The mother I had as a child taught me that it was correct to lie to authority in order to make oneself look good. This lesson was taught when I was 5-6 years old, when my family looked for a house to rent in our new town. My parents chose a brick ranch in the country outside of Goldsboro, NC. We were in the process of meeting with the landlords when they asked about our dog, Nathan. Was he a well behaved dog? Oh yes, my mother said. Being the honest little girl that I was, I piped up; oh no, remember when he pulled the blankets off the bed and made a big mess in our house? The landlords laughed, and we walked out later with a rental agreement.
As soon as we got in the car, my mother whipped around to me in the back seat. Her normally pretty face was drawn up in a snarl, her eyes wild and hateful. She directed this fury at me. “Don’t you ever correct me in front of other people again!!!” she said through scary teeth.
I remember feeling very confused. I had told the truth; isn’t this what my parents wanted me to do? This was certainly something I’d been corrected about in my young life. Besides being dumbfounded, this occurrence taught me something about my mother. She operated under a double standard.
My obsession with integrity started early; I watched as adults lied through their teeth, confident that a child would not know, or if they did, it didn’t matter. It was appalling to my sense of justice that adults could act like scoundrels, do what they wanted to me, and yet blame me for the lies a young child will tell (no, I did not cut that entire tray of brownies, no I did not stick my finger in the cake frosting), and label me as bad and untrustworthy.
It was a heavy burden for a little girl to be aware of so many trespasses, yet be held to a standard of moral diligence. The label of “bad” stuck; by the time I was in first grade, I had bought it hook, line and sinker. In my mind, I began to believe them, and that I must be very bad to deserve the things that they did to me.
This year, I am doing quite a bit of work with this 6-year old who believed she was so unworthy of love, kindness, protection, and models of integrity; she has come forward in my psyche during a remarkable healing session. In my mind’s eye, I saw her sitting with her head down, eyes downcast. I was guided to ask her into my lap, but she seemed almost radioactive with toxicity. I didn’t want to touch her. If this had been any other child, I would have rushed to enfold them in my arms. But this little girl was me, and I/she believed she was poisonous. Her hair had been chopped short by her mother, an attempt to keep her hair untangled; but it made the little girl feel ugly, or like a boy. This only compounded the sense of being an undesirable. I had to do quite a bit of work to shift my perception. How could a 6 year old girl be so toxic, so heinous, so awful, so unworthy of basic kindness? It just didn’t hold up, and so I started to see her differently. And as I did, I watched as her head began to lift, and her eyes met mine.
She was still reluctant to come to my lap when I held my arms out to her. I spoke reassuringly to her, pretending she was one of my own real children in order to get around the self-loathing. She shook her head silently, not wanting to infect me with her presence. I tried again, this time more determinedly. No child should feel like this, I thought. You are good, you are awesome, you are worthy of love. She began to look like she was thinking about coming to me.
It was at this point that I suddenly looked down and she was in my lap.
I could feel her warmth on my leg. I looked into her eyes and saw a broken child; a child who used to know that she was made of love and light, but who had been infiltrated by the projections of her parents. She carried their darkness for them. It’s what she thought she was supposed to do to be a good daughter.
As her new mother, I am telling her different messages. You are a delight to my eyes. You are beautiful! What a big Spirit you have! Wow, you’re so strong and fast! You are so creative! I love how smart you are. Wow, I see how observant you are, how carefully you are watching. It’s safe to be who you are. I see your Light. I want to hear the hard, scary things you have to say. You can tell me.
She has some stories to tell.
Through my years of training and healing work, I am facilitating the counseling and integration of my own inner child. She is still non-verbal, pointing to pictures and guiding me to make collages that lay out her thoughts, the things she can’t utter with her throat and mouth just yet. I can feel that this little girl is carrying something heavy.
She has become my daughter; I have taken her away from her biological parents because they are unable to care for her appropriately. It has been many years in the making; I am finally ready to let go of the need for my parents to show up for her in the ways she desperately needed them to. And I finally have the daughter I always wanted.