I grew up living with my mother and step-father and their 3 children, my half brother and half sisters. I know there is typically a stereotype with “step” in front of any family member, a bad stereotype, but you have no idea. From the outside it looked like we had a pretty great family. Both parents worked, nice house in a nice neighborhood, family dog….and until this day, The Day, I thought it was pretty good too…or at least normal. But, you only know what you know, right? So for me, it was normal. People liked him. He seemed to always be the life of the party. However, at home, you never knew what you were going to get. I was used to the yelling and screaming. My mom in trouble for something.My brother in trouble for something. My mom in trouble because my brother was in trouble for something. I was used to it. It was normal.
My bedroom was separated from everyone else’s. It was bonus room on the second floor, away from everything, everyone. When the yelling and screaming began my two baby sisters would make their way to my room, looking for comfort. I’d do anything for those girls. I was very maternal towards them. I never understood this until I was older, but everyone always called me their second mother. Now looking back, I was their second mother. I had to be. I was forced to grow up very fast. I never had time to be a child. I cooked, cleaned, took them to and from school and all activities, helped with homework. I did it all. I had to. When they would come to my room in tears not understanding why mommy was in trouble, I’d cuddle with them and find something fun to do. Some way to make them laugh. And if it got really loud, I’d give them the headphones and find a happy song to play.
He didn’t always let them come to me though. Sometimes when someone else in the family was in trouble, so was I. However my being in trouble was usually unrelated to the other person being in trouble. My being in trouble usually had to do with me being my biological father’s daughter. It was hard to understand. One second he’s yelling at my mom because my brother got a bad progress report and the next he’s yelling at me saying “these are my children and my children will stay downstairs with their family and don’t call me dad anymore, it’s Mr. Smith to you. I’m sending you and your mother back to your sorry ass father”. Not only were these times confusing because I didn’t know what I did wrong, but they were extra confusing because all the memories I had with my biological father were the best memories and the most comforting memories.
Although I had the chance to “hold it together” and comfort my sisters during some of these moments, I didn’t always have it together on the inside. Sometimes the yelling and screaming and name calling would get so bad I’d get scared. Scared it would turn into more. Scared my mother was in danger. In the beginning when I started to get old enough to recognize the arguing, I’d find a way to comfort myself. I’d use the headphones. But, as I got older and started comforting my sisters, they became the distraction. They were the distraction, until that day, The Day.