence with.
Although I was a frightened nervous little girl I was my mothers rock and strength, my autistic little brothers refuge and comfort. I naturally took in that role, I adapted to my environment it just happened. Do you know how much it took out of me on a mental and physical level to stop fights between two grown adults one being intoxicated and the other just a broken battered woman trying to be heard and pleading for the addiction and abuse to stop? I had to do all of that without me choosing a side because I didn’t want to hurt either of their feelings. Once the fights were over and the adrenaline in me ran its course, I would make sure everyone was ok with some of type peace restored in our home so we can all go back to sleep, and sleep that living nightmare away. Those were the moments that I would cry myself to sleep, I will rewind those fights in my head and think what I could’ve done differently, I will question God why did I have to go through that, why did he allow my father to be an addict and not just heal him? I had to be my own comfort, I wouldn’t dare go to my mother so she can give me that comfort and protection that I needed because she already had a full plate with her own pain and worries I couldn’t do that to her. My father wasn’t in the right mind but once he was it was always followed by apologies and broken promises of it never happening again, funny part is that I was so hopeful and prayed for that change daily that I believed him every time.
Being a child that played a parental role now in retrospect I use to get a lot of praise and acknowledgement such as, “You’re so mature for your age”, “You are so responsible” and so on. But what those adults failed to see is that I had no choice but to be those things. Deep inside I was a hurt child that needed help, support and guidance from a functional adult, I needed to hear, “everything is going to be ok”. My awkwardness as a child and teenager was a cry for help, I wanted to be saved from that living hell. I have questioned my mothers decision for staying, for not protecting and wanting better for my brother and I for many years I even had anger and resentment towards her. Sadly, through the years I got my answer why by simply seeing my mother age, her silence & the way she lives. It hurts me to see it, to be honest. Maybe one day her and I can have a heart to heart talk and I can have her speak her truths that way it can bring her some healing.
If you are a victim to domestic violence this includes emotional abuse please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline 1-800-799-SAFE (7233) or text “START” to 88788
If you have a substance abuse problem and need help please call SAMHSA National Helpline 1-800-662-4357