Earlier this year, my mother told me I was the reason her relationship with my sister’s father didn’t work out. Those are probably the most hurtful words she ever sent in my direction. I’m an adult now and maybe I shouldn’t be so sensitive to the past, but I am.
They weren’t painful because I see myself as a perfect child or because I think he’s a monster. They were painful because they absolve him from any responsibility for his actions.
It took some time but I’ve grown to love my sister’s father, I’m still cautious of him, but I don’t despise him how I did in childhood.
A few months ago my sister asked me why I didn’t like her dad. I told her because he’s loud. That may seem foolish to some people, but she understood exactly what I meant. Before my mother dated my sister’s father I wasn’t accustomed to folks, men specifically, being loud with me. My grandfather doesn’t yell, my mother’s brother who pretty much raised me doesn’t believe in yelling at children, and Step Dad #1 wasn’t one much for yelling either.
My sister’s father on the other hand couldn’t whisper if it cured cancer. He has a beautiful singing voice, and enough bass to stop a toddler’s terrible twos before they even have a second birthday! He shouted for EVERYTHING. And for a child who was, until his entry, treated as an autonomous thinking human I often found his approach demeaning.
I didn’t need to be shouted at from across the room to change the channel, or do the dishes, just ask me. What troubled me most was my mother’s silence during those times. I began to feel abandoned, like she was taking his side & she was ok with his audible battery.
As I grew older I became numb to his shouting at me, but I became protective of my sister. I didn’t like the tone he took with my mother and became concerned that she rarely stood up for herself. After all it was HER house. She later told me that she didn’t “check” him in public because she didn’t want to give him an audience. She never realized that audiences tune-in even if it is a one man show.
Some men’s insecurities are loud. Loud enough to make them show up at work functions & assault your coworkers. Loud enough to dim your children’s respect for you. Loud enough for you to overlook a grown man’s infantile behavior & blame the relationship’s failure on your child.