The Stomach Monster, Swimming, Sunburn and The State

There is a joke among my friends and family that I am a bottomless pit. My high metabolism makes me hungry often, and when I’m hungry, the stomach monster starts to roar. It’s difficult, because all the sudden I’ll be too hungry to focus on anything else, and I’ll start being really irritable (I guess I just need more Snickers in my diet). Then I eat in large amounts, and eat more. Never gain a pound.

Thinking about this today brought back some ever so delightful memories of my childhood. Mom hardly ever cooked, so me and my sister mostly had to fend for ourselves. We learned how to make Ramen pretty quick. And anything that could be made in the microwave.

But when I was nine, after the dreaded incident of going to live at a stranger’s house due to The State, Mom stepped it up. See, that summer, she became obsessed with us getting swimming lessons at the local outdoor pool, which wasn’t exactly within walking distance of home. So, she started taking us there in the morning for lessons, and then we’d be left there to swim all day until she picked my dad up from work at about five in the evening. So, basically, we were kept out of the house to avoid The Evil State, by being shunted off to a swimming pool all day, with nothing to eat. Did I mention that? We never packed any food, and we were almost never given any money. A $1.00 hot dog on one of those long days was a rare treat. Sometimes, we’d be so hungry we would scavenge around until we found a peanut someone had dropped, and we’d each eat half of it.

I got my first second-degree sunburn that summer. Mom never sent us with sunscreen, either. And when we came home sunburnt, she’d rub some lotion on that burned like hell, and she’d yell at us the more we cried.

For a little variety, we didn’tĀ always go to the pool, of course. When we didn’t have swimming lessons, Mom would sometimes take us to another city to sit in the car all day at a park, or out at the reservoir. We were scared to even leave the car for fear of The Evil State, so we stayed there most of the time. I’ve spent more time sleeping in a car than I care to remember.

And then there was one very rare occasion where our mother let our best friend spend the night over at our house. We were woken up in the morning because The State Lady had come unexpectedly, and was asking for us. So Mom told us to keep quiet and stay there, and lied to the woman, saying that me and my sister were out at the local amusement park for the day with some other friends (what other friends?). Our best friend had to walk home alone, all due to my mother’s fear that The State would find her two little angels.

And, of course, all this was our fault. The State wouldn’t be after us if we were good kids who did our schoolwork and kept our rooms clean.

I’m not postingĀ all this angst and drama to be like “oh woe is me,” or anything. Really. I get that there are lots of people out there who have been through things I can’t even comprehend. Who have survived things I couldn’t. I’m just writing about it because I find my own twisted psychology interesting, and I hope to be of some help to someone else, sometime. Whether as support, or for research, or what have you. I care not. I just want to pretend I’m helping, while I’m sitting here contemplating my navel because it’s all so fascinating.

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Dear Parents

(aka Dear Mac of The Possible Future)

  • Your children are not puppets. They are individuals. All of them have different wants and needs. Don’t project onto them, or place them on a pedestal.
  • Take the time to listen to them. They have a perspective, too, and they’re not always wrong just because they’re the children.
  • Don’t try to tell them they’re extremely intelligent and capable of handling online high school classes when they can barely divide.
  • Don’t forbid them from seeing friends—they’ll usually just find a way to go behind your back, if the friendship is strong enough.
  • When they ask why they aren’t allowed to do something, give them a good, honest reason, not “Because I said so.”
  • Don’t ever try to hide from Child Services, or isolate your children in other ways—especially not from peers. Psychologically, children need to form social connections, or their brains don’t develop correctly.
  • If you’re going to homeschool your children, make sure that this is actually done. Properly. Patiently. Don’t yell at them for not understanding. Make sure you understand, first.
  • Don’t tell them to stop being so sensitive.
  • Don’t talk about people behind their backs to your children. Especially not other children or the other parent.
  • Don’t make it all about you.