Tuesday, June 1, 2010

Childhood Scars

A quick interruption before the post... I still have three giveaways going on. Enter to win a week of summer day camp for ages 5-12 here, a fun Shrek-tacular prize pack here, or a $25 Wal-Mart gift card here.


Growing up was always something exciting to me. I remember anxiously awaiting the first day of school when I would get to go to kindergarten, when I got to be a Girl Scout, shaving my legs for the first time - all of them were moments I longed for. Being a grownup was always something full of such mystique for me, and I couldn't wait for it.

I know I'm not alone in this, and the first day of high school, passing the driver's test, going to college, getting married - all those are milestone we look forward to. For most of us, it's only after we've passed these milestones that we look back and realize that maybe the race to grow up didn't need to be quite that much of a focus.

A book I read recently led me to think about this - about how today we're forcing kids to grow up earlier and earlier, and how much they're missing out. I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced by Nujood Ali with Delphinne Minoui really brought it home - a ten year old girl, already married and divorced, forced by her circumstances to grow up faster than any child ever should.

The recent video with the dancing seven year olds is another example, although at least (and it's hard for me to even qualify this) - at least their loss of innocence wasn't nearly so visceral.

For me, I was lucky for the most part. I may have moved around a lot as a kid when my dad was transferred, but I was fine with that. My parents loved me, and they didn't put too much pressure on me to grow up any more than behaving in front of company.

It wasn't all sunshine and roses, though, and there are some things where I can still see the scars - relatively minor as the psychological damage may have been.

When I was eight, my mom left my dad and we moved to a small condo where I remember helping my mom clip coupons. I don't remember a ton about that period, but clipping the coupons has stayed with me, along with my mom searching for work and driving a tiny, used two door Ford Escort - the cheapest car she could find. The fear of not having enough money and even of spending has stayed with me since then.

In some ways, this isn't a bad thing, as I've never had any debt problems and do a great job of saving money (hey, it's how we can afford to have me stay home with my husband as a school teacher). However, my reluctance to spend money is sometimes irrational and causes me to miss out on experiences or things that I really ought to - or could - enjoy.

My parents did get back together after less than a year, and they're still together today. When I was twelve, though, I had another experience that still scars me today. My dad went into rehab for alcoholism (successfully, I might add), but it was traumatic at the time. My parents never really did a great job explaining it to me, although I remember my mom sitting my sister and I down and telling us she had some news and then asking us what the first thing Daddy did when he got home from work each night - that's what stuck with me. After our numerous wrong answers (take off his tie, I remember was one of mine), my mom reminded us that he got a drink ("Johnnie Walker, Red and water" my sister and I chirped in a sing-song voice that looking back tells me we maybe saw far too much).

Dating through and after college, that fear stuck with me. I'm not a big drinker, and I never have been (hey - couple a fear of spending money with a fear of becoming alcoholic, and you have someone who doesn't drink much). I never understood the joys of going out to get drunk, and I probably never will.

And I was, and maybe still am, paranoid about that regular drink, like that's the proof that whoever I'm dating is on their way to becoming an alcoholic and recreating the situation my mom faced. Granted, there were a couple guys I dated who probably did achieve that, but most of them? They had no issues - I was the one who had an issue, and inevitably it became an issue in the relationship.

What "happened" to me - or rather, the events of my childhood? Minor. Completely off the radar compared to what it could be. And yet, I can see the impact they had on the person I am today.

Now I try to picture the person I would be today if I were married and divorced by eight years old. And I can't. I can't imagine the scars I'd have, the fear I'd have, the issues I'd face. And it breaks my heart to know that Nujood has yet to grow up to realize the scars she bears - and to know that she is far from alone, that childhood marriage is a regular occurence yet in certain parts of the world.

And if you'll excuse me, I have two children I need to go hug. And some childhoods I need to preserve.

I received the book "I Am Nujood, Age 10 and Divorced" as a member of the Silicon Valley Moms Book Club. There was no compensation involved. Be sure to check out what other SV Moms had on their minds while reading about Nujood.


Karen June 1, 2010 at 8:51 PM  

Is it a good read? Something you'd recommend or not?

Nicole Pelton June 1, 2010 at 9:41 PM  

I think this is a great post, sharing your history. I've dated two recovering alcoholics, and married the 2nd, but because my parents really have no experience with it, my mom thinks it's a bit odd that my husband doesn't drink.

Alexis AKA MOM June 1, 2010 at 11:35 PM  

Wow is all I can say. I say hugs all around. Great review it sounds like a very powerful book!

Cheryl June 2, 2010 at 3:36 PM  

It was definitely tough to read her story and not think of my own kids and their future - and then compare it with hers I still felt so sad for her at the end, back with her family, not in school..I hope she has the resolve to become a lawyer like she dreams of.

Thank you for sharing your story. We definitely are products of our past.

Pat June 2, 2010 at 7:11 PM  

Yes, the custom of child marriage in the Muslim world is horrendous. I saw a forwarded photo of 50 20-something year old men, each holding the hand of his 5-, 6- or 7-year old bride, complete with garish make-up and white dress.

I have some similar scars to yours--an alcoholic father, and being poor. My dad was a binge drinker, didn't overcome it till he was in his late 60s, but they didn't divorce. He was out of work a lot when I was a teen. My brother followed in my dad's footsteps, but my 2 sisters and I drink little to none.

Excellent post, Michelle!

Melissa June 2, 2010 at 9:18 PM  

I think you did exactly what we were to do, relate to the book. great job, your post gave me goose bumps. Seriously!

Unknown Mami June 2, 2010 at 10:48 PM  

I have the same issues with regular drinks. I give my husband a hard time and the truth is he does not have a problem with alcohol.

Kristine June 3, 2010 at 12:40 PM  

Wonderful post! And very honest.

After reading the book I too wondered what her like is going to be like as she gets older. She seems to be in a very awkward situation right now, still with her family, but this international celebrity in a way. It has to be quite confusing for her.

Michelle June 3, 2010 at 10:02 PM  

Karen - It was an interesting book. A *great* read, no. Educational and touching, yes.

Nicole - Thanks, I'm glad you liked it. It's hard when people don't fit into the mold our family is used to though, isn't it?

Alexis - It was. Powerful is a great word to describe it.

Cheryl - Absolutely! It really scares me to think about what life could be like for them.

Pat - Thank you. I've seen others go down that path, and it's so sad when you're powerless to stop it, but ... I know that I am.

Melissa - Goosebumps? Cool!

Unknown Mami - It's hard to be rational about things like that sometimes though, even when you know there isn't an issue.

Kristine - It is an odd situation for her, but the epilogue doesn't bode well for her in my opinion.

Kara-Noel June 5, 2010 at 6:20 PM  

I agree! The scars Nujood, and other childbrides, have are unimaginable! I hope she is able to overcome some of them... but honestly I don't see a happy ending. She is 'damaged goods' because she isn't a virgin and I don't see her becoming part of the Yemen elite by staying with her crazy family.

Michelle June 5, 2010 at 7:35 PM  

Kara-Noel - I'm with you in that I don't see a happy ending for her as she grows older. There are too many things pulling her in too many directions that just don't fit for a contented life.

septembermom June 8, 2010 at 8:57 PM  

Great review and reflective post Michelle. Thanks for sharing. I enjoyed reading this post.

Pat June 10, 2010 at 1:48 PM  

Michelle, I was inspired by you to write my own "Childhood Scars" post, to appear on Saturday, June 12th. I have a link to your post and also a quote from your post.

Mrs4444 June 13, 2010 at 2:34 AM  

That's very sad, and it happens all over the world, even today. I think it's good that you've shared the book.

We have many parallels in our lives, you and I. I remember when my dad went into treatment, too, but I didn't need to ask anything about it--it was pretty obvious he needed help.

Gotta go to BED!!! Nice catching up :)

Michelle June 13, 2010 at 11:14 PM  

Kelly - Glad you enjoyed it. It wasn't totally easy to write, but I think it fit.

Pat - Oh how cool! I'm off to go check that out now. I'm flattered.

Mrs4444 - It absolutely is. And me? I was far too innocent to know. My mom kept me in the dark, and my dad coped well. And that in and of itself probably wasn't the healthiest thing for either of them to do.

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