I was 30 when my daughter was placed into my arms for the first time and I whispered in her ear, “you will always be safe, you will always be heard”I didn’t give much thought to the impact that growing up with an alcoholic had on me and how I might create a different future until I became pregnant with her. I had told the stories of it of course. I told my closest friends about the middle of the night altercations between my parents, of my poor mother packing us all into a car and taking off in the middle of the night, of the social workers, of his quick wit when he was sober and his cruelty when he was drunk, about how generous he was when he was making up for something and how he’d take the bite out of our mouths for a drink when he wasn’t.
I recalled events with my siblings and mother and we put together pieces of stories we had remembered differently or had been too young to remember fully. We told each other stories we had hidden to protect the others.
When my daughter was born, I had to do more than just recall – I needed to understand it so that I could keep my promise to her and any siblings she might have.
I had to start by figuring out not what he did, but what he taught me – that it must somehow be my fault, that I must try harder, be better, that I’ll never be as clever as him, that men are strong, that women are weak, and that we don’t air our dirty laundry in public. Things I strive to unlearn every day.
Now I’ve taught myself something new and I repeat it silently almost daily – I am at peace, I am strong, I am good enough, I am loved and my children are happy.