This piece is part of a series I write occasionally called Childhood Memories where I recall a memory in story form. These pieces are short, to the point, and piercing as I process memories of emotional abuse, neglect, and fear.
So many things drove my rebellion as a child. My acts were the desperate cries of a terrified child.
Maybe it was the poverty from which I came and lack of nice things – maybe I just wanted to do something daring to see if I was good enough to do it.
Or maybe I wanted to commit an offense against someone or something else so I wasn’t the only victim.
I don’t remember the things I took, I don’t even remember my age – maybe 9, 10? I was young considering the thought out and decisive crime.
Nonetheless, I was caught behind the store and the managers took me into the back office and called my father. I can only assume what I took was minimal, that my age, and perhaps the environment of a small town in the 80s played a part in no police report; they simply turned me over to my dad.
He was so mad. So mad he was completely silent. This was his thing, the silent treatment.
I could never please him, but I cherished his attention regardless of the tone. For me, love hurt sometimes so I was used to it.
He had walked to get me (small town) and he walked me home in silence. I don’t remember him saying anything to me upon arrival home, he simply put me in my room and proceeded to ignore me for what felt like the rest of the day.
Is this how parents are supposed to handle discipline? I felt like such a horrible child – unworthy and unloved.
I just wanted him to talk to me, I just wanted him to come up to my room and be angry and then hug me and tell me it was okay.
But he didn’t.
So I went to the top of the stairs, thinking how best to get him to notice me – and I threw myself forward. Head over feet, my fall stopped at the landing against the wall. I was dizzy, my arms stinging from carpet burns on the way down, holding my breathe, tears burning behind my eyes, and I listened for movement.
He didn’t come running to ensure my safety. He didn’t care. Unfazed, my dad didn’t move from the couch. He continued to ignore me.
So I walked back up the stairs with tears streaming down my face and I sat alone in my room and cried.
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That’s heartbreaking!! 🙁
Oh my god, Shannon. I also got into shoplifting, through hanging out with the wrong kids when I started at secondary school. Although I never got caught before I stopped it.
But my dad did the ignoring thing, rather than resolve a conversation, especially if it involved criticising him. He’d find an excuse to say he walked away because I was shouting, when the shouting was always a result of insulting/gaslighting things which he said to me.
And I’m sure that I considered throwing myself down the stairs once, too, or similar things. In fact I imagined throwing myself out of the upstairs window for sure. AND I am sure that if I had thrown myself down the stairs, that there would’ve been no reaction to it too. And not even necessarily as a result of ‘silent treatment’. I wrote once about how I accidentally fell off the garage roof once through messing around, and was so lucky not to die or be seriously injured. And my dad had no response when I told him, shaken. He probably just thought I was making it up.
It’s so terrible that you were feeling so bad that you actually overcame your own survival instinct to do that. It’s not an easy thing to do! But I totally relate to the feeling of loneliness and helplessness which you had afterwards. 💙
By the way, I did tune in on Saturday to your interview! It was pretty mind-blowing. Much respect to you! Thanks for doing it :).