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Powerplay at a child’s expense – a game without winners

SMACK. I remember the tingling sensation on my cheek and how astonished I was about the loudness a flat hand landing on my face could cause. Smacking wasn’t one of my mother’s preferred educational measures, but in this particular case she made an exception and put in all her fears and anger and frustration.

My brother and I had been playing hide and seek all afternoon. When we hid in the trunk of my grandpa’s car, we thought it would be fun to wait for the grown-ups to realise we were gone. And see if they would find us.

It wasn’t long until we heard grandma calling for us. My mother and grandpa joined in shortly after. It must have been around dinnertime; we were due for our baths and although the tone in their voices was becoming more and more desperate, we decided to make them look for us a little longer. After what seemed like an eternity to me, we opened the trunk and TAH-DAH, there we were. The smack followed promptly.

I must have been four years old at the time. A few weeks earlier, my mum had stormed into my father’s apartment – where my brother and I were living back then – and accompanied by an enormous row with my father, had dragged us out of the flat. I remember being happy about this sudden change. I had missed my mum. There wasn’t anything in particular I didn’t like about my dad. I just wanted my mummy. Later, much later, I found out that her sudden change of heart to recuperate her children was caused by finding out she was pregnant and my dad not wanting to add another child to this on and off relationship. She must have realised that it was over.

My parents had been divorced when I was about a year old. They just never separated properly. They kept on seeing each other and seeing other people. They moved from Austria (where I was born) to Germany (where my mother’s family is from), to finally settle down in two different cities. The question of where and with whom we should live didn’t seem to have popped up until the day of the row.

In my memories, this is the day when everything changed. We weren’t allowed to see our dad anymore. Everything dad was bad. Mentioning him was only tolerated to bitch about him. And my fraternal grandparents were cut out completely, too. My mum tried to get as much negative information about my dad out of us as possible. Only to use it later in meetings with social services, lawyers and judges. A single night out on his behalf without a babysitter for us was interpreted into child neglect. One smack became aggressive behaviour. And a very permissive education (the same education my mother used to preach) was the basis for an alleged child abuse.

My mother had been sick with worry my father would take us back to Austria. She wouldn’t have had any chance of getting us back quickly enough before judges would decide we had settled in and another move would do us more harm than good. She was fighting with all measures, fair and unfair, to get the official ‘right to determine the place of residence’ for her children. (Note: This was before the Hague Convention about child abduction was in place.)

In the meantime, I went mute. I stopped speaking, as the events took their courses. The more the respective social services workers, lawyers and judges probed into me, the less I spoke. I was five years old.

Finally, my father broke down. With the threat of being officially alleged of child abuse, he agreed to give us up for adoption, into the hands of my stepfather, who is a chapter all by himself and by no means the kind of guy you should entrust with raising your children.

I last saw my father when I was about six years old, in the office of a German social worker. He was crying.

Like so many other children, I was caught in the middle. My mum only fought for herself. As soon as she had us, she got on with her life. My dad gave up the fight. I will never get rid of the feeling that he gave up on me.

Today I have neither contact with my mum nor with my dad. In this fight, there were only losers.

This post is part of the Save One Mammy campaign. Mammy is fighting for the permission to leave Ireland together with her English-born daughter and return home to England; something her estranged husband is trying to prevent by all means and for seemingly egotistical reasons only. Parental alienation, unfair hearings and a clear and blatant violation of every EU citizen’s right to free movement are just a few of the hurdles she has to overcome. Please help us to raise awareness and visit her blog to support her in her campaign.

32 Comments

  1. Oh sweetie, that’s such a sad story… I haven’t seen my dad in about 7 years but completely different reasons and I know how hard it is when you are supposedly an adult, so when you are a child it must be feel so unfair. All of this takes a completely different meaning too when you have children of your own… Thanks for sharing this and hopefully that will help making a difference! xx

  2. Thank you for sharing that. As I have said so many times in the past, it never ceases to amaze me the lengths some people will go to in their vain attempts to out-do, out-smart and wage war on another person.

    Big hugs
    xx

  3. Powerful story. My mum took my brothers and I back to Ireland when my parents separted when I was ten. I don’t think it has been a painful story as yours but i will write about it on my blog soon and as i have been inspired by you and YummyMammy. Thks!

  4. Amazing story, so beautifully told. It’s sad when kids get caught up in adults’ problems.

  5. That was beautifully written – and heartbreaking. Like you said, no winners. I hope things will work out better than this for Save One Mammy and her little un.

  6. I’m really sorry to read your story, but wanted to add my thanks for sharing such a well-written and honest to others’.

  7. You are right, there were only losers. Thank you for writing about this, it was beautifully written and made me stop and think and be thankful about what is right in my life at the moment. x

  8. Rambling Mum says

    What a terrible thing to put your children through, thanks so much for sharing with us.

  9. It’s an incredible sad story.
    You were the same age as my girls are now, and I can’t imagine them going through this.

  10. How terrible for you all, I hope you are in contact with your siblings. I can’t understand why anyone would try and turn their children against the other parent….they do not realise the repercussions it causes for probably the rest of their child’s life. Maybe it’s desperation of losing that child. Maybe your father thought he was doing the best for you all rather than be pulled into the battle? Have you ever tried to get in contact with him?
    Thank you for sharing this painful story.

  11. What a moving post – how awful that you were caught up in the middle of something by people who should have had your happiness as their first priority

    Here’s hoping that YM and Small Child have a happier outcome and everyone can learn from these experiences and stop them happening again in the future

  12. I don’t speak to either of my parents basically because of the way they behaved during their divorce and the snowball effects they caused from there on. Selfish bastards shouldn’t be allowed to have children

  13. Thank you all for your kind words. I am ok now, but it took me almost 30 years to make sense of the events that happened back then. Let’s all support Yummy Mammy in her campaign and pray for it to be over soon.

  14. I am still shivering from reading your story. That is, without doubt, my worst nightmare – both for me and my children. I don’t think it will ever happen but for some reason I still empathise so much when I read of anyone who’s been through this kind of thing.

    How brave you are to put it behind you. I think I would have to try and meet my parents as an adult and try and understand what they thought they were doing. Although no doubt it would just open up old wounds and prolong the agony.

    Hugs xxxxx

  15. Oh god this made me so sad. Parents often never realise the consequences of their actions and how they affect the children and can be so selfish. From what I read, you have turned out to be an amazing person despite your parents failings and I know you are an amazing mother to your little one. This is the way it often goes… we strive to right the wrongs that our parents have done to us. I relate to your pain in so many ways and hope it was cathartic for you to get this out into the ether. Big hugs from me xxx

  16. My parents also split when I was a kid, but I was teenager. And for years they acted like children and I didn’t associate with my side of the family. I found my wife’s side of the family more functional, so I adopted them. I hope you have found a similar situation for yourself.

  17. Having babies ourselves often makes us think back to our own childhood and I think sometimes heals sad memories – I hope perhaps this eases a bit for you…it must have been awful. Sending a bloggy hug x

  18. What a story. Wow, that’s a very touching story. I just want to give you a hug. It’s amazing what life hands us, and we always seem to make it regardless.

    ps. I was born in Austria too!

  19. wow – I salute you for your courage in writing up this story, I’m very moved by it. I find my own too painful to write and could not even imagine doing so until I just read this. I hope it helped you and was cathartic. x

  20. It’s hard to comprehend why parents do to the things they do. Sometimes they just don’t have the right information, sometimes they can’t see anything but themselves in the situation– not their kids. I am so sorry for your past… even though I don’t know you that story touches my heart. I can tell you that time heals all wounds and there is always hope for reuniting with your father and repairing your relationship with your mother.
    Kudos.
    -Sylvia

  21. Pingback: >Two very nice awards ! | Muddling Along Blog

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