Teenagers

My Writing Journey, Part 2

To read Part 1 click here.

Ah, the teenage years. What a beautiful, crazy, terrible nightmare they were. I could tell a million stories from that time, but I’ll stick to the writing-related stuff for the sake of brevity.

I didn’t often write back then. Like most teens, I was crippled with self-doubt and unexplained fears. How on earth did we all survive blushing almost daily? It was during these formative years that I had a lot of serious upheavals and changes.

When I was thirteen, my parents divorced. This was both painful and welcome. They hadn’t gotten along for years, so we all knew it was necessary. The hard part had to do with being a daddy’s girl. There was a time I would have done anything to please my father, but I was learning that he was human and I didn’t like it.

He was an alcoholic, which I barely understood and probably affected me the least of all of my family since I was the youngest and his favorite. In the days leading up to my mom leaving him, I finally saw some uncomfortable truth. My dad was a high functioning alcoholic, as in he came home, drank a lot of beer and you couldn’t see much change. However, he was an a-hole when he was really drunk, but like most heavy drinkers, it was even worse when he wasn’t drinking.

I need to clarify that I was the one who couldn’t see much change when dad drank. I was young, dumb, and oblivious. My mother and brothers definitely weren’t in the dark. In a way, this lack of knowledge made it harder when I saw the truth.

Anyway, I won’t go into too many details, but the night we left, my dad did the unforgivable. He slapped my mother. I may have been a daddy’s girl, but no one touches my mother. Even worse, in my barely teenaged mind, it was my fault. He was drunk and pissed off because of something I did that my mother punished me for.

I don’t remember what stupid crap I’d pulled, but I do remember I deserved to be in trouble. All she did was ground me, but I was his baby, and I don’t know if he assumed I hadn’t done anything or if he thought she was too harsh. It doesn’t matter, he had no right to do what he did. Hell, he didn’t have the right to be yelling at her for it.

The words and images are fuzzy for me except the look on his face when I screamed at him. The shock and betrayal in his expression are still clear in my mind. Sitting here, writing this I keep thinking ‘he felt betrayed, what about us?’

My mom was smart enough to use the interruption to get the hell out of there. She grabbed me and my older brother and took us to her sister’s house. She filed for divorce soon after.

I need to backtrack a moment. My dad was a good man, once. He treated me like a princess and loved me with everything he had. He treated my mother well too, in the beginning. He didn’t treat my brothers the same, but I don’t know if that was the beer or just how he was.

Alcoholism messes people up, and he’d been that way for most of his adult life. Part of me believes if he’d ever completely given up beer, he might have become the man he should have been. Unfortunately, that didn’t happen.

Once they split up, I picked up a pen again. I wrote about my feelings and then tore up the paper into confetti, every time. It helped. Life settled into a routine for a while. Then my mom started dating someone.

I was happy for her until I met him. His name was David, and I hated him, instantly. This was no teenager issue, though my mom thought it was. No, I got a bad feeling from him. I’d only gotten this feeling with one other person, and it turned out my gut was right that time. So, in all my experience and wisdom I told my mom how uncomfortable he made me. She produced the knowing smile adolescents everywhere hate and kept doing what she was doing.

Everyone assumed I would hate the first guy she dated because he wasn’t my dad. HA! Little did they know my ‘bad feeling’ was never wrong. The guy turned out to be a pig, which is the nicest thing I can say about the man. As a side note, years later, I ran into this man at the local mall, where I worked (I was 18 or 19). He told me how much I looked like my mother, how he missed her, and then hit on me! GROSS!

I occasionally pick on my mother for not listening to me, but my choice in men was much worse for a few years so I keep it to a minimum.

Not long after dumping the jerk, she met my future step-dad. I liked him right away. He was weird as hell, had a dry sense of humor, and he adored mom. No bad feelings cropped up, so I was happy for her. They got married in October 1988, and we moved from our tiny little town to the bigger city ten miles away.

It might as well have been a hundred miles. I wasn’t sad to move, but I was sad to leave my friends. I figured we still see each other often, but it didn’t take long for everyone to move on. I loved and hated my new school. There were so many people! Unfortunately, some were little assholes. Some were amazing. I found the weird tribe and joined. I settled in and decided it could have been worse, then it was.

At the end of December, fifteen days after I turned 15, my dad died in a car accident. He was driving through New Mexico, on he way to El Paso to visit his parents. My brother and I were supposed to be with him, but we didn’t go. He was mad at both my brothers for something stupid and I was mad at him. On Christmas Eve, he yelled at me and told me I ruined Christmas because I defended my siblings. It was all so unimportant and silly, but we didn’t want to be around him when he was a jerk.

As you can imagine, I was a wreck. Grief and guilt consumed me. My relationship with my middle brother fell apart. He already resented me because I was dad’s favorite and was treated differently. Now that our father was gone, there was only me left to take the blame. My mother hardly knew what to do with me.

The years that followed are particularly painful for me, and I don’t want to rehash everything. I didn’t get arrested or do a bunch of drugs or anything like that, but there are some things I’ll never talk about again. I will say that I wrote more during this time than I ever had. I got angry at my mother often back then. She was very non-confrontational, and I am the opposite. It made me so mad when she wouldn’t fight! So I wrote her letters. I wasn’t capable calmly telling her how I felt and she wouldn’t let me yell it, so it was my only option.

Those letters, which she still has, changed my world. You wouldn’t believe how many drafts of each one I wrote. I cared about how well they were written. It bothered me to misspell something or if my grammar was off. I realized how much words mattered. I also learned that I could truly express myself with a pen.

Fear still ruled, but I’d taken steps in the right direction. Years later my mother told me she thought I should write after reading those letters because they were well written.

Remember when I used the word brevity at the beginning of this post? If you know me, I figured there would be some eye-rolls, well deserved.

Certainly, I wrote more than intended but sometimes the words have to come out. Thank you for sticking with me. In part 3, I’ll cover my failed marriages and bad choice in men. Those were the years that almost broke me and nearly killed my love of writing.


 

 

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Why All Adults Should Strive To Be Someone A Child Can Trust

I had an eventful weekend. It didn’t start that way. On Friday I wasn’t feeling very good so I stayed home and spent all day alternating between sitting in my desk chair for 20 minutes and laying down for a while. I couldn’t figure out if I was having massive allergy issues or if I was sick. I erred on the side of caution by taking it easy.

On Saturday I was still a little sluggish but better so I guess it was allergies. I decided to stay home again just in case. I was so bored! I tried for a while to plan my new novel but I was unsuccessful. I did manage to cook dinner, clean off my bathroom counter, and  some dusting.

My daughter planned to have a friend, who I’ll call “M,” come over to spend the night. It was her best friend, who is practically a part of the family, so even though I didn’t feel good I didn’t mind.

At some point in the evening my daughter comes into my room alone looking nervous. I need to insert some back story here. M has an awful, controlling boyfriend. This guy made her delete all her social media accounts except Facebook and only allowed her to use it if he had the password. He wouldn’t let her see her friends often and cheated constantly. I was terrified it would get worse.

So back to that night, it took her a while, but eventually my kid started talking. She said M’s boyfriend had hit M, multiple times. For a few moments I couldn’t speak. I’ve been pretty angry many times in my life, I admit to a hot temper. But I’ve never felt anger like I did in that moment.

The first thing I asked was if M knew she was telling me, she did. I asked a few questions but quickly realized I needed to be asking M. I had my daughter go get her. She came in with her head down and sat on the end of my bed facing me. This kid looked like she was prepared to get in trouble! My heart broke.

I asked a lot of questions, like how many times, what else did he do, how long, etc. She was hesitant but once she started answering the floodgates opened. It took every bit of self-control I had in me to not demand we go to her mom and call the cops NOW. The problem was she had already said she didn’t want him to go to jail, she wanted him to get help. I also realized if she was ready to tell her mother she wouldn’t have come to me first.

So I controlled my impulse and gently steered her in the direction I thought she should go. I felt, and still feel guilty about it. I felt like I manipulated her and she’d had enough of that crap.

Anyway, she told stories of how when she tried to leave the guy he would cry and beg or if that didn’t work he would hit her. One day he punched her in the stomach repeatedly and hurt her hand when she tried to block him. I could go on and on at what this little bastard did but it’s getting me all worked up again so I’ll stop. Suffice it to say, he was abusive, in all the ways.

As the conversation continued I was searching for ways to get through to her and finally found the two triggers. First I said, “I bet you haven’t felt like yourself in a long time.” She was shocked and agreed. Then I asked her what she would want to happen if it was my daughter who’d been abused. It was a lightbulb moment. She looked at my daughter, then for the first time met my eyes. “I would want you to go to the cops.”

She agreed going to the police was the right thing to do but was nervous at the idea of facing him in court. I couldn’t advise her. She’s 15, old enough to be questioned in court, but maybe young enough that she can’t be forced. I just told her to tell the police how she felt about it. Did I mention the boyfriend is 18?

Then came the hardest part of all. I had to talk her into telling her mother. She didn’t want to but knew she should. She said she would tell her in the morning. I said “I think you should tell her tonight.”

She balked. I offered to do the talking and she agreed. As guilty as I feel for pushing her to tell her mom, I know in the back of her mind it’s what she wanted. So the three of us got in the car and drove to her house. On the way there she said she felt guilty. I told her it was okay to feel that way as no one can turn off feelings. She seemed relieved to hear it.

It was hard to tell her mother but I imagine it was easier for me than it would have been for M. Obviously the woman was very upset but it went as well as it could have. She said the best thing she could have at one point. When she asked M why she hadn’t come to her, M said she was afraid to tell an adult and she’d only barely told my daughter that night. Her mom said “I understand but it was telling an adult that is going to get you the help you need.” It was another lightbulb moment for M. I wanted to fist pump at the mom!

We went back to my house and on the way I asked M if she felt relieved. She said she did.

I haven’t heard anything yet about what they have done. I know M’s mom planned to go up the school and I hope she went to the police. M didn’t go to school today because she didn’t want to face the boyfriend. I do know he already knows she told her mom about him thanks to her idiotic sister telling him.

The night she told me all this I managed to get her to change her password on Facebook. While she was at my house he logged onto her account, pretended to be her, and asked both my daughters what ‘she’ should do about him.

We talked about ways to avoid this guy and to never be alone in the halls.  I also told her I would be more than happy to drive her to and from school because she normally rides a bike. It’s the only time she’ll be alone.

I’m worried about what’s she’s about to go through but I’m so happy she’s took steps to escape the situation. I’ve always been the ‘understanding’ mom of my daughter’s friend group. So thankfully she trusted me enough to tell me, the poor kid has been so scared and confused for so long.

The rest of the weekend was taken up by writing group stuff and Batman vs. Superman ultimate edition. I am still not feeling great but I was able to get out of the house today to work on planning my novel for Nanowrimo.

I’m a little distracted thinking about M but I plan to do some writing this afternoon. I’ll keep you all updated on my progress.


P.S. Should I feel guilty for thinking about going to M’s mom or the police even if she didn’t agree? When I thought she wouldn’t do it, I was sorely tempted to do it myself.

“I Like Turtles.”

“I like turtles.” Never have three words been used to annoy two young girls as much as they have this summer. This is a really old video but somehow I came across it again recently. It probably randomly popped up in my Facebook feed. Since then I’ve used it so many ways I should be almost be ashamed of myself, or at least my daughters feel that way.

It started with me waking them up one morning. To get my youngest daughter out of bed I have to either sound angry, annoyed or annoying. During the summer I normally opt for the latter. For example, I once opened the door to their shared bedroom and loudly said “boop.” That’s all, nothing else. Both sat up, gave me the death look and did the teenager sigh (I live for that sigh). I’ve tried singing – badly, weird voices – mostly quoting movies and occasionally videos on Youtube (yaaassss), asking bizarre questions, etc. I tend to be pretty repetitive too so they get the joys of double annoyances.

A week or so before I went out of town I walked in their room and said “I like turtles.” I like to think I said it exactly the way the zombie kid did. One daughter sat straight up startled and the other said “what did you say?” I repeated it and they both looked confused but wide awake. Little did they know it was the beginning of one of the most irritating times of their lives!

I woke them up a few more times with it, including playing it on my phone on max volume. I sent many texts and memes. Some they laughed at, others rated only an: “OMG Mom!”  I searched for their favorite things/people and the word turtle to find stuff to send them, namely Homestuck and Anna Kendrick (I succeeded too). I took pictures of everything turtle related I came across including a metal turtle on my in-laws’ porch, glass turtles found in every single truck stop we visited and this beauty:

TurtleCrossing

I couldn’t have possibly aggravated them more. By the time I quit, it had degenerated down to only eyerolls. Once the sighs stop I’m done. I’m a mom, I always reserve the right to be super irritating, repetitive, and funny (at least to myself). When you were(/are) a teenager wouldn’t you rather have been woken up by silliness than grumpiness? Doesn’t sending stupid turtle pictures seem like a better way to check in with family when you’re far away rather than constantly asking if they are behaving and getting their chores done? Besides, with me having an emergency situation come up while out of town the kids were scared. The best thing I could do to reassure them was to be my normal ridiculous self.

The only bad thing to come out of the weeks of turtleness is now I have to come up with something newly annoying, but since I always do I’m not worried! Maybe I’ll go back to the ‘yaaassss’ cat or the ‘how now?’ thing. Any ideas you want to share will be appreciated and utilized. I would hate to have to resort to learning the words to whatever song is popular right now…

Sidenote: In case you were wondering, I don’t particularly like turtles.

Trusting Someone Enough To Fall Asleep In Their Presence Is Not Consent

Warning: This is a rant and is sure to contain foul language and strong opinions. Also, I changed the names to protect some young people’s privacy.

My fourteen year old daughter, who is an eighth grader got in the car today after school and immediate informed me “There is major drama going on in the school today.”

Assuming she meant typical teenager stuff I got ready to half listen. No offense to her but sometimes hearing about who is dating who, which friends got in a fight, and who she’s mad at aren’t really the funnest things to talk about. I do however like that she Does talk to me so I got prepared.

“There’s a girl names Kate who…”

As her story unfolded I went through many emotions and I want to apologize now for anything offensive or irrational that I say from this point on. She explained that Kate had a bunch of friends, male and female, over recently and they all stayed really late. Kate fell asleep on the floor in her living room and everyone left. A few minutes later one of the boys, Jacob, came back to get his phone charger.

The story gets a little hazy here. Something happened. Exactly what is not clear. What is known is Kate was asleep. Jacob touched her. She didn’t respond. He left. Later he sent a text to her apologizing for touching her. Today at school he told one of his friends what he had done. The friend got really angry and told everyone he knew. When people asked Kate what happened she said “I don’t know, ask Jacob.” When they asked Jacob, he didn’t really say anything.

The “drama” is that half the school is on Kate’s side and the other is on Jacobs. Some say that there is no way Kate wouldn’t have woken up and if she woke up and didn’t want it, she could have stopped him.

My daughter seemed confused so I laid it out for her. If Kate was asleep and this kid was putting his hand up her shorts to touch her, that is sexual assault. It doesn’t matter if she woke up. The fact is, no matter how this girl responded to it, the guy knew she was asleep when he started this, that’s rape. If you’re asleep, you can’t say yes or no, so the no should be assumed.

If she felt it why wouldn’t she have stopped him? What the hell was she supposed to do? She was deep asleep when this happened. She might have thought she was dreaming, she might have been scared, probably confused.

My daughter says the ‘whole school’ doesn’t understand why she won’t talk about it. WHAT? First of off the ‘whole school’ can piss off. No one gets to tell Kate how she should be reacting. She could be embarrassed, hurt, terrified, confused, angry, any number of things and it’s not for anyone else to assign a feeling or attitude to her. She may not be handling it well, but SHE’S the one that has to deal with it.

This all became such a big deal today that someone finally told a teacher and my kid told me she saw Kate and her mother going into the school (a few minutes before I got there), and the mom looked really angry.

For clarity, Jacob has basically admitted to doing this on Twitter of all places, repeatedly. He’s gone on and on about how he thinks a devil is in him and how everyone makes mistakes and people should stop judging him. He’s bitched about all his friends deserting him and he’s threatened suicide. Now I don’t want this kid to kill himself but the little bastard needs to stop acting like he’s the victim.

I spent the entire car ride home explaining what sexual assault is. I told my daughter that just because Jacob stopped, that doesn’t mean an assault didn’t happen. Just because he now feels bad doesn’t mean it’s okay. Just because he lost all his friends doesn’t mean anyone should feel sorry for him. Just because he Twitter threatened suicide doesn’t mean Kate wasn’t violated. Just because some of the kids on the school don’t think it’s a big deal doesn’t mean they are right.

I’m pretty sure that my daughter felt sorry for Jacob, at least a little until the Twitter thing. That’s part of what’s got me so worked up. Obviously I’m concerned about the girl and I’m glad it wasn’t worse but for me personally, this is a huge thing I need to make my kid understand. She seemed to think it was just drama and a crazy situation. She didn’t take it as seriously as she should have. By the end of our drive she asked me if the boy could end up going to jail. It’s scary as hell to know that serious consequences never occurred to her. That this is a big deal, beyond school drama, never crossed her mind. I guess she didn’t truly believe the guy did something so bad. What if she was the one asleep on the floor? Would she have just let him do what he wanted because she didn’t know how to handle it? I guarantee you after our talk she knows what to do!

Now for anyone that wants to jump on my case, I know there is at least some small chance that Kate isn’t telling the whole truth. I advised my kid to reserve judgement until she knew the facts. I believed that was the best course of action until I saw Jacobs Twitter account, and his admissions.

All parents need to sit down with their kids and have a frank conversation about sex, sexual assault, sexual harassment, boundaries, limits, and what to do if they find themselves in a bad situation. Maybe don’t use as many curse words as I think I did in our talk.

I apologize again for the language, but not for the opinions.