When I was 6 years old, my mother slept with a knife under her pillow, and I kept a baseball bat under my bed. It was one of those souvenir bats you might win at an amusement park, but it was the best weapon I could get my hands on.
Although we kept these items hidden from one another and had no idea until 30 years later that each of us had been keeping them handy, they represented an unspoken bond we shared as mother and son— each of us determined to survive my mother’s boyfriend.
While many children try to protect themselves from the bogeyman, I was forced to arm myself against a very real and present danger. No child should have to grow up like this, and if you grew up this way, you understand the constant stress, restless sleep and uncertain days he caused me.
I didn’t know it at the time, but this painful story of fear, helplessness and violence would come to have a happy ending. My hope is that in sharing it with you, you will see the gateway to a happy ending for your story as well. You too can be freed from the shackles of a violent childhood.
The Man Named Keith
Keith was a big guy who played football in college but was now a bartender. He came over to our apartment in the suburbs outside of Newark, N.J., four or five nights a week. I never knew when he would be there. I could never sleep on those nights, so I would sneak out of my room and listen to my mom and Keith from the top of the stairs as they argued in the kitchen.
I felt so small, and helpless to stop them. As they started yelling at each other, my heart would beat faster and faster. The fear and the rising tension almost felt worse than an actual blow—until my mother would scream.
Most nights I would come down the stairs to try to stop it; sometimes I would stand at the stop of the stairs frozen in fear. I wasn’t often the target of the violence, although at times I would get wrapped up in the confrontation. Occasionally, one of them would snap and take it out on me physically. This went on from the age of five until my late teens, when I finally moved out.
Those nights were a real-life nightmare. They changed my childhood forever and altered the person I grew up to become. They also changed who my mother was to become, and who Keith was to become. However, not in the way you may think.
Both of them were continuing a cycle of domestic violence they were subject to as children. It would be
up to me as an adult to break that cycle. Anyone who has grown up with domestic violence knows that is a heavy burden to bear but it also comes with many hidden treasures. Once I understood it was my responsibility to heal, and that I could unlearn the lies I’d learned as a child about myself and the world, I found my strength. I found my compassion. I found I had resilience and passion to succeed that was directly borne of my struggles as a child.
You too have these hidden treasures and gifts from your childhood. Here on this blog I will help you mine those treasures and make the most of them.
In the meantime, please share in the comments below your own story. In what ways did you grow up with domestic violence, and who are you today as a result?
Thanks for sharing.