Throughout this blog, I have spoken about the kids and my hopes and wishes for them, the fears I have and snippets about parenthood and its trials and joys.In this one I want to tell you something about me. I’m not going to tell my life story, it’s long and it’s not what this whole thing is about, even though writing has been good therapy.
I’m a worrier (if that’s even a word, if it’s not, I apologise to all the grammar obsessives) and I obsessively think about things and events. It’s not good at all, because I can focus on events from my past for too long or change my mind on something and make the event seem like a rash decision because of the over rationalising that has confused me.
I know the feeling.
When you meet me, I seem like this calm, secure person where nothing much seems to faze me.
If you look inside me, you will meet one of the most insecure people, always doubting, always worrying and very nervous.
There is no known root to my problem that I have found and as you can imagine I have tried. However, I have found the period of my life when I realised I was very insecure.
I couldn’t have been more than ten, maybe eleven, my mother had a drinking problem at the time and she was good at disguising it, which, to this day, she puts down to the divorce.
At the time we lived in a strict Catholic country and by hook or by crook, their marriages had to work. My mother being of the same ilk, coming from a small village in Italy that to this day is stuck in a time warp.
I find that funny now, because there was always some scandal about this person having cheated with this one, or of couples playing happy families but sleeping in different rooms.
Even though, as a young boy, I was susceptible to their beliefs.
It was a very strange time for me because I knew that my parents divorcing was a good thing for everyone, but the religious influence said that it was wrong.
What cemented my distrust in people was the day the school priest picked me up by the little hair just above where my sideburns would one day grow. How could a man who preached peace and tolerance condone violence? To make it worse, his words stung the most ‘just because you’re a Muslim it doesn’t make you special!’ He whispered to me.
All this because I told a kid on the school bus that he was a spoilt brat.
I couldn’t help myself when I heard those words, my mother was/is Catholic, I was an angry kid with no outlet so I spat on him (not something I had done before or after), which earned me a punch in the stomach.
I once witnessed an Imam punch the spark out of a child because he was fighting.
As you can imagine, I don’t trust anyone in a religious frock.
Don’t get me wrong, I have a lot of respect for all religions, after all I was born Muslim, converted to Catholicism, became a pagan and a part time Wiccan and an atheist. Now? I’m just me.
It’s not nice to have to question yourself because of a choice made for you when you were born.
The divorce became a dirty little secret that no one was allowed to know about.
If asked, I had to tell everyone that dad was away on business, when, in class and church we were thought that the truth would set you free.
I started doubting everything, even the things that I was once sure of. It’s hard when one of your parents asks you to lie and what made things more distressing was when the other told you to tell the truth. I was loyal to both and confused. Who do I listen to, and whose actions would be best for me? I didn’t want anyone to talk about my family or feel sorry for me. In the long run I wish I had just told the truth from the word go!
Add to the fact that I lived in a country where there were a lot of prejudice people at the time and it didn’t help matters that, I was of the nationalities they hated most in that period of time, making my most susceptible years a conflict beyond what I could have imagined.
It was hard enough trying not to blame myself for my parent’s divorce, my mothers drinking, I also had to fight the feelings that there was something wrong with me because of where I came from, my religion and the onset of puberty.
I was a mess.
To show how bad the feelings of prejudice were; I remember my guitar teacher, who was a middle aged man who seemed quite refined, until he opened his mouth. I was about seven and was trying my best, my mum sitting in the room, watching with pride and fascination. However, every time my little finger struck a wrong note he kept looking at my mother, ‘see what I mean? All Arabs are donkeys.’ It didn’t matter that my mother was Italian and I was blonde with blue eyes.
It was continuous throughout the lesson.
In the end my mother piped up, gave him a piece of her mind and we left.
As you can imagine, I never went back.
That was a recurring theme until I was thirteen, that’s when we moved countries.
It was in my last year that I started telling people about my parents. The kids at the school were shocked, but they gathered round me in support, I’m still friends with some of them. I could tell by the look on the adults faces that they saw me as something alien. They gave me all the ‘it’s not your fault’ spiel, but they also kept their distance.
At the same time I managed to get my mother to lose the habit. During a heated argument she wished I had never been born, which really hurt, I wished her dead and ran off for nearly twenty four hours in retaliation. It was summer in a hot country, so I spent the night wondering around the beach, it was a safe country with a crime rate of zero. I returned home because I was tired and hungry. She was worried and suffering of a guilty conscience, so much so that she had cleared out the bottle cabinets and for the first time we talked, about everything, from her feelings and how it made me feel to see her in that state. She never really gave up drinking, but now it’s recreational and not out of depression or self deprecation. I felt like an adult that day, I was being taken seriously and my mother realised, by my actions, that I wasn’t having a childish tantrum, if she continued on that path, one day I might not return home. But there was always that ‘keep it in the family’ thing. If a child couldn’t talk to an outside source, how would they ever learn to trust people and open up?
It’s only when I came to London and met people with similar experiences that I started to feel at ease with myself. Having divorced parents wasn’t a scandal, your origins didn’t matter as long as they liked you. However, the damage had been done, I was a bit of a recluse, not very good at being social and suspicious of people and their motives. It’s still hard to let people in, I don’t want anymore heartache and not many people know this part of me. My partner is one of a handful of people who knows my story.
I am happy with myself and comfortable in my skin, I am who I am through what I’ve experienced and I wouldn’t have it any other way.
I look at my children and realise, had it not been for all this trauma, they wouldn’t be here, my life could have gone a very different way. There are times I see myself in them; the insecurities and belief that they are not good enough, that’s when I’m there to reassure them that they are amazing people, regardless, I try to make them see the best in themselves. Your first teachers are your parents and I’m sure you still have their voices in your head as you try to make a decision. The parent I lived with was full of suspicions and of an old fashioned mentality, which is something I do not want pass on to my children.
Okay, so it ended up being a bit about the children, so I told a white lie. After all, everything that we have experienced gets transmitted as words of wisdom to our children, it might not always go in, but at least we have tried.