As children when do we become more aware of the surroundings around us? When do we start actively observing the actions around us or listening to conversations beyond our understanding? Is it when we no longer have the interest of playing with toys constituted for our age or do we find an admiration for something bigger than ourselves.
I don’t remember how old I was when I started to notice my mom’s conversations and her activities. When I mean activities I mean the drinking, being drunk, smoking weed, or meeting with different men. I can only remember up to when I was in kindergarten and that’s if I really try. I was around the age of 5. At that age I remember I just wanted the approval of my mom. I started to notice a pattern of her drinking. I knew I liked the fun, sweet, caring drunk mom who would buy me anything and actually give me attention. I also knew I didn’t like the hung over and angry mom who would get upset with me for not doing something correctly. (The majority of the time I had no idea what I was doing because the tasks were beyond what a five-year old could do.) It didn’t matter though; I felt compelled to do it right just to be acknowledged for doing it correctly. That never happened. However, I can recall all the times the social worker would pick my siblings and I up and send us to the Christian Children’s home. That place became my safe haven and was my ticket to a better life. I’ll save that part for another time. Let’s continue on the fact that when I grew up with my mom it was always an unexpected journey. My mom went through cycles. She would get arrested, serve time, get released to rehab, do the rehab time, come get her kids, start a “clean” life, just to fall back into her old lifestyle. I can’t completely say that she didn’t want a better life. I was a child. She didn’t exactly share her hopes and dreams with me. Maybe she really wanted help. She just didn’t know how to reach it or didn’t have the available resources. If anyone knows where Gallup, NM is and the surrounding areas, you can say it’s definitely an isolated area. Leaving can sometimes be challenging. Yet, the pattern never changed. I’m not even sure how my mom began this life of excessive drinking. I’ve heard bits and pieces of the story from distant family members, but never really an actual life altering event. Don’t get me wrong I loved my mom at one point in my life. Unfortunately, as time went on my mom would disappear for long periods of time and she became a stranger in my life. A stranger that I secretly hoped wouldn’t come by anymore.
When I recall some situations my age tends to blend altogether. However, as a child the feeling of emotional pain never vanishes. I had been living with my father for roughly a few months when my mother came to do her first visitation with me. She at this point did not have custody of me anymore. My mother from the beginning made the visit very awkward. She began by commenting about the way I was dressed and criticizing my new haircut. From what I understood from other family members my mother was a woman who lived by the Navajo traditions. So cutting my long hair she definitely took as an insult. I felt embarrassed when she said these negative comments. Yet, I was still happy to see her and hoped that secretly she was coming to take me away. I loved being with my dad, but as a child I just always wanted to be with my mother no matter what she did. As the visit continued she began to get very aggressive toward my dad and her words of choice to him were very inappropriate. My dad told her it was time to leave and they all went outside while I stayed in the house. I could hear yelling and arguing outside. My dad told my mother that she was not allowed to see me anymore unless she came sober. She just kept yelling and eventually left with her friend. Sitting inside waiting patiently for my dad to return I began to have a stomach ache. The kind that makes you want to throw up. I was scared. Yet, I wasn’t sure what I was scared of. Was it the fact that I was afraid she would come back or was it the fact that I would get taken away from my dad? It was a feeling that I always had. Wondering when my life would interrupt again and where I would end up.
One evening I received a phone call from my mom that she was coming to get me. She told me to be ready and she would be by around 5. I was so excited. I loved living with my dad, but as I mentioned above there is nothing that compares to a mother’s love. My dad said that he was letting me go with her for the weekend. I remember sitting on my dad’s porch at 4 waiting. We could see the main highway from the back porch and can hear cars coming from a distance. Five o’clock came and went. Every time I heard a car coming my heart pounded with excitement, but when the car kept going it was like a stab to my heart. The time kept ticking away and it started to get later and later. My dad never came out to get me. I knew he was watching me from the sliding glass door. It was dark by the time I decided to go back inside. I just went to the couch and sat holding onto the idea that maybe she was just late. I went to bed crying that night. That was the day I realized that my mom wasn’t coming back for me. I didn’t understand at the time why this was happening. I just figured she didn’t love me. Yet, I can’t confirm that assumption. I know now that addiction is a disease, but back then I didn’t know that. I hated anyone who drank or smelt of beer. I just thought why couldn’t she just try a little harder.
I tend to look back at these memories and compare them to the life that my children are living. I promised myself very young that if I ever had children that I would try my hardest not to expose them to this lifestyle: The life style of abuse and alcoholism. Every child deserves to have a stable environment. Although my childhood was a bit rough at first my father changed my life. He allowed me to have a second chance. I can’t really say where I would be if I continued to live with my mom, but I don’t think I would have gotten as far. Haylen, my daughter, is about the same age as I was when my life turned upside down. I had to grow up and become a “mini” adult. Yet, I see her innocence and her happiness that it brings joy to my heart knowing she gets to be a kid. A kid that only has problems with her 2-year-old brother or her old bike she doesn’t want anymore. To all of you reading this please don’t feel sorry. I’m simply putting words to paper and telling my story. Everyone has a story to tell and sometimes sharing these stories helps others know that there is hope. Hope that we can overcome challenges that burden us, whether it’s in the past or it’s in the present. Hope that one day we can live in a world that isn’t cruel and unkind. Hope that our children can create a future that moves everyone forward and not back. And hope that whatever wisdom or advice we give our children will prepare them for what lies ahead in this world.