Figuring Out My Mother Was an Abuser (Part 2 of 3)

Please read part 1, first:
And consider the Content Note I put on part 1 as well, as it applies to all 3 parts as a whole.

My dad moved back to the same state as me — Maryland — when I was around 10 years old. He then could visit my brother and me more often. We saw him every weekend from Saturday afternoon or so through Sunday night. We slept in his apartment one night a week. My mom would never do any of the driving — my dad would drive roughly 6 hours every weekend in order to make this happen. Three of the hours were him alone in the car, and the other 3 hours every weekend included us kids. And for us, it was great. Car rides with my dad were so much fun. Car rides with my mother were torture. Going shopping for new clothes with my mom was also torture. My mom taking me to doctors appointments… pretty much anything with her was torture, okay? Going shopping with my dad was so much better. So that’s how things began to play out. My mom didn’t want to do chores like shopping for her kids’ clothes, and my brother and I didn’t want to have to spend hours alone with the woman, and my dad completely understood this, and was happy to spend his limited time visiting with us doing those kinds of tasks. It didn’t matter that my mom was the parent who wasn’t even employed and had the time to do this stuff during the weekdays while he was at his full time job. My dad didn’t complain. He was happy to be spending time with us. And as I’ll address in a later post, he was also a bit trapped in my mom’s sticky web of abuse.

I remember starting to watch ABC Family re-runs of the TV series 7th Heaven on a regular basis at my grandmother’s house after middle school, around when I was 12-years-old. I’d also record the new episodes that aired later at night during the prime time slot on the real channel (the WB) on my grandmother’s VCR. (By the way, for my K-12 school experience, I would leave school in the afternoons on a bus to my grandmother’s house. I went to my grandmother’s after school, every day.) I’d watch that ep the following afternoon, since I usually would be back home at my mom’s in the evenings.

I must’ve been 13 when I saw season 8 episode 9 the day after it aired. I’m not 100% sure it was that exact episode, but age 13 is about right for what I recall, and

This episode ended with a promo from Childhelp USA saying “If you need help or information call Childhelp USA, National Child Abuse Hotline, 1-800-4-A-CHILD.” And also showed its website at

I remember sitting alone in my grandmother’s living room, finishing a 7th Heaven episode, and taking note of a phone number for some child abuse hotline. It was probably this one. I remember thinking long and hard about what my mom was doing on a regular basis, and if it was bad enough to count as abuse. I remember considering the fact that what was happening wasn’t really anything compared to the horrific story told in the episode I’d just seen; compared to everything I’d ever heard abuse to be. Cigarette burns and bruises on your arms, or even broken bones. My mother’s brand of abuse wasn’t physical enough, and it certainly wasn’t sexual. It wasn’t even perpetrated by my father, as all abuse supposedly was committed by men. Neglect could be something a mother could do, but abuse? What my mom did probably didn’t count. My mom did too many things right. She said she loved me and my brother. We were always clothed and fed. What I was considering potentially abuse was only my mom yelling at me and my brother a lot. Wasn’t that all it was? I wanted to call the hotline. I really did. I remember picking up the phone, and dialing most of the numbers. I may have dialed them all before quickly hanging up. But I did, ultimately, hang up. I didn’t want to risk saying that I thought my mom might be abusive only to be told my mom wasn’t actually abusive. I couldn’t risk that invalidation. I also was terrified that my grandmother might pick up the phone to make a call and hear me on that call. And then she might tell my mother. And I couldn’t have my mother find out I was accusing her of abuse! She’d be so mad. And that fear — that fear of what my mother might do to punish me for such a betrayal — stopped me from calling the hotline. I wasn’t sure it even was abuse, anyway.

But I wouldn’t have started to dial at all if I didn’t know it was abuse, would I? I must’ve already figured it out, at that point. Deep down, in my subconscious… I must have.

That hotline stuff all happened quite a few months after a particularly memorable Friday night when I got my first period and then chose to wait till the Saturday night, when I was safe and at my dad’s apartment, specifically far away from my mom, to show one of my parents my underwear. Of course, this was because I was worried it might not be my period. It is an embarrassing tale, and I’ll spare you some of the details, but the basic gist is that I was basically worried that the hot pink gel pen cap I’d accidentally swallowed that same week was the reason my underwear had a pinkish/reddish small tinge at first, and I didn’t want to risk my mom finding out about that, because I knew she’d be so mad at me for chewing on that pen cap. (The cap was especially smooth, and I never wanted it to go down my throat, and I’m not quite sure how it happened, but it did.) I was worried I might be seeping red dye out of my body, rather than menstrual fluid. And so my story of my first period is one where I purposely didn’t tell my mom, instead waiting till I was alone with my dad. Everyone else tells their mother. I probably would’ve told my mother had it not been for the unfortunate coincidence of the timing of the gel pen cap fiasco. I could’ve just told her, because despite her faults as a mother, I knew she had teen-sized menstrual pads on a shelf somewhere in her bedroom, just waiting for this day. Despite her abuse, she did plenty of things “right” too. But for the sake of my story here, the salient issue is that I was worried something was potentially wrong with my health, yet my 12-almost-13-year-old self didn’t feel safe about confiding the whole truth in my mother. So I didn’t say anything to her at all.

Thinking about it now, I hardly believe it, because what was I even so afraid of? I was living in this constant state of fear of “getting in trouble”, or her “getting mad”, but… but she wasn’t going to physically hurt me. I wasn’t in fear for my physical well being. I was in fear of what she’d do to psychologically torment me. A minor thing where it was probably just my period anyway, where I’d be able to talk to my dad about it soon enough — within roughly 24 hours of me discovering my discolored underwear — was not worth the risk of another outburst of my mother’s emotional abuse.

When I was in 8th grade (around age 13 or 14) I remember missing the school bus by accident on two separate mornings.

On the first occasion my mom yelled at me so much, so angry at my mistake, that she spent quite a bit of time berating me, and I ended up getting to school slightly late. I couldn’t get to my homeroom quite in time before the bell rung, even though I was running, desperate not to be tardy. I was so upset after my mother’s verbal abuse that morning, and on top of that, she had made me, a student who tried my best to follow all rules, be late. That pushed me over the edge. I started crying, so upset with my mom. I couldn’t stop thinking, “What kind of mother makes them late for school by yelling at them for half an hour?” The drive was only 5 minutes. She could’ve scolded me while driving, but no! And my teacher saw me heading toward the classroom, only a few seconds late, clearly trying to be on time. She sympathetically shot me a smile while I hastily tried to wipe away my tears so maybe the other kids, who’d all have to see me walk in late, wouldn’t notice.

On the second occasion, my mother was trying to sleep, and I had to wake her up for the ride. Remember, she was a stay-at-home mother with no job, no reason she couldn’t just sleep all day later. It should not have been the extreme inconvenience she acted like it was. She shooed me out of her bedroom to go back to sleep. She was not willing to help me out. I missed all of first period, and then second. I kept interrupting her sleep, desperate to get to school, but cautiously worried about upsetting the dragon at the same time. She was clearly angry at me and essentially unwilling to spend the 10 minutes total to take me to school. I tried to tell her I had a quiz I didn’t want to miss in third period because if I missed it I’d have to find a way to make it up later. I begged her to get out of bed. She got me to third period in time for me to start the quiz late, and as I handed my teacher the note with the legal excuse, the lie my mother had written & signed her name to which claimed I was late due to illness, he read it and then told me, sincerely, that he hoped I was feeling better. I muttered sarcastically that I wasn’t sick, hoping, wishing, he’d ask for details. Desperate for an excuse to tell someone that my mother was at fault, not me. I think I probably muttered it too quietly to be heard, though. I think I probably wasn’t brave enough yet to truly say anything.

I remember the next year, in 9th grade (around age 14 or 15) my mother’s abuse had escalated quite a bit. It’s difficult to explain how she managed to unintentionally scratch the back of my hand/my wrist while yelling at me, but her fits of rage did result in this on multiple occasions, drawing a tiny bit of blood. Not that many occasions, but probably between 3 and 5 times total. I say “unintentionally” because… because to purposely scratch someone with your fingernail… it was just so different than what my mom was doing. She was probably angrily shaking her hands which she’d harshly shaped into claws? Some kind of arm/hand wild and violent movement, being all intimidating with her body, getting too close to me during her yelling… and she wouldn’t even notice that she’d touched me, I don’t think.

One time, she gave me one of these scratches before school in the morning, and it kind of hurt for a few hours, mainly when I touched it, so finally in third period I asked my Earth Science teacher for a band-aid and showed him the cut on my hand as a sort of visual explanation for why I needed it. He said something like, “Yikes, did your cat scratch you?” I said, “No, my mom. Before school this morning.” He reacted… awkwardly, clearly unsure what to say, and gave me my band-aid. I wished, again so desperately, to be able to tell one of my teachers, any one of them, exactly what my mother did to me. How horrible she was. But I didn’t. That was the furthest I’d go.

Please read part 3 now, too: It concludes this particular little series of posts.

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