I recently wrote a confession about my problems with my stepfather. (I seriously recommend reading it before continuing with this post.) Some people commented that my mom was pretty fucked up for allowing such things to happen. Which is a completely, perfectly reasonable and expected response. Only I didn’t expect it.
Because I don’t blame her.
I used to; I used to be bitter towards her and wonder why she never did anything to prevent the damage that was done to me or step in when I mentioned the horrible things her husband had put me through.
But then I grew a little older and got to know her, and him, and myself better. Now I have nothing but love and admiration towards her. I’m amazed by her.
My mother and I are similar in many ways. We look the same, we pick through trash, we’re creative, we’re both a little wacky in our beliefs and demeanor and are very loud (though that’s a family trait). But we’re also incredibly different.
My mother is codependent. As much as I adore her, I can admit that. She’s always had, and needed, a man by her side. She had the strength to leave my dad when I was not even two-years-old, but started dating almost immediately (from what I can recall).
When I was young — like, really young; 3-5 years young — she was casually dating two men. One I knew very well because she had been dating him for a while. He treated me like a princess and I loved him. The other one I didn’t know all that well, and I thought he was kind of weird. She asked me who I liked better — who I would rather her choose to be with — and of course I told her the one who treated me like a princess. I don’t know exactly how much weight my answer held, but I do know that she stayed with him. I didn’t find out until much, much later that he was very abusive towards her.
After they split, I’m not sure how long my mother was single. I know that it was her and I against the world and we were more like friends than a parent and child. Which worked perfectly for us — I got straight As and never got into (much) trouble and was all-around a good kid. We were like the Gilmore Girls.
And then she met a man at a bar one night, after he stole her seat. A man 18 years her junior. An attractive, smooth-talking man who had a fiance.
I don’t know what happened. I don’t know how the man stole her heart or what happened to his fiance. But they started dating.
I loved him at first. He was fun and young and would pick me up and flip me around, plus he was gorgeous. It took a few years for him to start making rules I wasn’t even breaking in the first place and implementing his way or the highway. I remember wondering why on earth I needed these rules if my mother and I were doing just fine without them.
He brainwashed her into thinking they were needed. When I was 14 my curfew was 9:00. I would ride my bike around town, just taking in the beauty of it (I love my hometown, and always have), and come home at 9sharp every night. One night, after riding around and hanging out with some friends on the boardwalk, my stepfather freaked. Supposedly my pupils looked big. He shone a flashlight in my eyes and said they didn’t dilate and was convinced I was on drugs.
I was not on drugs.
My curfew, on weeknights, changed to 6:00. And that’s when I started breaking all the rules. Doing drugs and sneaking out and simply not listening to a damn thing they told me.
Having the rules in place made me break them. When they weren’t there, I wasn’t doing anything wrong. Now it was impossible for me not to.
But my mom thought stability and rules were good things. I admit, my friends were the “bad kids,” so I don’t blame her. She let him step up to the plate, as she’s never been one for confrontation. She thought it was good for me.
When my stepdad used to sleepwalk into my room at night, she thought it was because he really had a sleepwalking problem. Because he did.
When he told me how badly he wanted to fuck me, and I screamed out the accusation during our fights, she thought I was just saying things in the heat of the moment. They had already been together for so long; she didn’t know anything else. Her husband couldn’t have done such a thing.
One time when I was younger I had this cat. His name was Rainbow, and he was evil. He hated everyone except me, but he really hated my stepdad. He would pounce on his face while he was sleeping and piss on his work clothes and claw through his boot until blood was squirting out of the hole.
My stepdad gave my mom an ultimatum — the cat or him. I had to get rid of Rainbow.
That’s just how my mom is. He has this hold over her, this control. He’s cheated on her. He has a drinking problem. Right now they’re splitting up but he’s stringing her along.
He’s called her old and fat and ugly.
But she loves him. She’s under his spell. I’m not saying it’s an excuse for her turning a blind eye, but in a way it is. I understand now. I understand the type of person she is, and I understand that it’s not the type of person I am. And that’s okay, because we both have our strengths and our faults.
For example, she trusts her husband too much. I have trouble trusting anyone. Both are not good things.
But she loves faithfully and unconditionally. I love hard and fast. We both love, just differently.
I confront the hell out of people; she shies away. She’s gullible and I’m never convinced.
But she’s not a bad person. This man of hers, he is. He’s done horrible things and convinced her he hasn’t. That it will never happen again. That everything is okay, and this is how things have to be done. She’s naive, but amazing.
I feel bad for her. I’m in awe of her. She puts up with this man on a daily basis. People say it takes strength to leave — which is true — but I also think it takes strength to stay; to deal with that type of abuse and emotional turmoil every single day.
You could call her weak, but I call her amazing. She’s done, and is doing, the best she can.
My mother is, and always has been, my best friend. She has her own demons to face — she doesn’t need to face mine as well.
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This post is part of The Confessional. To make your own confession, please visit the Confessional page.