This interview is so sad because of Hannah’s mother’s choices–to indulge an abusive father (and probably husband) rather than protect her children. It’s good to read that Hannah has emerged into a momma bear for her own children and hasn’t perpetuated the cycle of abuse and denial.
What’s your age?
Are both of your parents living?
What’s their marital status?
How many siblings do you have?
How often do you see your parents?
Once a month.
What are some of the ways you spend time together?
On a scale of one to ten, how much to you enjoy their company?
Dad- 1; Mom- 7; together- 2
Does spending time with them as a unit effect the dynamic of the visit?
What are some of the positive aspects of your relationship with them?
Dad- I can think of 6-7 times between the ages of 4 and 18 that my Dad invited me to spend time with him in some sort of recreation (a 4-wheeler ride, hitting golf balls, riding a four wheeler, going on a snowmobile ride, and riding with him in his logging truck) and I have still good memories of those times. When I was very little, I was proud of my father because he was strong and handsome. I knew people were afraid of him, and I think that made me secure. I thought he knew everything and could do anything.
Mom- I believe my Mother did the best she could do in her circumstances to raise me to have more opportunities and a life different than the one she led. Most importantly, she prayed for me and with me. She read her Bible everyday and still does. It’s like she’s in a different world in Psalms. She made heaven real to me, and I’m convinced we will both spend eternity there. She showed me how to serve others and the importance of sharing the things we have with those don’t have. She taught me how to work hard, but was also willing to sit up late at night and type a research paper for me in high school when I really should have been typing it. She scrimped and saved so that I could take piano lessons for 13 years. She made me an intricate part of her life, being together everyday either going walking, driving, cross-country skiing, or huckleberry picking. She made big deals out of birthdays and every holiday during the year. We had entirely green meals on St. Patrick’s Day. We ate red food on Valentine’s. Christmas cookies came in about a dozen different shapes and flavors every year. I was the envy of my friends when it came to Mothers. Looking back, however, I see that there isn’t much middle ground in her parenting. It was either outstandingly sacrificial or desperately wretched. The positive aspects of our relationship are things that I try to keep going with my own children- spending time with them, playing games, reading books, taking walks, riding bikes. I think lasting relationships can be built on these things.
What are some of the negative aspects of your relationship with them?
Dad- My relationship with my father has prompted me to search my own soul, to find characteristics which would prove to be destructive, and to try and change those things about myself. I have come to realize that my father is a psychopath. Once, when reading a psychology text regarding psychopaths, I felt like I was reading of my childhood. If my dad was home, there was tension. Everyone walked on eggshells trying not to set him off. He was abusive to everyone in some way. I was probably the one he directed his anger and abuse at least of all. Like I mentioned above, when I was very young, I felt safe around him because he could protect me from danger, but by the time I was in 6th – 7th grade, I realized he was most dangerous person around me. I developed hatred for him that would last for two decades.
Mom- The negative part of my mother’s parenting is that she has always refused to leave my father. I used to accept her staying with him and even leaving me with him at times. I thought she probably feared for her life and the life of all us kids. But, when I had a child of my own, my feelings completely changed. I protect my son like a bear. I can’t imagine staying with a man like my father. I’ve seen what happens and I don’t trust that people change. Becoming a mother has driven a wedge between me and my own mother. At moments, when I think her own life was too hard, she would leave for days or weeks at a time. I try to dwell on the ways in which she provided for me and encouraged me, but at the end of the day she’s still with my father and I feel like she’s chosen him over her children and grandchildren.
Which is weightier, the positive or negative?
Mom- positive without my father near, negative if he is
If negative, what are some of the aspects that contributed to a fractured relationship as adults?
My relationship with my father will never be good. I have finally come to a point in my life in which I genuinely care about the state of his soul, but I do not want to be around him.
What do you wish they had done differently?
Where do I start?
How well do you relate to your siblings?
I get along well with my brother, we have very similar views of our childhoods and have dealt with them similarly. We talk freely about the issues we have with our parents. It is difficult for me to relate to my sister. She was abused more than my brother and I, and yet she spends more time with my parents than we do. She told me once that she didn’t think Mom knew what was going on when she was younger, about the abuse, and that she didn’t think she could have survived if she thought Mom knew. I’m not sure I agree with her; I think Mom knows what is going on but chooses to live in a reality of her own making.
Do you think they share your same reflections on your parents?
I think my brother does, I am not sure what my sister honestly thinks of them.
Can you share a defining moment with your parents?
Dad- finding out he had abused my sister.
Mom- her reaction to finding out that I found out my Dad had abused my sister. I asked her why she ever left me alone with him, and she said it was ok, she knew he would never do that to me because I had a strong personality. That changed my relationship with her forever. I never again felt protected, but out on my own.
Has anything happened in recent history with them to change how you felt about them as a child?
My mother used to come and visit and stay with me separately. However, about 4 years ago, she quit visiting without my father. Our relationship has not been as good since that time.
My father has mellowed with time. He doesn’t get as angry as he used to, and he is trying to make amends for many of the wrongs he imposed on the family. But, I can’t trust him. We will never have a close relationship.
I have often thought about what life would be like with different parents. Would I enjoy going home for the holidays and having my parents come to visit? What would it be like to be close to my parents, to treasure their advice, desire to spend time with them? I will never know those answers, but I hope that as my own children grow up, I can be the kind of parent I’ve longed to have.