Abused Children and Parental Love

I still love my father. I even miss him sometimes. I also hate him at times even though I forgave him. If he had been alive at the time I was going through recovery could I have had him arrested and watched him being charged for rape and then imprisoned? I don’t know. The emotions caused by an abusive parent are fraught with confusion and contradiction. In my case I was probably fortunate as I was 13 before the abuse began and as a result have at least 12 years of happy memories. My father delivered me in the middle of a snowstorm – an at home birth they called it in those days  ̶  in International Falls, MN in the middle of December. As a result, I was always his favorite and everyone knew it. My world revolved around my Dad. I adored him and soaked up any learning he passed my way. He had been in the Marine Corp during the war and taught me (and my brothers) how to shoot and how to take a gun apart, clean it and then put it back together again. To this day gun cleaning fluid smells better to me than Channel No. 5. He taught me how to play piano. He had had 12 years of lessons and had played with Bob Crosby’s orchestra in Hawaii during World War II. Our bond was so strong that I thought nothing could ever break it. But after he raped me when I was 13 I began to fear him…….a lot. I shook with convulsions frequently in his presence. In my teen years my hands trembled so bad that I was the butt of the boys in school as they had me hold my arm out and then taunt me to steady my hand and laughed when I was unable to do so. And still I loved my Dad.

After a beating from him at the instigation of my mother when I was 18 that almost killed me, I ran away from home. When he came after me and tried to force me to come home it was the most terrifying moment of my life. My best friend’s brother intervened reminding my dad that I was over 18 and he couldn’t force me to go home. My dad slugged him, the police were called and they told my dad he could not force me to go with him but he could get arrested for hitting a minor. My dad, in front of gaping neighbors and friends tore my birth certificate in half, threw it in the gutter and told me I was no longer his daughter, no longer a Leick (my maiden name). As he drove off I was weak with relief. And yet, I still loved my Dad.

I stopped loving my mom the day of the beating when she chanted “hit her again, hit her again” as my dad was beating me. Once upon a time I had loved her a great deal. Now I have no feeling for her. It is as if she died that day. And yet I still love my father. I probably always will.

It wasn’t until I got in to recovery and began understanding the family dynamics that happens in the home of an abused child that I was able to accept what happened. I had come up with many slogans that helped me in recovery. One of them was, “Understanding is the key and acceptance is the door.” It helped me a great deal. I discovered by doing a Family Tree (part of Process part of the REPAIR program) that they had a saying about my father’s father: No woman is safe with George Leick. It stunned me. My grandfather had been a womanizer and this inability to put boundaries on his behavior was passed down to my father.

My mother’s parents on the other hand were the most loving, kind and wonderful people I have ever known. My grandmother was magical, an impish woman who lived her life only to help others and my grandfather adored her. They were married 57 years and even after she died, he continued to talk to her as if she were still there. And yet my mother sexually abused four small children while my dad was away at war and she collaborated with my father in his incestuous rapes on me, condoning them by her silence, blaming me instead of Dad. Here she was the one who had great parenting. I still don’t understand how she could have turned out that way. Her brother, while I was in recovery looking for answers, said only that she was very passive and that as she lay on her death bed she said she wished she had protected her children from their father more.  I still don’t love her.

This emotional response on the part of abused children is part of their legacy. When we are born it is only to those who created and produced us that we turn. It is part of nature and is as it should be. We look to them for food, shelter, warmth and love. Some of us get all of those and more good things. But children who were abused, whether emotionally, physically or sexually don’t get the love, especially not healthy love. But that doesn’t change our dependency. In our minds we are convinced that they still love us, that we shouldn’t take the abuse seriously. I always thought that the beatings and other punishments were just strict parenting. Some of their parental wisdoms such as This is going to hurt me more than you and This is for your own good rang true. When you are a kid you don’t know yet that just because they are your parents doesn’t mean they have your well-being at heart. We don’t understand that they are only re-using phrases they learned from their parents and parenting the way they were parented. That doesn’t mean it was the gospel according to parenting. But we don’t know that. All we know is that for the majority of us who were abused as children we loved our parents. Weren’t we supposed to?

It makes going through recovery more difficult. You have to believe the unbelievable. Maybe they didn’t have our well-being at heart. Maybe they didn’t really love us. It hurts but it may be the truth. And discovering the truth will set us free, free to cross that Bridge of Recovery and find happiness on the other side, away from our parents and any twisted emotions we may have had about them.

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