All That You Never Asked: a message to my stepmother

You were young and unsuspecting, and eager to leave your mother’s home.

My father wrote you love poems and promised to make you queen of his castle.

He needed to replace my mother you see, and you never asked why.

You cut my hair short to match your own and we never mentioned Her.

It was convenient after all, to have your husband’s ex-wife cast aside and out of our lives.

She had left home, gone away, my father told you.
You never asked why.

Then one day she showed up, eyes full of grief. Shaking in my father’s presence, she handed me a birthday gift. I had just turned five.

Jealous and crying, you looked to my father to console you while I opened the gift.

I was scared to ask my mother to stay. Terrified to say how much I’ve missed her.

From my room at night, I heard you and my father fighting, loud and violent.

I heard his rage again and wondered; didn’t you think my mother feared him too?
But you never asked.

My sister acted out in anger and I regressed. You spanked her and changed my wet sheets each morning. You made our lunches and washed our clothing. We called you mother because that is what we were told to do.

Just like us, you fell in line. I see now that in a way, you were a victim too.

As a teenager, sickened by the lie I was made to live, I hung poetry on the wall, and searched for affection. I wondered who I was and how much longer I must hate the part of me that was Her.

In my silence, you never asked why. I understand now that you were afraid to know.

My father wrote your story, just like he wrote mine. But the truth never left me, my mother’s love, crumbling beneath the force of my father. I remember it.

I remember all that you did not want to know, all that you never asked.

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12 thoughts on “All That You Never Asked: a message to my stepmother

  1. How frustrating for you. I hope your stepmother apologizes to you and your mom. I wonder at all I did not ask about my own daughter. I have since apologized to her for my lack of understanding. I truly had no clue about her dad’s part in her behavior. He seemed so beyond & above the behavior that could cause my daughter to act out. There were so many issues to deal with, so much healing needed before the confusion, dysfunction, and lies could be sorted out. How horrible that we fail kids — anyone’s kids, and other adults who are victims. It is important to speak out about turning away. I feel certain my daughter would not have succumbed to so much nor endured so much had others not aided her dad even just by acting as if it was all okay to erase me to act as if my daughter’s crying out for help, which became more and more obvious the more/longer she was with her dad, was okay.

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    1. Sometimes the other adults in the child’s life don’t know any better. They actually believe the alienating parent is being the good parent. They are ignorant to this parent’s alienating efforts. Occassionally, perhaps, the other adults do understand what is happening but think it’s okay or simply easier to let it happen (or they feel unequipped to change it). And in your case, you had no frame of reference for a parent alienating another parent-so you couldn’t immediately recognize what was happening. I have had to let go of my frustration and disappointment at these adults. But that doesn’t mean I won’t educate others who it not too late to help. It was not until I could let go of my past and any resentments that I could move forward into attempting to help others through writing and speaking.

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  2. I am struck by how much empathy you have for each member of your family. I don’t think that is common among those who have experienced PAS. Having that much empathy must make it more painful to think about what happened. I suspect that not having empathy may be a means that others use to protect themselves from the pain.
    You have talked about writing a book and how the book may result in pain for those mentioned by name and in more estrangement. I can understand how that occur. I have considered writing a book too and don’t know if I ever will but if I did, I probably would use a pseudonym.
    I’m not sure but I think that your motive for writing a book would be to share your perspective on the experience of PAS in the interest of benefiting others. If my assumption is correct, then your publication of a book could be helpful to others no matter whether you use real names or not. Revealing their identities and your own identity might not be of any additional benefit.
    If you ask yourself the question of, “How does the use of real names in this book help me accomplish my goal?”, that might help you figure out what you want to do regarding real names vs. fictional names.
    Speaking for myself, if I did write a book, I don’t think that it would be improved by my using my real name. And I think it would be way too upsetting for a number of people if I used real names. There would be no real benefit if I did that.
    You express yourself very well. I think that you could write an excellent book on this subject.

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    1. Thank you for your thoughtful comment. Yes, it is my intention to shed light on PAS through my story. I also view it from a literary point, and want it to be an engaging read. This blog is actually a big piece of the memoir. If you see the chapters within this blog, those will make up the majority of the book. I am not using real names and will likely consider using a pseudonym as the author (or possibly my first and middle name only). I am hoping an agent can advise me on this. My empathy was hard won. I did not always have empathy, but have done years of reading (including the book radical forgiveness), meditating, personal growth, etc that has led me to a place of empathy, forgiveness, and even purpose in the whole mess. This will be part of the story as well (the present day sections) and hopefully convey that no matter the circumstances, there are choices we can make today that will move us forward and out of pain and regret.

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      1. I don’t think real names are necessary, but I also think that it does not necessarily “hurt” those who are exposed. I think it’s much more harmful to try to cover up and carry on — even for the abuser. One can see how much more sick an abuser often becomes over time (from domestic to dictatorship) — more often than not, the more they get away, the sicker they get. I recommend reading Archbishop Tutu’s book A Fourfold Path to Forgiveness. He explores all these types of dilemmas in depth. He says telling your story is an essential ingredient for true forgiveness. He says you may have to tell it many times.

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  3. Thank you for being brave enough to tell us your side of the story, it certainly throws a different perspective on things as far as I am concerned. I do not think it matters if you use real names or not, if you are telling the truth you have nothing to hide and the only way things will change in the future is if we stand up and speak the truth.I am struggling with my book, I am not sure of my motives and when you are dealing with a Narcissic type personality there will be repercussion’s!!!! Don’t stop writing it does help.

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    1. You’re welcome! I do feel writing this is part of my purpose of having gone through this experinece. To go forward without using my experience/expressing it for some good seems wasteful to me. But in telling my truth, I am also mindful of possible repercussions. My intentions are clear and they do not include trying to inflict harm or revenge, so I will consider this when choosing how to represent myself and others in the story. It is a sticky situation, and I am trusting I will know the right steps to take along the way.

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  4. RE: “But the truth never left me, my mother’s love, crumbling beneath the force of my father…” I can so relate to this! Your writing is both beautifully crafted and beautifully said. Thank you for sharing with us. It gives me hope that one day my children might be free from the abuse and alienation too. xo

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    1. Thank you so much for writing. It brings me joy to hear of parents not giving up! If you are there waiting and whole, somehow, there is surely reason to have hope your children will come back to you.

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