While not everything in my childhood was bad, very little in my home resembled my dream family. Moments of joy were surrounded by terror and betrayal.
In the depths of my shattered childhood lived the hope for my dream family.
My whole life growing up, I had a vision of my dream family; the family I always wanted. Though it wasn’t my dream family, I did have parents, brothers and sisters, a small dog that could scale a ten foot fence, a garden and yard where I could play, and a basement in which to hide.
My heart had been bruised. Now it was crushed. Would my dream family ever become a reality?
I remember as a child, one night, wishing on a star. It caught my attention because of its brilliant light flickering in the night sky. As I dared to make my wish, the star pulsated brighter and brighter. Wow!!! I had never seen a star like this. Maybe this was the magical star that could make my dream family emerge from the black hole where it resided. With great hope, I watched the star pulsate brighter and brighter until at last the star gave its brightest light yet. And then… nothing. Darkness filled the sky where only moments before this star had shined so brightly. My brother (I liked to call him the scientist) was star gazing with me that night. Clearly shaken, I asked him what happened to the star. He continued to look at the sky and in his very matter-of-fact way, told me the star had died. What?! What do you mean it died? Oh, no! No, no, no!!! This was bad. This had to be bad. I dared to dream and the star I trusted with the desires of my young heart had DIED! I started to cry. Big huge uncontrollable alligator tears ran down my face. “What is wrong with you? You’re crying because the star died?” my brother chided. Then the scientist tried to console me using all his intellectual abilities. He told me it was ridiculous to cry about something that had died XXXXX million light years ago. My heart wasn’t intellectual. My heart had been bruised. Now it was crushed. Would my dream family ever become a reality? My beautiful, brilliant, wishing star had died. Did that mean my wishes for a dream family were destined to die as well?
Life with a drug-numbed mother and sex-addict father were not my dream family.
My earliest memories are of my parents fighting. They were always yelling and screaming while throwing objects and insults at each other. I was three or four years old when my mother took my siblings and me to visit my father in the hospital. He was recovering from multiple gunshot wounds he had received on a voyeuristic expedition to the windows of cabins in the canyons near our home. Ours was a home where my mom would spend days at a time in a darkened room, emerging from time to time to have her drug mules children pick up her prescription medications so she could again make her escape from the reality that she and my father had created. Life with a drug-numbed mother and sex-addict father were not my dream family.
The years passed. Ambulances came to take my convulsing mother to the hospital to counteract the overdose she had once again taken. I was hysterical with fear that my brother would be beaten to death over something as “devastating” as a kitchen floor not being cleaned to my father’s satisfaction. Neglect was so much easier to digest than abuse. There were times when we called 911 for help. Then an officer, a friend of our father abuser, would come to the house. It was at that time that abuse, in all its ugliness, became easier to endure than neglect from those who were sworn to serve and protect. I remember finally reaching out to a friend, though it was beyond her ability to grasp my situation. She laughed and made fun of me. Two years would pass before I spoke to anyone about life in my family again. At fifteen, I ran away from home. If this was family, I wanted no part of it.
I was taken to the police station just before the weekend. As there were no immediate openings at an emergency shelter, I was given two choices. First, I could return to my house and come back after weekend to get help. Second, they could lock me up in juvenile detention until they could find a safe place for me. I told them to lock me up.
Neither my first family, nor my foster family gave any resemblance to my dream family.
Eventually I was released to a shelter home and placed into foster care. Before the year was over, my first family moved to another state. That spared me the abuses suffered in my first family, but I was still subjected to other forms of abuse in foster care. When I talked with my guardian ad litem, she told me I was in the best placement they could find for me; the home of the President of the Foster Parent Association. Even if another placement could be found for me, there was no guarantee it would be an improvement over the one I had been given. The best advice she could offer was to tough it out. I toughed it out while approaching the time when I would age out of foster care, during the middle of my senior year in high school.
Neither my first family, nor my foster family gave any resemblance to my dream family. Abuse, abandonment, deception, neglect… No one thinks of those situations as ones that make up a dream family. Trying to pick up the pieces of my childhood to create a dream family was like trying to create a beautiful bathroom with broken tiles. Broken tiles, broken lives; they were both hideous.
Over time I began to understand that I could have the family I always wanted; I would just never be the child in that family.
But somewhere in the depths of my shattered childhood, lived the hope for my dream family. I was not always successful hiding my jealously of people who had close family relationships; families who were happy despite hardships, who had pieces of the dream family I really did want in my life. Somewhere in the depths of my shattered childhood, lived the hope for my dream family. Over time I began to understand that I could have the family I always wanted; I would just never be the child in that family. Can you imagine what a motivating force that realization became in building my dream family? I could have the family I always wanted! It would be built from position of wife and mother! How empowering! I could have the family I always wanted; my dream family.
Is my dream family perfect? No. Perfection was never part of my dream. We are perfectly imperfect. We try to work together in a way that our strengths and weaknesses complement each other.
Raising a family is hard work, demanding and at times completely unfair. Family is also rewarding, empowering and so very generous. And, when family is doing exactly what it was designed to do it can be a dream come true.
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