This is my fourth day of the October Writing Challenge that I am participating in. My childhood was not ideal but nevertheless, I have a fond spot in my heart when I remember back on my early years. Life is not always easy and my mantra has been for years that a diamond has to go through fire before it is a diamond. This is the first time I have written my story out, I have talked about my childhood plenty but never written anything down.
The age of four was my last year as an only child, my baby brother was born the following year. I was spoiled rotten at this point and a happy child. I never met a stranger. Even at the grocery store I would talk to everyone. My mother would warn me about how I shouldn’t talk to strangers but I couldn’t help myself.
School awaited me the following year and the thought of starting kindergarten was something that I absolutely could not wait to do. In fact, I bugged my mom so much about going to school that she made flashcards of the alphabet and numbers and bought me work books. Lupe would do flashcards with me every day until Sylvia became jealous of the extra attention I was receiving and threw a jar of pickles in the floor one day in protest. I guess she was pretty spoiled too.
One thing very vivid about the age of four for me was my smart mouth. I would back talk to my mother every chance I had and when she disciplined me, I became defiant. I would laugh when I got in trouble, play when I was in the corner and just generally test my limits every chance I had. My mom ended up reading psychology books that gave her new, effective ideas for discipline that seemed to work a little better. She says that she had to do something because she hated using corporal punishment and it didn’t faze me anyways. I was actually pretty hateful sometimes and sometimes if I was really upset I would throw huge temper tantrums in the floor. That was at home though. No one ever sympathized for my mom when she would talk about my behavior problems because I behaved very well in public and no one ever saw me act the way she described. I’m sure this was very frustrating for her and she handled it the best she could but there was an underlying problem that was never addressed or recognized back then. Acting out at the age of 4 may seem pretty normal however, the degree I would take it too was a bit more extreme than your average child.
I haven’t mentioned my dad to much thus far but I want to say that until about the age of 9, he was my hero. When I was four, I was a daddy’s girl. I couldn’t sleep at night until he would come and rub my back and I would drift off. My mom would read me a story every night before bed and then my dad would come and put me to sleep. He tried to be a good dad and there is no doubt in my mind about how much he loved me and still does. But he had anger issues and I grew up in an environment that did not feel safe. He was never abusive to me but my poor mother got plenty of it. It was mostly verbal–there was a lot of screaming and yelling but sometimes he was physically abusive with her as well.
Some people are resilient to trauma but I unfortunately am not. I don’t want to go into the details quite yet because it wasn’t something that I comprehended when I was 4 and honestly, I have forgot all memories of it until I was 9. But I want you to be aware of my environment because what in my mind I remember as a happy home actually wasn’t and the effects of my home life are directly reflected in my behaviors and attitudes through out my life.
I am just telling my story the way it happened and am not looking for sympathy. The whole point in me writing is to educate adults about the effects of trauma on children. This field of study is still being explored and I encourage you to research “Developmental Trauma Disorder” if you know a child that is living in what I call a toxic environment. The idea that children are to young to comprehend is pretty accurate but do not think for one second they do not see what happens and try to rationalize it in their minds. In fact, when a small child or infant witnesses something considered traumatic on a consistent basis they begin to believe that something they are doing in fact is what is causing the action that is so scary. Their cerebral cortex has the potential not to develop correctly creating a whole slew of other problems. This is a very real disorder and will most likely be included in the 2013 edition of the DSM-V. It is thought that many people/children have been misdiagnosed with post traumatic stress syndrome which is another beast altogether.