Thursday, August 9, 2012

Struggling in America - Becca K.

When I was 9, my entire world was stripped from me. We no longer went to school or church. I couldn’t wear pants, couldn’t watch tv, listen to music, no more Christmas, and I was not to date ever. Any shred of childhood was ripped away at this point for me personally. I loved my parents, and I was young, so I didn’t fight them.

My dad passed away unexpectedly 11 days after I turned 13. I knew that, with our small world crumbling fast, I would have to be the new head of the family as the oldest child. We had no church, no family or friends really, and our extended family was hurt and upset by my family’s religious actions. SO when I say we had no one, I simply mean, without malice, that no one was there for us.

The Amish people came in and did the funeral, gave the eulogy, helped us bury him, cooked the funeral meal, wouldn’t take money from us, but instead gave US money, and for a good while, I had about 20 Amish and Mennonite pen pals as word quickly spread thru the plain people.

My mom slept all day long. She didn’t get up much. To be honest, quite a few of these years are a blur to me, but I remember being super poor. My mom refused to go out and get a job, instead relying on charity and mine and my brother’s social security.

We lived on the “better side” of our town, but it was still a ghetto (if you don’t believe me, my brothers and I were chased by hoodlums several times and I was almost kidnapped twice). I cleaned the house. I also homeschooled myself, and my brothers. I made our food, and I made our life look good from the outside looking in, so that if you had the chance to peek in our lives, all looked well. Whether it was true or not, I was responsible for the well being of our family. I had absolutely no idea that this was not my place.

I had no idea that as a 13 year old child, I didn’t have to carry this weight on my shoulders. When and how the bills were to be paid, where the money was going to come from, try and not get sick, and when I was sick to not tell my mom. Having to ask the doctor how much the stitches were each before he sutured me up was more painful than the wound being torn open in the first place.

My brothers and I paid for as much as we could with the little jobs we got here and there, mostly mowing lawns. My mother took the firm stance from the Bible that she was now a widow and was to be cared for by people that truly loved Jesus.  I protected and shielded my brothers from as much as I could and let them have as much freedom and childhood as they could possibly have.

It went without saying that we did not ask for extras. We didn’t even ask for things we needed. There was a Christmas, several really, that I went without much of a gift so my brothers could have the better gifts. My whole focus was on protecting them and having them remain as unscathed as possible. Looking back, I feel I probably did more harm than good. I was extremely embarrassed by how little we had. I had to make my own clothes, and wasn’t allowed to dress like a normal teenager, so it was doubly embarrassing to feel like a freak, and also be dirt poor.

This isn’t to say me and my brothers didn’t have fun. It was a much simpler fun and it was made up on our own. My brothers and I were extremely close growing up- we fought terribly, but we always, ALWAYS, had each other’s backs.  Once we had legit jobs- 17/18, it went without saying that we helped our mom as much as possible with our money. It was told to us that she didn’t deserve the life she got and it wasn’t her fault and that we were biblically required to take care of her and support her.

My brothers and I have good hearts. We love our mom. Still. We didn’t question this, and the few times we did, we were met with emotional and spiritual abuse in the form of 3 hour “devotions”, which consisted of her preaching to us about how God was going to provide and take care of her.

We saw cool things happen. A box with an entire Thanksgiving dinner (needing to be cooked and baked of course) was left on our front door step. I became well seasoned at shopping for clothes for my brothers from clearance racks and Goodwill.

I don’t think if you asked my brothers or I if we were deprived, that we would say yes, but I know the hardships we endured left a lasting impression on us. Different things affected us differently. All of us have very foggy recollections of this dark period in our lives. We are not angry at our mom, or relative, or even well meaning church elders. It’s over, and wasting emotional energy on the past is not conducive to anyone.  I am trying to make sure my children do not feel the weight of that responsibility too early. I didn’t have a childhood, so I pray I will get to enjoy theirs with them. So far, so good. Very good.

1 comment:

  1. I also really desire that my kids have an actual childhood, instead of having to grow up far too soon. Thank you for sharing your story.