Saturday, October 14, 2006

unprotected youth

I was almost abducted when I was six years old. I was walking back home from school after a fishing expedition (I used to take orange tic tacs and tie them to string and fish down storm drains) when a white station wagon pulled up next to me. The man (the old fat white man with the blue striped shirt) leaned over and opened the passenger side door, and leaned towards me. I stopped and went over to the car, and when I did he leaned over, reached for me, and said "get in". And I turned, and ran like hell. I remember the tic tacs in my pocket, the shaking of the box was so loud that my head was full of it and I can still remember it now.

I ran all the way home and into my front door screaming for my mother. Out of breath, crying, I told her what had happened. She looked at me and said "that didn't happen". And that was all she said.

That. Didn't. Happen. The next day I was scared to walk to school. I remember my mother getting so angry, and telling me she was not going to drive me, that I needed to stop being such a baby. I remember abject fear and helplessness. At that moment I knew no one would take care of me, that it was up to me to keep me safe.

I ran to and from school, as fast as six year old legs would go, for as long as I could remember. As a teenager, I was terrified to walk alone - and by then we'd moved into a remote mountain town, abandoned cabins were everywhere. Perfect hiding places for the bad men, and the bad men were always behind me, in the car in front of me, walking down the street. I feared all of it, because I had no idea how to keep myself safe, and I had no one to rely on, and I didn't know how to rely on myself.

As I grew, I went from one relationship to another. I wanted someone to protect me, and I looked in a lot of corners, some dirtier than others, on my never-ending pursuit. And some of that chipped away at some of me a little more.

The strange thing is - I haven't thought about this in years, but Crazymum's posts have brought it all back. And interestingly enough, I wept about this today, for the first time probably ever as an adult, and certainly as a mother, and I am glad, because I've illuminated a dark shadow in my mind, a part that will influence my relationship w/ M, and has influenced my relationship w/ J-Dog, and has long made the world a scarier place than maybe it should be, and has made me a little less secure and a little less loud.

How can one bring up a warrior if she herself never learned to fight? How can I protect M when I never quite learned how to make sure that I, myself, was safe? How can I teach her to scream NO when I fear I have lost my own voice? So much of that and more continues to rattle around inside my head, so much so, that I need to stop for now, and perhaps revisit it again later when I am not so increasingly self-conscious about how all of it might sound.


crazymumma said...

Oh. How freakin' terrifying that must have been for you. Why do so many parents deny that these things do happen? I hope that the light that you have shone on it is going to give you the courage, the knowledge to know that you can do it right for M. You do have the voice, you just need to practice. So do I. And it is scary girl. But, you have been through scarier.

PS. I'm not gone for good. But I am going to change up a few things and just visit for awhile. No posting for me, I'm all posted outfor now. My voice needs to go somewhere else. But I'll be over chez toi to see how your battle is going...hugshugshugs.

MamaSutra said...

Although I have no specific memory of any incident that led me to be fearful, I have asked myself questions similar to the ones you pose in your last paragraph. You have so much courage to look back at such a traumatic event and consider its impact on your parenting.

Joker The Lurcher said...

god. this brings things back for me. but different too. i was "interfered with" by a neighbour upstairs who was about 14 when i must have been about 6 or 7. he had wadge of plasticine and he carefully formed this round my fanny and said it was for his science homework. it was not scary at all at the time as i believed him.

what my mother did when i told her strikes me now as very sensible. she said "oh really dear". and quietly went to speak to his mother. she didn't make a huge thing of it because i wasn't scared or hurt. and actually it was the right thing in those particular circumstances because he never did it again. but she also made me feel it was right to tell her because the roof didn't fall in and she made it go away.

i went to live with my dad when i was 8 (for reasons that have never been clear and now never will) but i always remember my mum being on my side over that whole thing. my dad would have hit the boy and made a huge thing which would have scared me much more.

but its interesting because you speak as though you are not brave but yet you spent the night with cockroaches in thailand! (when i went to china i paid for expensive hotels on my credit card after one night of the cockroach thing. so don't knock yourself...

mrs. incredible - aka Tabba said...

That is so freaking scary. I can empathize completely with being left to 'fend for yourself' by your mother. Mine was very similar.
The other day with some friends, some old memories came out and for the first time, they really got to me. Out of nowhere. I've told the stories a million times. But it was like I 'heard' them for what they really were - for.the.first.time. And I found myself floored and speechless the rest of the day. I began to look inward at myself, rather than look at my mother.
And I suppose it is because I am a mother now.
I hope that you take the time to listen to that voice. I believe you are a warrior and are in the midst of raising one hell of a warrior. I just think you haven't yet took a look at your warrior fists or heard your warrior voice. But I bet it makes a beautifully haunting sound.
Much love and peace to you, Jen. You'll be in my thoughts. I'll be sending good vibes your way.

irreverentmama said...

Oh, my. I recall the day my daughter came home from her very first sleepover, age six. She'd been very excited to go; I'd been nervous sending her. I greeted her with a smile. She seemed a bit subdued, but I attributed that to fatigue.

"How did it go, sweetie?"
"B's daddy slept in the bed with us."

My. Heart. Stopped.

Even now, fifteen years later, I choke up at the memory.

A gesture from my then husband, standing behind our daughter, signalled me of the need to respond calmly. For her sake, I managed it.

I was calm, but I did NOT tell her it hadn't happened. How could you DO that to your child?

(Because I know you'll all be worrying: She was unharmed/untouched physically. She was confused and unnerved, and, it turned out a few days later, very, very angry at him for making her feel that way. SUCH a healthy thing, appropriate anger, fierce and empowering. We had a very satisfying hour, pretending he was there, and screaming and raging at him.)

How could you NOT help your child through her fear?

Momish said...

Oh Jen, what a terrible and scarring event happened to you. I wish I could hug the child that still lives and cringes inside you. But, I know the adult is there to help heal and M will be all the more prepared and ready as a result. Just letting it out is a healing factor. Your daughter is lucky to have a mom like you.

lildb said...

I just don't understand why your mother would react that way -- what possibly could have motivated her to assume you were either lying or exaggerating?

despite that, and despite the fact that I'm a mother who has yet to experience a child of six, I can 99.9% guarantee that I would have grabbed my little girl, hugged her close, and told her that it was gonna be okay. and etc.

I wish I could retroactively give you that mommy-love-hug-reassurance moment.

Deezee said...

It's interesting that this horrid experience has left you questioning your own strength because what you display here through your writing is utter strength. I don't for a minute doubt your ability to teach your child to be strong and to say 'no', for you reveal that you are so in touch with all that you must teach.

I hope that can be of some comfort, and maybe lead to healing over the 'desertion' of your own mother. No child should have to experience that.

flutter said...


I just stumbled upon your blog and read this post. Regardless of what your mother told you..

It DID happen.

You can find your own voice, by empowering your little one to always use hers. You can find your voice by never denying her truth, and never again denying yours.
I am so sorry you were victimized twice.

Penny said...

I have a lot to say about this, but I have to think for a while.

And, I can't help it - your mom's reaction made me angry. But, I get that, too.

I wish you hadn't had to go through that.

ewe are here said...

Hey there. I've come over after seeing your comment on my blog (thank you), and I have to say that this story scares the crap out of me. I also have to say that your mom really failed you that day. I'll never understand why some parents instinctively react this way, i.e., 'it didn't happen'; 'you're wrong'; 'stop lying', etc., but they do. Maybe it's to protect themselves somehow, I don't know.

Anyways, I am perhaps overly vigilant with watching my little boy when we're out and about because someone tried to take my baby sister when we were young. I grew up in the Bay Area. My mom was in the local Safeway doing what moms do: baby in shopping card seat as she looked over the shelf offerings. When she turned back to put something in the cart, she saw it disappearing around the corner with a strange man, with my baby sister still in the seat. My mom went after him, and when she saw that he was clearly headed for the door, there was a lot of yelling. The man, realizing he's been caught out, let go of the cart and fled - there was a running car just outside the door of the store that he jumped into and took off in.

I was only about 4 at the time, but I will always remember the story and the warning: there are some horrible horrible people out there and you have to keep an eye out for them. I know I'll be teaching my kids to yell 'no' and to run away if a bad situation were to ever arise. And I will always believe them.

toyfoto said...

It just seems as if you did learn to protect yourself. You didn't have the support you wanted and deserved, but you seem very brave to me.

Anonymous said...

I'm stunned, shocked and appalled by your mother's words... and I'm so sorry that you have lived in such fear for so long.

acumamakiki said...

I'm sorry your mom failed you, I really am. Someday we can 'talk' about my similar experience with someone trying to snatch me (although I was teenaged at the time) but I have a very unrealistic fear of my own daughter being snatched and am always terrified when I see a van.

Lucia said...

All sorts of things went through my head when I read your post. The first was, of course, how mind-numbingly terrifying for your 6-year-old self. And the second was what was your mother thinking? I guess if she wasn't prepared to deal with it, it was easier to sweep it under the rug.

In situations like this, it's amazing how strong intuition is and how powerful the flight instinct is. We can't protect kids from everything, but we can take hope they'll know what to do, relying on their natural abilities as well as what they've been taught.

Lillithmother said...

*hugs little girl Jen* I'm sorry sweetie, obviously you mom had her own issue about similar things happening to her?? Either way, your little Jen needs to heal me thinks...

You and Crazymumma have inspired me to finally write about my own that I can find my voice again, and help my daughters find theirs.

meno said...

When i was six years old something horrible happened to me too. I had already learned by then that my mother not only would not help me, she would get mad at me.

I still ache sometimes for that little 6 year old girl, like i ache for you right now. And it happened to so many of us. It's no wonder that we are all so much more careful with our children.

Hulai said...

I am soo sorry that happend to you Jen. I had a stalker when I lived in Texas. When he disappeared, I didnt know rather to feel relief or more scared. Thats when I picked up and moved to Nebraska soon after. Of coarse there were several other rather large factors in there as well. To this day no one knows where this man is. The other night we got home and my keys wouldnt open the door, so Adam tried his, after several minutes of jerking around with the door, it finally unlocked. I stayed in the corridor until he came back out after checking out the whole apartment. I ended up checking every nook and cranny all night long, still not convinced no one was in my house. IT was terrible. But I guess that some things will always make me nervous. ****HUGS****

Jenny said...

Wow. What a powerful and moving post.

I've learned that I can be so much stronger for my daughter than I ever could be for myself.

MsSisyphus said...

It's hard to hate our own mothers for the damage they do to us, so if it's ok with you, I'm going to hate your mom a little bit for you.

My god. What if he'd pulled you in the car? If you'd been lucky enough to survive, would that have been your fault?

You know, with all the sick bastards out there just waiting for a chance to harm our daughters-and more and more simply *creating* their opportunities--it enrages me that there are mothers out there who are making it *easier* for them.

And Irreverent Mama? You've just sealed the deal. The Ladies will NOT be going to any sleepovers in the forseeable future.

Anonymous said...

Oh Ms. Jen - I don't know what to say that can make things right, but i hope you feel a lot better just getting it off your chest. I will hate your mom for you for a little while like mssisyphus too if that helps. I was scared of many things as a child, but not ever that. I would venture a guess that many women share an experience like this in common with you and just by writing about it you make them feel less scared, less dirty, less of so many emotions that I can't begin to understand.

You could pretend you had my mom when you grew up. Growing up in a 3rd world country obviously left her with some experiences she was determined my sisters and I would not have. I can't remember how many times she told me "NO ONE is allowed to touch you, and if they do, you come tell me - EVEN IF ITS YOUR FATHER, do you understand?" It is something I never really DID understand until I was in my mid-teens. My poor dad, like he would do anything even remotely like that! Still, the downside of this was that I always viewed men as predatory -kind of still do -but I guess that is a price you pay...

Lillithmother said...

Me again Jen...I've begun to create a blog space where others can go to write about being one and no story will be insignificant.

I've called it..."The only way out is through" just seemed soo appropriate Jen. I hope you don't mind (if you do, I'll change it). I hope you, crazymumma and others will join me, once it's open.


you da mom! said...

I've felt similar myself. My mother dropped me and my brother on the side of the road one day because she was mad. She drove off and we had to walk to school alone. My brother picked up a stick for "protection." I have clear abandonment issues because of these sorts of experiences, and to this day start freaking out anytime my husband is late for dinner. What I think is important - KEY - in bringing up our children with the tools to overcome these fears is acknowleding them ourselves...which is exactly what you are doing, and for that i say, RIGHT ON!

Anonymous said...

All this baggage that we carry huh?

I do think that now as an adult YOU REMEMBER how you felt and so you work hard to make sure you own children don't experience that same feeling....that is YOUR strength and that is what you teach your children.

kittenpie said...

Yow. How horrifying n the first place, and how terrible a response. I think it's all too common, too, that parents deny abuses of their children, that parents or partners deny rapes and other violations. To be denied and quieted only compounds the violation. I'm glad you can talk about it now.

sunshine scribe said...

Wow this post rocked me to the core. I can only imagine what it was like ... what that memory I still like.

But going to that place, acknowledging that life-changing day, it is empowering and when M is ready you can tell her this story. And she can learn from you.

Attila The Mom said...

Ahhh, I'm so sorry that happened and that your mom reacted the way she did.

The same thing actually happened to me when I was six as well. I was walking home from school and a man pulled over and offered me candy. I screamed "no!" and ran to a neighbor's house. She called my mom.

My mom was really calm about it and my folks said they were proud of me. Later I found out they had notified the police.

But what an empowering moment. I have no idea what a difference it would have made if they said "That didn't happen." :-(


mad_hatter said...

Holy shit, I am just getting to this post now b/c sleep has been a stranger to our teething household these past few days.

I am soooo sorry to hear that your mom didn't believe you or back you up. I am sorry that you have had to wrestle these demons all these years. And I am furious, furious that little girls can't fish in storm drains with Tic Tacs because, jesus almighty, that's what childhood is supposed to be. Fucking perverts. Fucking, fucking perverts.

Lillithmother said...

Jen, would you be interested in collaborating with me on the site?? Email me please when you get a chance!

Nancy said...

Wow. Beyond words here. How scary for you.

But you know -- it sounds like you're fighting now. And think how strong you were that day. You were strong and brave at the moment that you most needed to be. That is amazing, and courageous, and such a lesson to M.


Tug said...

Thanks for stopping by my blog - I'm so very glad you did!

My mom called me a hypocondriac (sp??) once when she thought I was asleep. To this day (I'm a 45 year old grandma) if she asks how I am, I'm "fine". No.matter.what.

I made it my mission to raise my daughter differently...I was THERE for her, I was STRONG for her (but never before)...and you know what? I grew, and grew stronger, as she did. She still "helps me along" as I help her, a mother of 2.

You'll be just fine...and I truly believe, so will M.

penelopeto said...

'How can one bring up a warrior if she herself never learned to fight?'

this whole post, terrifying and illuminating, is summed up so perfectly in that one sentence. that is exactly the question i ask myself.

i was held up at knifepoint when i was 21, and obviously, it has had its effects. but i so badly don't want my fears to be bumblebee's fears.

thanks for sharing your story. i know how scary those dark corners are.