Behind Closed Doors

Writing and Rhetoric: Anonymous

I am 4 years old and I spend my time with my grandma while my dad is working. She is my first memory of feeling loved – truly loved – as a child should be.

She lets me play and imagine.

She redirects me in a calming way when I can’t help in being but mischief and brown hair. I eagerly burst through her front door and the sound of it closing brings comfort.

The day stretches out but as early morning turns into early afternoon, I start to feel sick, act out, get a tummy ache, and need more attention. It’s almost time to get picked up and go home.

I don’t want to go home.

Can’t I just stay here forever? I can’t say these thoughts out loud and I don’t understand what I am feeling.

Back at home the front door closes and the yelling starts.

I don’t know what I did wrong, but it must have been a crime worse than murder because I’m being yelled at so fiercely that I wet myself on the doormat. Now I’m being yelled at harder because I made a mess. I could clean it up myself but I am frozen in place because I am so scared.

I am trapped and I am small.

I am nearly thrown down the dark basement stairs and there I sit at the bottom as the door closes. It’s dark and cold but it’s quiet and I feel safe at the bottom of the stairs. I had a puppy that got into some antifreeze down here and I wonder if her ghost lingers in this damp space. I pretend she keeps me company.

I sit in the dark for what feels like hours but also feels like not long enough – he hasn’t forgotten that I exist, and that is what I silently hope for.

I am a fast learner, I quickly realize what to never do and what to never say. I learn to be seen and not heard. I learn to smile in public and if I do a good enough job acting the part, then behind closed doors it won’t be so bad.

He uses the love that children inherently have for their parents and my fresh fear of abandonment to manipulate me.

I guess I don’t really know how to do anything right. I never know what will happen behind closed doors.

I am in first grade and I am having trouble with math. I need help counting pennies and I am not understanding what is expected of me so the pennies get whipped at my face. As I start to cry I am ordered to clean them up. I finish the homework and I never ask for help behind closed doors again.

I never ask for help in public either. I learn to figure it out on my own.

It’s very hard to be perfect but I sure try, because behind closed doors I am the reason for my fathers pain and anguish; maybe if I’m perfect he will be happier.

I look like her, you see.

As my brown hair grows more unruly and my big brown eyes shine brighter, I am sure he sees her face instead of my own. I am told from well-meaning grown ups that I look just like her. Inside I get that tummy ache feeling. He hates her. I look like her. He hates me too, but I don’t understand that feeling either.

As I get older I have the freedom to close my bedroom door and it stays closed.

Behind closed doors I now have my own space and there I sit. Alone. But it’s quiet and I eventually learn to hate the sound of someone knocking on the other side. I am being summoned to be yelled at or being summoned to be his pseudo-wife.

There are tasks to preform and it’s up to me to keep the whole show running. I never really get any peace behind closed doors.

I live in a nice house and I am clothed and fed. I get good grades. I don’t make mistakes. I don’t rock the boat. I don’t know how to relax. I have headaches all the time. I am shy and reserved. I am polite and I respect my elders. I am an all-American girl and from the outside looking in he is worthy of praise for doing such an outstanding job.

If only you could have seen what it was like behind closed doors.

Maybe you would have helped.

Now I am grown and he can’t hurt me anymore. I still have anxiety and while I want to shout from the rooftops about what happened behind all those closed doors, I am held in place by fear.

I deserved it, don’t you see? That’s what he made me think.

But that doesn’t make sense.

I look at my own children and I can’t fathom treating them that way.

I catch myself raising my voice and losing my cool because this is the example I was shown growing up. This is how children must be handled, clearly. Except…that’s not right.

So, I shut that door.

I start to turn up the volume on the voices in my head that quietly whisper away the doubts.

I feel the pennies hit my face.

I listen to the girl at the bottom of the basement stairs.

I feel the tummy aches.

I won’t treat my children that way because they do not deserve that.

I shut that door. Because children don’t deserve that.

And when it finally closed, the voices behind it whispered to me – “neither did you.

Honeybees and Motherhood

Motherhood is honey.

Moms are flowers, and our children, busy little honeybees.

And if there’s one thing I have to say about honey?

Ain’t nobody got time for the sticky mess it comes with.

Yet, we still stick our hands right in the honey jar.

Because it’s sweet and because it makes life interesting.

It is literally what makes the world go round- honey bees and mother’s.

No mommies, no babies.

No bees, no honey.

We take life’s stings with a grain of sugar, not salt.

Because we’re teaching our little bee’s about kindness.

About the sweetness of life.

We don’t always unveil the complicated work it takes to prepare the hive. 

Or what it takes to be the queen.

We just do it.

The keeping of bees is a lot like the keeping of children.

It’s delicate and complicated.

And motherhood?

It’s all the buzz.

Motherhood is honey. 

And really, there is nothing sweeter.

A New Age.

We were taught grammar and language.

Nobody mentioned the proper navigation of emojis and social media would be equivalent to our social ranking.

That a heart, thumbs up or a like button could make us feel fulfilled.

Most of us were taught to socialize and interact and do as we were taught.

Not that the weight of a computer click could change somebody’s life.

Or end it.

In a world of grey area, we were taught not to search for black and white – that there *is no* difference between the two.

So, now – we are so privileged we cannot see what that difference is.

Just because it’s what we were taught, doesn’t mean it’s how it should be.

If a fortune teller told you it was going to be this way, would you have listened?

Anything that might come across as magical, is automatically taken for crazy.

But we cannot continue to settle for convenience.

Mixing black and white was a pivot for mankind.

Identifying that magical balance of life inside of the “grey area” unveiled- hope for a new kind of normal.

For one race: The human race.

But with all the unnoticed red flags and blaring warning signs, I can’t help but suggest that our new normal needs adjusting.

Everyday feels more like 1955 and as for Rosa Parks…

She still sits on that bus.

But instead of writing about it in history books – we pick up our phones and tape her.

Instead of sitting next to her, we drop a heart reaction. 

Now, it’s more rebellious to be empathetic than it is to break the law.

Another hashtag nobody prepared us for.

I’m sad to say a fortune teller can’t tell you what science and history already have.

We must do more then listen.

In a world where we’re beginning to think for ourselves, it is vital to speak up.

Be better.

Do better. 

Open up your eyes.

Extend your arm.

Take a seat on the bus.

At your greatest opposition, you must face yourself and make a choice.

Put the phone down. Eyes up.

You were taught to be the change you wish to see in the world.

It’s time to rise up and be it.

He Wants Me All The Time.

He wants me all the time.

Tied up messy bun, old t-shirts, sweat pants, and kitty cat slippers – sexy as a mother.

I fry the bacon in this kingdom, and he’s my butt-grabbin’ king.

30 looks good on him.

He’s got the gift of bad dad jokes and I’ve got the curse of curves.

It works.

I don’t move like I did at age 23, probably never will again.

My goods sag a little lower now, but they still look good to him.

He saws logs when he sleeps and I’m verbally aggressive in mine.

But we go together.

And he wants me all the time.

Cold Joe.

I don’t hate having cold coffee.

I don’t hate being needed.

I don’t hate being in demand.

I don’t hate being a stacking tower. 

I don’t hate missing breakfast – or even the fighting back.

I don’t hate being the one to get picked first everytime a hand needs holding or a street needs crossing.

I don’t hate the snot stains on my sleeves that aren’t mine, or being a punching bag for verbal assaults.

Not even the mental or physical melt downs.

Not even the ‘you should get locked up’ level tantrums.

I don’t know how to justify that one – but it’s easier to laugh it off than to be upset.

I don’t hate it, not any part. In fact, I love it. 

And it’s funny because I always hear moms reign it in and say they can’t justify their distaste for this age, or that phase or all of the mess.

But they justify their distaste for these things by simply knowing and understanding it’s what they always wanted, instead of just enjoying it.

I never wanted this. I never even asked for it. But, I absolutely needed it. And all the time – I’m prepared to be humbled by it.

I’m so, so in love with a life that has my daughter in it, that I laugh to think I ever dreamed of one without her.

I know and deeply understand that what I take from these young years, is the only part of any of this life that is promised to me.

So, I’ll take the crumbs in my bed.

I say cheers to that cold cup of Joe, and call it a cold brew.

Bring on the back talk.

Just call me a walking penalty box.

Because there is literally nowhere else in the world I would rather be.

There is no job I am better prepared to do; no person I love more.

I don’t hate a single fleeting second.

I know my little dictator won’t stay with me forever. I’ll happily take her however I can get her, here and now.

Got it From My Mama.

As seen on Detroit Mom.

I hope my kid remembers all my f-bombs. 

Honestly, you don’t hear that alot– but I hope she does.

Sure, I hope she doesn’t inherit the language of a sailor, but I hope she knows nothing about being a mom came organically to me.

I hope she remembers that even though I was a mediocre baker and rarely made a balanced meal show up for dinner, I still put on bombshell-level living room dance parties on the regular.

I hope she remembers that even though I said NO to 679 treats on the daily for LITERAL years, that I still went to every target in driving distance looking for the outfit she wanted for her birthday party.

I hope she remembers that following every unhinged conversation we had, and through every disagreement, it closed with hugs and open-ended-love.

I hope she knows her mom tried to find balance in a world that offers little of that.

I hope she knows that when we arrive to a scene incapable of balance, to a world that seems almost designed for chaos…

 That we all still deserve a little grace.

When she does arrive, I hope she faces it with integrity, sass and poise.

And when she does… 

I really hope she thinks: “I got it from my Mama.”

Sounds Like Noise.

As seen on Detroit Mom.

Loving children sounds like noise.

It sounds like your tired voice yelling “slow down!” 

And like hurrying little feet, swiftly picking up the pace.

It’s echoes from slammed doors and it’s also roaring belly laughs.

It’s listening to them chew and feeling like…why am I cutting bite size pieces for someone clearly ready to stick their face in this cake?

It sounds like “watch this”, like “I didn’t do it”, and like talking to my therapist.

It sounds like sighs of forgiveness and of defeat; we’re all just doing the best we can.

It’s thinking you’re about to take an unsupervised bathroom break and hearing that little knock.

It’s after school attitude, steamin’ like a freight train.

It sounds like a personal narrator- in case you weren’t an active participant in your life.

Loving children means loud, unintentional, misfiring noise.

It’s spontaneous and unidentifiable signals that half of us literally don’t even understand.

It’s listening to how fast the clock ticks; the minutes ticking, the weeks ticking… the handful of remaining days in this decade…ticking.

It’s finding a rhythm in the chaos, and dancing with the sound. 

It is a symphony and you are it’s conductor.

The volume.

The tempo.

The “I’m not tired” tango.

It’s built-in-music to our ears.

We *depend* on it. When you love a child, you learn to embrace the noise. You learn to find the music.

Because when you love children, you really understand that life would be much, much different…if it were quiet.

Sisters are for Your Soul.

She is the person who knows all about the ways my heart has been broken. 

She is the one who knows all the ways it is surely bound to break again. 

She is the unbreakable bond you feel when you trust me, the cumulative lessons that have made me who I am.

She is the person who wrote history with me and still opens that book, revisits it and takes new insight.

She is the steadfast investment you feel when you’re loved by me, a familiar embrace that has shifted and shaped my depth of lovin’.

She is the person I clung to when I searched for my identity as an individual, the one who wasn’t sour when I claimed it.

She is the person who wades with me in the pits of grief, who grabs tightly my hand in the shallows and makes me promise to hold on.

She is who comes when you open your heart to the way you deserve to be loved.

When you are convinced by me that there is still good in this world – it is because I was convinced by her.

As I Was Taught.

It’s never an easy question, although it is a reoccurring one.

 “Momma, who’s your mommy?”

I thought I had more time before the consciousness of disparity, to sort out some truths bound to my estranged mother.

But, here we are with my 4 year old and some hard-hitting questions.

A million things crossed my mind, as I tried not to face the question. 

She didn’t want us.

She left us behind.

She broke me-

and never came back.

But, that’s not what I say. 

Instead, I teach her about safety in priorities, and that it’s ok to seek out comfortable situations, while avoiding consistently hurtful people. 

No matter who those people are.

I teach her that you’re not a product of where you came from or how people treat you.

But you are absolutely a product of how hard you work and what you come to offer to the world.

I help her appreciate that she has choices too, and that one day she will understand the reasoning for many of mine.

I teach her that her mommy loves her and that no matter the chaos that ensues over a lifetime – mommy will never leave. 

So, when she asked me “who’s your mommy

?”, instead of saying what I wanted to say, I told her my mother’s name.

Because no matter how bad I feel inside about it, I know that I am stronger in my convictions because of it.

I will never do as I was taught.

I will never cheat my child from something as essential as a mother’s love – even while I continue to grieve for the love of my own.

Who Am I?

I’m someone’s mom.

I’m a grocery clerk scanning eggs.

I’m the fast paced mail lady, trying to get my kid off the bus on time.

I’m a built-in alarm clock.

A walking calendar.

A personal escort to the potty.

A sounding bar when their father doesn’t understand them. When they don’t even understand themselves.

I’m the venti-vanilla-latte-drinking blonde at Starbucks getting work done before school pick-ups.

I’m the call they made the first time their heart was broken. The first time they were bullied.

I’m who wiped their butts and the one who knows about what happened in the bathroom that day.

I’m a catalog of embarrassing moments, triumphs, of secrets – a vault.

I never will tell about what happened in the bathroom that day.

I’m who taught them how to use a spoon.

I’m the lady who looks like them and demands they brush their teeth.

I’m someone’s emergency call.

Their first choice.

The one who drops it all for them.

Someone’s tunnel vision.

I’m everywhere; I’m half the women you know. I am guidance and refuge.

I do all these things and more.

I am learning as I go.

And teaching as I am taught.

I am all the things I never even knew I needed for myself. Because I’m someone’s mom.