Today on Sunday, I got inspired to write to you about my first experience with the ugly part of life. Many people say that real life is full of pretty things and ugly things. To be honest, still with my 42 years I wouldn’t know how to describe real life.
How did everything start? My mom was a single mother. Because of that my grandma moved in with us to help my mom, and we formed this small family of three: my mom, my grandma and me.
For what my mom tells me, I was a very happy kid. I was going to bed in a good mood and would wake up in a good mood, always smiling and happy. People say that in order to take a picture of me crying, they had to pinch me in my arm. Maybe many would think that my mom was exaggerating about always being a happy kid, but it is true, because the same happens to me with my son, always in a good mood. Like mother like son.
After 9 months of the three of us happily living together, the time arrived that my grandma had to go back to her house to continue with her life. Who was going to take care of me? My mom and grandma started to look for someone to watch me. I have been in that role. How do you look for someone that you trust entirely? How do you leave your kid with someone you really don’t know? You know all those questions. Finally, my grandma found the ideal person: 50 years old, lived in front of my grandma’s house, we knew her family. What a blessing to find her, what a peace of mind for my mom, to go to work knowing that someone of trust was in our house watching me.
From what I heard my nanny adored me. She took care of me and enjoyed my company. She was part of the family; she lived with us. Everything was joy and happiness while I was a baby. It was easy to deal with me: you know, hold a baby, feed her, play with her and that’s it. Practically, you control that baby the way you want. But I had to grow, and I was not a baby anymore. I became a toddler, a 3-and-a-half-year old girl that walked on her own, that wanted to be independent and wanted to investigate the world. We all have been there.
A few months later, my mom told me that I started to stutter, that the happy little girl that her daughter was was not there completely; something was different. But what? My mom would ask questions to herself. She started to pay more attention to everything, to read and inform herself, and she found out that many of those things could be normal for a kid that age (4 years old) like communication problems, being shy and starting to change. With all that information, she stayed with a peace of mind. I told you before in a past blog about my mom’s character: she is clear and precise, and I would say she likes things to be perfect. She was not enjoying that her daughter was changing; she was very uncomfortable, and her patience was going away.
My mom tells me that one day she was exhausted of the situation, tired of my stuttering, and it was not just that anymore. It was shocking each time I would try to talk. The happy girl was shy now, and my mom needed a break. My mom called a friend of hers who had a daughter the same age as me and said to her: “I need a favor. I can’t stand this situation. Would you watch my daughter so that way I have some alone time to think?” My mom’s friend said yes, and in a few hours I was there with them. When we arrived to that house, my mom started telling her friend the way I had been communicating and how she felt that was not normal. My mom’s friend could see how I almost didn’t talk and that even she could not recognize the happy girl from a few months back. When my mom came from her alone time and picked me up, her friend said: “My friend, your daughter has been communicating very well, but as soon as you arrived, she went back to her communication issue.” For my mom to hear that must not have been nice. Supposedly, your kids should feel comfortable and free with their parents. So what was going on? Why is that I decided not to communicate with my own mother? What happened to my happy world? Well what happened has a name: Hilda.
While my mom worked, Hilda watched me, controlled me and scared me. I remember very clearly how she tied me to a chair to feed me. I vaguely remember that she forced the food into my mouth with screams. Something I remember clearly is that one time I was in the bathroom, sitting on the toilet, and Hilda decided to pass the vacuum cleaner in the bathroom, knowing that I was afraid of that. So when I saw that happening, I stopped holding myself and I let go and fell into the toilet. All those things were happening and they would make me cry. And to whom would I turn? When my mom arrived home and would ask me where I went and with whom I played, I had to lie. I couldn’t tell her what Hilda was doing to me because she threatened me. She would say that because my mom had to work I always had to stay with her, and that she would treat me even worse. That’s why I was so afraid and stuttered when my mom would ask me something.
How can I remember that much? Because to be able to heal I had to confront that part of my life. And confronting that is in a way to live it all over again. It has made me understand why I am the adult I am and why I have the problems that I have. It is unbelievable to discover how our childhoods have such an important role in how we develop as adults, students, friends and partners. In order to confront those painful truths, I think you have to be ready because you never know what else you can find. In my case, I think the farthest it got was just emotional abuse.
When my mom’s friend told her that I was normal all day until my mom arrived, that was my mom’s red flag. The next day, my mom took the day off from work and looked for the help of a children’s therapist to see what the hell was going on. From what I heard, the therapist made me draw, talk and play, and with my drawings they discovered that I was being emotionally and physically abused by someone who I loved and trusted. Immediately my mom knew who it was, Hilda.
Something I admire of my mom is her way of handling things. She didn’t lose it. She went home and said to Hilda: “Immediately, leave the house. I don’t want to see you again in my whole life. Do not dare to approach my daughter, and if I see you again, I will call the police.” Hilda left, and I felt alone. Despite the abuse, Hilda was with me for a long time. Imagine changing the world for a little girl in that way, but it was the only way. My mom couldn’t understand how she missed it. I imagine that many questions came to her head. My mom later went to neighbors and asked them, “Did you see anything suspicious?” and they answered, “Yes, we saw abuse. Awful yelling and she was not allowed to play, but we didn’t say anything because we thought that lady was the grandmother.”
This was 1979, when I think people would not get involved in someone else’s problems, when yelling at a kid was part of good parenting and when children’s therapy was not very common. When Hilda was taken out from the family structure, things didn’t improve automatically, probably the opposite just at the beginning because my mom found herself in a new situation. The psychologist told my mom that I was not going to be a normal person; for a kid to go through that kind of trauma, my mom should not have her hopes up, and they didn’t know for how long exactly all this abuse took time. There was a possibility that I would show some of the symptoms of an autistic child, but the most important thing now was for me to be surrounded by people that truly loved me and be family. The therapist advised my mom to quit her job so she could dedicate time to me one hundred percent.
With that information, my mom made the decision to go back to live with her family, her mother and her sister, which she was not very happy about because that meant less independence for her. But in this case, I was first, and she knew he had to sacrifice so we moved. There I started a new era, a new family structure. Three women raising me, one of the best times of my life. I don’t want to make the blog that long. Let’s have in mind that the subject about autism was not that well known back then. I think when people would hear that, they would be scared.
In the future I will continue with my child story, how I started living in this new family: the obstacles and the triumphs, the happiness and the sadness. Don’t forget that what a kid feels is very different from what an adult can understand. Let’s be careful with our words that we tell our kids; words are very powerful. Let’s make a conscious effort to say something positive to the future of our society. Instead of ending up fixing adults, let’s make sure we raise the kids from today with love and understanding. There are people that were fortunate that they never had a Hilda while others had one. Whatever your Hilda is for you, remember that you can heal and forgive, not for them but for yourself.