Yesterday, after finishing a document I was reading in preparation for a meeting today, I went on to read the news. My mind was soon enough engrossed in a very sad article of a little two year old girl who was beaten by her mother and stepfather to death. In fact I remember the case from when they had found her body, but yet not identified, they called her baby Grace. The horrors are so terrible that I won’t even attempt to describe it here. But what really cut into my heart was the little girl telling her mum whilst beating her that she loved her. At that point I couldn’t stop crying. It somehow triggered memories of Victoria when she was that age, and later.
Although luckily my own parental skills doesn’t come close to what this girl endured by the hands of her own parents, there are dark spots in my own maternal CV. Times when I didn’t do everything in the best interest of Victoria. Times I did and said terrible things, which she was too young to comprehend. There are two particular events that I still carry with me. One, during a time I was incredibly sad and just wanted to leave everything behind me. Not Victoria of course, but that day after an argument with my ex, I left them both in the centre of a shopping street. I just kept saying I couldn’t do it any longer. I had enough and I was leaving. The sight of Victoria running to me, holding my hand and telling me how much she loved me, just like that little girl, still haunts me. I know now, as I did back then, that my reaction was a cry for help. So I didn’t leave, and the problem was temporary sorted out. Still I was deeply unhappy.
I think Victoria must have felt my unhappiness, even though most of the time I didn’t show it. But it was always there, underneath those smiles and laughs. The happy, go lucky Swedish girl wasn’t really so happy after all.
The other event that I wish I could turn back the time on, was the moment we (my partner and I) had a gone through a terrible argument over some events which turned out to be fraud committed against my partner, resulting in court case, lost house and a relationship in tatters. I have written about this episode before so I won’t do this again, but that evening (having felt what was going on for a long time but not being able to convince my surroundings that my feelings were accurate), rage flew into me. My partner was just looking passively at me, not knowing or wanting to believe my concerns. His reaction, or lack of it, became the last straw. I threw whatever I could find on him, and to finish off it all, I ripped off the head of Victoria’s Barbie that was laying in the midst of the mess I had created.
To me we were all damned, and I felt I might as well add a bit of final damnation on our already cursed family. Victoria, who had not witnessed all of this, as she was in an adjourning room, came out just as I decapitated her Barbie, which turned out to be her most favourite Barbie of them all. Even then with her tears pouring down her round cheeks, I couldn’t find the love in me to comfort her and say it would all be fine. Instead I continued throwing verbal abuse. Eventually I calmed down, and a few days later I finally could prove that I had been right all along when it turned out someone in my partners surroundings had absconded with a large amount of money. But that didn’t settle the score. Two wrongs doesn’t make a right, and my work with making Victoria feel safe again had not even started.
Of course there are other events too, and although I may have gone to great length of extent to bury those deep in memory, I also don’t believe they were that frequent. For most part, Victoria has had a happy and stable childhood, surrounded by people that love and care for her. And perhaps, because as any “good” mother would do, those few times I didn’t act like one, still follows me around like some dark stain of being Victoria’s mum.
After reading the article I dried my tears and went upstairs to my daughter. She woke up, still half a sleep, and sat up in bed. I told her I loved her so much, and gave her a long hug. A hug I desperately didn’t want to let go of. She looked confused at me “Is it time for school?”
“No” I said, “it’s very late and I just wanted to say that I love you loads.”
“I love you too mummy.”
Her words washed over me, healing my guilty soul…if only a little. I continued downstairs, where Reinout was standing in front of the TV with his headphones on listening to 50 Cents. He hardly noticed me when I came downstairs, but when he saw I had been crying he pulled me close to him asking what was the matter. Hesitantly I told him the story I had read and how it had trigger thinking of those events when I hadn’t been a good mother myself. “You are a good mother.” , he said. “And Victoria loves you very much.”
“You really think so?” I asked with both surprise and hope in my voice.
“Yes, she does, very much. Go up to bed, I will be there in a moment.”
I went upstairs, with much lighter steps than the ones that I had come down with.
The love of a child is truly unconditional. That’s what makes them so true, so pure. Somewhere a long the way, when we get knocked about that unconditional love becomes conditional. We love but for something in return. It’s our way of protecting ourselves. But I think deep down, in all of our lonely hearts, that pure, unconditional love is still there. Hidden, protected, by an armour of past events and memories that reminds us of what we have endured. But the unconditional love is still there. It only takes the right key to unlock it.