A few years ago I read a magazine article written by a woman who had recently escaped from living with her abusive son as he had been sent to prison.
As a single mum, she had done her best to bring him up properly after her husband left her but as he got older her son became more and more abusive, physically, verbally and emotionally.
He hit her hard enough to leave bruises and break bones, putting her in hospital more than once. He stole from her, demanded money, intimidated her in her own home and refused to leave even though she tried to throw him out on numerous occasions.
She could have called the police but she didn’t want to be the cause of her own son being arrested.
The part that really stayed with me was when she recounted having a panic attack and lying on her kitchen floor hyperventilating and unable to move. Her son came in, saw her on the floor and rather than helping her he stepped over her and made himself a sandwich.
When I found out I was pregnant I was convinced that this was how Squidge would turn out.
I didn’t feel remotely ready to be a mum, I didn’t know how to bring up a child properly and I was so sure that I would mess him up beyond repair just by being me.
I had visions of him hating me, despising me, blaming me for the way his life turned out even though I’d done my best and what I thought was best for him.
I imagined screaming and shouting and insults being hurled at me by a man who was physically bigger and stronger than me in every way.
I could see myself lying on the floor while he looked down at me in disgust.
Laughing at me.
Or stepping over me as though I wasn’t even there.
This is something that I thought I’d got over in that Squidge seems to me (and everyone else who’s commented) to be a cheerful, active, sociable child who is easy to entertain and is quite happy to interact with just about anyone so long as he can still see me, the Northern One or one of his other ‘trusted adults’.
The last couple of weeks have bought these fears right back to the forefront of my mind although I don’t think the G&T I rather rapidly consumed is helping my mindset especially.
Since starting my new medication on Monday I’ve found being around Squidge difficult. I’ve just wanted to be left in peace to try and rest and adjust but that’s impossible with a cruising, babbling, in-to-everything one year old.
So instead I’ve ended up being a bit distant with him.
Not intentionally, but because I’ve been feeling so awful the Northern One has done most of looking after Squidge; getting him dressed, feeding him and putting him down for naps while I’ve slept or tried to do a few things around the house.
I’ve still kissed him goodnight and cuddled him if he’s cried but if it’s been possible I’ve left him with the Northern One while I try and gather the pieces of my mind back together.
I haven’t pushed him away but I haven’t run towards him either.
Even when the Northern One tells me he’s been chanting “Mamamamamama” for most of the day.
Now I can’t rid myself of the image of my happy little boy growing up and growing away from me until I have no idea what’s going on in his life unless he deigns to tell me.
I want him to grow up feeling confident enough to live his own life and make his own choices but I wonder how on earth you find the middle ground.
How do you balance teaching your child independent but at the same time stay sufficiently involved so that they don’t end up sloping down the path of delinquency?
Delinquent may seem like a rather extreme and overly dramatic word to use but this was what this woman’s son turned into and it feels somehow inevitable that mine will too.
It makes me think of a particularly horrible few months of secondary school when I fell out with a few groups of friends, one after another. To this day I don’t really understand what I did to make them dislike me so much although logic dictates that I must have done something.
My mum ended up on the receiving end of a phone call from one of the girls parents and although she wouldn’t (and won’t) tell me what was said she came downstairs in tears.
She sat down next to me on the sofa and sobbed that she felt like she didn’t know me anymore.
I was so upset and confused and bewildered at how everything had come to this that my head span, my stomach churned and I thought I might pass out then and there.
I feel sick and dizzy just thinking about it.
Mum and I sat next to each other, crying for what seemed like hours although it was probably closer to just one. I couldn’t believe that I’d upset her so much that she felt like she didn’t know me.
I do not remotely blame my parents for the issues that I developed as a teenager and that continue to affect my life on a daily basis. Both my parents have suffered with mental health problems and, on occasion did or said things that I still remember today.
Clearly I didn’t turn into a delinquent.
I’m in a stable marriage, I hold down a difficult and respectable job, I keep my house in a reasonable state and to all intents and purposes I attempt to be a decent human being.
But so was this woman.
And look how her life and her son turned out.