A Domestic Violence Survivor’s Letter To Her Childhood Self
In an effort to deal with some painful experiences in my married life and to continue growing greater self confidence and self understanding, I decided to write letters to myself in different stages of my life. These letters share some thoughts on growing up and being a grown up.
Each of us is endowed or taught personality traits that prepare us for our future. And each of us has the capacity for strengths and weaknesses we never dreamed could be part of our lives. I hope that someone will see themselves in these letters and realize that they are precious and wonderful.
Dear Little Elaine,
I want you to know that what you learn from your childhood experiences will shape who you become later. I can not change the way your life will go, and I do not want to. Your life, like everyone’s, is filled with both good and with hard experiences. These early times will give you a strong foundation to cope with adult things later. You are wonderful and you will do fine in the hard times to come. You are in for a lot of big surprises.
Moma and Daddy love you so much Elaine (I always spelled Moma without the extra m for some reason, so I shall continue to do so here). You were their first child. Moma says you are a sweet, loving, happy, and intelligent child. You love your family, flowers, music, almost everything moving and alive–except bees, spiders and mosquitoes.
You will be the only child for your first two years. Then your first sister will be born. You will be excited and anxious about this new family member. After a while you may be jealous of the attention needed by a new baby. It will bother you when you outgrow a few of your favorite clothes and they are handed down to her. But this is only temporary and part of sibling rivalry. You outgrow the jealousy and she becomes your best friend and playmate.
Your honesty is something you acquire at quite an early age. At about 4 you innocently grab some nuts in an open barrel at the Cash and Cary grocery store and eat them. Mom catches you and informs you that you are stealing. Being a child who really tries to be a “good girl,” you feel so guilty and mortified that what you did was so against all you have been taught. Moma imprints the lesson further on you by making you pay the manager for what you ate. That lesson will stay with you all of your life. Do not take what is not yours. You develop a deep sense of what is yours and what belongs to others.
You also begin the task of learning that it is better to be honest when you disobey your parents than it is to lie about something to get out of being punished. They always could tell when you lie!! You never quite develop a poker face! In fact you often confess when you lie because you were taught at a very early age that this is wrong. You feel so guilty when you do lie that it just isn’t worth the anxiety and self recriminations when you do. Then there were the spankings!!!
Spankings were the way kids were disciplined back then. Anytime you got a spanking, you were given a long talk about how disappointed your parents are that you disobeyed them and how much they love you no matter what you did. Spanking was not done in anger in our home. Spanking was a way of making us remember not to do something we knew was wrong because we didn’t want another spanking later! We were not spanked as toddlers. Spankings came once we were old enough to understand right from wrong.
Daddy teaches you how to be a positive thinker, which will help you persevere as you face challenges later. During the times when things get difficult you may first be anxious or scared but your desire to “Make lemonade out of lemons” will help you survive when you get older. You will frequently be accused of seeing the world “through rose colored glasses.” Guilty as charged! Be proud of it!
Your love of people and ability to see everyone as a fellow member of the earth family definitely surprises and warms many people. You are friendly to complete strangers, which probably causes a great deal of concern for your safety for Moma and Daddy. You are taught early about “doing to others as you would have them do to you.” Living the Golden Rule and loving people will be tested in your adult years, hang in there with your heart and keep on loving and trying to find the good in the bad.
Moma and Daddy will share with great pride an example of your love for people. Growing up in the 50’s you weren’t around black kids since they had to go to a separate school. But you lived part of your childhood on the edge of a black neighborhood. One day you stood beside a little black girl as a parade went by. You talked with her and put your arm around her shoulders as you excitedly shared the parade with her. You didn’t know and you didn’t care that there are people who would never do such a thing to a complete stranger, let alone a black one!
You learned from your parents and your church that: “Jesus loves the little children, All the children of the world. Red and Yellow, black and white; they are precious in his sight. Jesus loves the little children of the world.” That song stays with you for the rest of your life. You will always try to see the best in people and love them, given half a chance. You try to understand why people behave the way they do sometimes but this will continue to boggle your mind!
Two other things you learned from your mom and dad. Music was always important in your life because Moma taught you a love of music. She could play the piano and sing. This will be a big part of your life later especially.
Your sense of humor is one vital trait you learned from your father. I remember when I fell and bumped my head and cried as little ones do. Daddy would look at the floor where I had fallen and point out a crack in the floor. With great surprise he would tell me that my head had made a crack in the floor. After looking with great curiosity I would realize that I wasn’t crying any more! That sense of humor will develop more when you grow older but it will make you somewhat of a clown even when you are little. One of Daddy’s favorite sayings was, “If you can laugh at yourself, you will always have something to laugh at.”
When you can get the humor started before the guilt, anxiety, or fear begin, you will do fine!
Elaine I want you to know something that you are never to forget!! You are precious and wonderful. Do not let anyone ever make you feel dumb!! In fact don’t let anyone make you feel anything bad about yourself! Your own guilt and your loving heart are enough for you to deal with.
So to finish up this love letter to you, love God, love yourself (because He certainly does), and love your family. Remember that there is only one you. You are a person of love and joy and will always keep that even when your life gets very complicated by a husband who gets sick. But don’t worry about that right now. Just learn to see your good qualities and don’t be so hard on yourself. Enjoy your rich childhood.
You are very dear to me! I would love to meet you as an older sister now and talk with you to help you. But you must learn things on your own since that is the way I learned. I’ll write again later, Dear One.