Thursday, April 12, 2012

Family - Missing What You Never Had

I didn't have a traditional upbringing; the kind where a child is raised by his or her parents from birth to majority. Today's traditional upbringing usually means a child raised by either their mother, alone, or a mother and step-father, but I didn't have that one, either. My parents divorced on my 2nd birthday. My father took me from my mother a month after my 4th birthday. My step-mother left me and my brother a month after my 13th birthday (exactly 9 years to the day after she and my dad took us from our mother.)

That's when any semblance of a traditional upbringing ended for me. Between the time of my 13th birthday and the day I turned 18 I moved some 19 times living with different relatives or family friends. I lived with my father's sister and her husband, my grandparents and my father's girlfriend. Despite begging my mother to rescue me from the physical abuse I was suffering at the hands of my father, she never allowed me to live with her.

When I read people's comments on social media about their moms or dads and how much they loved them despite the challenges they faced, I feel a sense of jealousy or envy because I don't know what that feels like. Yes, I know what it feels like to love your parents, but to know the hardships they struggled through while their parents continued to maintain a home for them, that part I do not know. I don't know the sense of being loved by my parents so much that they sacrificed in order to provide a home for me, to keep me fed and clothed. Those are the things I envy in the lives of my cousins, friends and perfect strangers when they post on Facebook or Twitter.

When I mention to people that I had 5 brothers and 5 sisters, they automatically comment on the closeness of large families, because that's the norm most people are aware of. They don't know many families like mine where the majority of my brothers and sisters aren't related to one another; where my father had 6 legitimate children with 3 different wives, where 4 of those children were raised by their mothers while two were raised by other relatives. Or my mother's 2 children from her first marriage being raised by she and their step-father while her 2 youngest children from her 2nd marriage were raised by an aunt or a succession of relatives/friends. People just don't understand that type of childhood.

Yes, I have a unique view of family because I have 3 sides to my family that I love and cherish: my mother's, my father's and my step-mother's. And I count my "foster" mom's immediate family as well though she was my Dad's girlfriend and never legally related to me.

My experience makes me love and cherish the idea of family to the nth degree though I've never truly experienced that type of family myself. People say you can't miss what you never had; those people are wrong.