I remember as a child wishing that someone would adopt me. I didn’t realise that it wasn’t a simple case of someone saying “hey, I like you. I’ll adopt you.” This I didn’t understand until I was a teenager.
I was a naughty kid at primary school, before this wish for adoption had kicked in. I was naughty because the only way I knew to get attention was to be be bad; I just didn’t realise it was bad. I wasn’t a bully, and wasn’t naughty by any degree of needing punishing; I think at worst I had to stay in at playtime and write “I must not be rude to grown ups” over and over again. The teachers didn’t understand why writing that continuously had me in tears for the rest of the day…
But then I made a new school friend. She was a lot of fun, but I remember being very puzzled when I met her parents, for they were white, and she was black. This isn’t me being racist, I just simply didn’t understand how it could happen. I actually thought it was really cool. But just confusing. I asked her about this one day, and she giggled at me, “they adopted me! They adopted me when I was a baby.”
I didn’t know what this meant so just nodded and smiled, and when I was home I read about it. I remember just staring at the words, my mouth gaping open, trying to contain the excitement inside me. There was my answer! Maybe somebody nice could adopt me and I won’t have to go through the “rapey” thing ever again. Maybe I could have a new name, and a new Daddy who loved me properly and a new Mummy who took me to the park like my friends’ mummy’s did.
I became obsessed with the idea of adoption, and my friend seemed so happy and her parents clearly adored her. Maybe only nice people could be adoptive parents, I thought. Maybe they only want nice children…this bit made me feel a bit sad because I was sure I wasn’t a nice person at all.
So I changed tack. I wasn’t naughty anymore; I tried to be perfect at everything, especially when in front of the teachers. I’d quietly observe the teachers and suss out which ones were nice, and which ones would be nice new mummy’s. (Please bear in mind here I was about seven/eight years old, so although it now sounds creepy…I was a child, and in desperate cirumstances.) To the teachers that were nice, I became a teacher’s pet. I’d stay in at play-time to clean out the goldfish tank, and answer all the questions, and tell them how nice they were.
Obviously now as an adult I know life doesn’t work that way. You’re not simply nice to someone and then they magically become your parent. Actually this idea weirds me out now, because frankly the idea of having normal parents is something which sounds alien and throws me. But as a child, it was what I desperate for. I remember being in awe of my friends when I was at their house. How they jumped on their mum, laughing, and received a big cuddle. How their mum would make us both hot chocolate before we went to bed, and kiss us both goodnight after reading us a story. How their Dads would race around in the garden playing piggy-backs, and my friends would squeal with delight. I never let their Dads near me, certainly not for any physical contact, and would flinch if they made a sudden movement near me. I would lie awake at night-time, wondering how on earth my friend slept so peacefully – wasn’t she nervous for when her dad would come in and do the rapey thing? Isn’t that what Dads do? I concluded that maybe they didn’t do it when friend’s were around, and therefore my presence was protecting my friend. I liked that, so curled up near her so that I could feel if her Dad did try anything, and maybe I could scream at him.
It wasn’t until I was around 14 that I truly realised that normal dads and grandads don’t rape their daughters/grandaughters in the night. It wasn’t until I was 18/19 that I truly realised I never deserved it.
A memory surfaced today, which is why I’m thinking about all of this. I remember one of my closer friend’s mum asked me once, “sweetheart, is everything okay at home?” I was about eight, had now moved in with my grandparents so the abuse was even more intense. I glanced nervously at my friend’s mum, who was peering at me with concern. I said nothing. She was a lovely woman, would help us make cakes, and would make me laugh and feel safe and happy. She said “it’s okay, you can tell me if you want to. Nobody will hurt you here…” in hindsight I can see that she clearly assumed there was some kind of abuse going on. I wonder why she didn’t do anything, but I know that people sometimes don’t know what to do, or are nervous to in case they’ve got it wrong.
I remained silent and just stared at her, rigid now. I couldn’t tell her because otherwise I’d be killed. That’s what the threat was. So I told her “I can’t tell you.” I whispered it very hoarsely, fighting the lump in my throat, and ran out of the room before she could say anything else. My friend was waiting for me and said “you had really bad nightmares, I told mummy” and hugged me.
When my grandparents came to pick me up I heard raised voices in the hallway. My friend’s parents were talking to my grandparents. I heard “there are bruises on her back. Bad bruises. Where are they from?” and “ARE YOU CALLING US BAD GRANDPARENTS? WE TOOK HER IN WHEN NOBODY ELSE WOULD. WE’VE GIVEN UP OUR LIVES FOR HER. DON’T YOU DARE IMPLY WHAT I THINK YOU’RE IMPLYING.” This carried on for a bit, and there were disucssions about the nightmares I’d had. I heard the Dad say “well why does she look so scared whenever I go near her? Why is she so shy? Why couldn’t she tell us if everything’s okay at home?” At this point my grandmother turned on the fake tears, saying I had some kind of issue with them…probably blamed them for taking me away from my dad, that I didn’t understand, and that they’d talk to me tonight to make sure I was okay.
I felt physically sick, and went extremely cold very fast. I remember thinking please adopt me, please adopt me about the parents and they’re lying, don’t believe them. But my grandmother’s tears won them over, as they did to everyone. The door opened, and there stood my grandparents. “Come on lovey, come and give your old grandad a hug.” I didn’t move, I just stared. I was in serious trouble. Really serious trouble. My grandad glared at me, his arms open. Frightened, I tip toed over and let him hug me. I was statue-still, not hugging back…my arms by my side, and trembling all over. I glanced at my friend’s parents. The mother patted my shoulder and bent down to give me a hug “we’ll see you at the weekend okay?”
I was never allowed back there again. I wasn’t allowed to talk to my friend, and had to just say to her “I can’t be friends with you anymore.” I remember her tears and how she ran across the playground, how a teacher found out and scolded me for being nasty. I remember wanting to cry myself, but bottling it. I felt so incredibly lonely.
I was sure now nobody would adopt me. I was a very bad girl for being so nasty to my friend. Nobody understood what was going on. Nobody knew that I only said it because I was so scared of what would happen to me if I didn’t. The punishment I received as a result of my friend’s parents quizzing my grandparents was severe. I remember my throat was raw the next day from screaming, and how my little brother peered at me from under his bed when I left my bedroom in the morning. My screams had frightened him, and he’d hid under his bed clutching a blanket in some effort to drown out the sound. I’ll never forget the look in his huge eyes. He whispered “you okay Jade?”
I wanted to nod, and show him I was strong. But I felt my bottom lip tremble, at seeing his eyes. I’d been raped brutally all throughout the night and the thought of him having hid under his bed to drown out my screams was utterly heartbreaking. I went into his room and knelt by the bed “it’s okay…you can come out now” I whispered. He wriggled out and nestled into me, informing me that my younger sister had slept through it all. Some relief, at least.
“I’m sorry you heard that,” I murmured. He looked at me, wide-eyed and said “what did he do?”
I shook my head, trying to preserve some level of his innocence “I was just a very naughty girl…”
It breaks my heart now, because I can see I was only letting the abusers win, by teaching my brother I was naughty and deserved that treatment.
By the next day my brother seemed to have “blanked” the whole thing. My screams had been too frightening for him, and so he blanked the memory. He had no recollection of that night at all. I felt lonelier, but so much happier knowing he wasn’t being haunted by my screams.
I never was adopted, clearly. I gave up on that dream once I started secondary school. Sometimes now, when I see happy families, I have a pang of “what if?” Such as graduation week, knowing I’ll never have the warm, safe, and happy parents walking behind me. Or when my friend’s post pictures of their newborns having their first cuddle with their new proud grandparents, because I know that’ll never be the case.
Mother’s day pretty much kills me, because not only do I have to hear friend’s fretting that they haven’t got their mother the right card, and moaning that they have to go and have dinner with their parents…I also have to feel the pain from the fact my babies were all taken from me, that I should have my babies on mother’s day and I haven’t, and although I know I’m a mum…it’s a bittersweet sense. I just stare at my friends who whinge about having to see their parents for dinner when they have “better things to do” and think…at least you have safe parents. At least you can go for dinner. At least your parents are being recognised for being parents, whereas the world seems to think that by not mentioning my babies, it’s easier somehow for me. (Note to the world: they never leave my thoughts, and I need people to recognise the fact I was a mother, and that my babies were real, and the just being silent in the hope that I might “forget” or “move on” or “not feel it so bad” doesn’t work. Maybe you fear that by mentioning them, it’ll hurt me. It hurts anyway, but by mentioning them I at least know you recognise the fact I had them…) At least you can call your mum when you need her, or your dad when your car is broken. I have to fight very hard…because I want to scream. But I know it’s not people being ungrateful, or ignorant…it’s just all they’ve ever known…and it’s something I will never know.
I might as well be an orphan, because the relationship I have with my parents is so broken, and dysfunctional, and frankly dangerous…and nothing can take that away. I have to live the rest of my life without the support of a family, and that is actually very scary. Sometimes – like now whilst I’m in an extreme amount of pain with fibro – I wish I had a mum who would turn up and put her arms around me. I wish I could text my mum and be like “bored, fancy an afternoon in town?” I wish I had a mum I could be irritated at for her mum-like qualities. I wish I had a Dad who could be proud of me, a Dad I wasn’t nervous of. Parents who later on, might have helped me with decisions like a new house, or meeting a new partner…
I’ll never have that. It’s like starting a family tree from scratch.
Now I have that memory back, I’m wondering about my friend’s parents; if they remember me. I’m smiling sadly at how innocently desperate I was to be adopted, and wondering about how different my life would have been had I been adopted, or had those parents pushed further, or had I dared say “no, everything’s not okay at home. I get the rapey thing a lot and get taken to a big farm where lots of men hurt me.”
I wonder I wonder…