My daughter has been asking me questions about her childhood. She wants to know how I remember her. She wants more information about the day-cares she was in.
Talking to her, and those memories, have evoked many feelings in me. Feelings of shame, anger, anxiety, and worry.
I still remember the first day I left her with a care-giver. She was crying, and reaching out for me as I had to walk away. It was heart-wrenching. She was four.
As I had to walk away. And in that statement I look back and wonder - did I have to?
I did, at the time, I was struggling with depression, and I was not happy. Not happy as a stay home mom once the children were in school.
And working did help me. It did help me fight the depression.
At least for a while.
And I thought, at the time, that was better for my children. Better for them to have a mom with better mental health. To have a mom that wasn't always going to bed with a migraine, or crying, or hiding in the basement. That is what I thought. It was better for them.
But in that day-care situation, which was a mom at home with her own children and a couple of others like my daughter, there was a boy that bullied my daughter.
And in the pre-school, at the same time, she was being bullied by a few children.
Twenty years ago I thought that this was how it was. This is what children have to negotiate.
I did put my foot down with the school when they wanted to place her in Kindergarten with those same children. I insisted she be in another kindergarten or I would pull her from the school. I did win that battle.
It was little consolation.
That summer my day-care giver had to suddenly leave for six weeks because of a family emergency. She suggested another mother at our school. I took both my children there.
It was a night-mare.
She had two very aggressive dogs, which she kept crated when the kids were there. Towards the end of our time with her, one of the dogs bite off her finger. When I dropped the kids off one morning she answered with her hand bandaged and obviously on heavy pain medication.
I left my children there.
I. Left. My. Children. There.
I didn't feel I had a choice. I was a computer programmer on a deadline.
What was I thinking?
Clearly, I wasn't.
This same house had a swimming pool. My son told me one day that when he and his sister were in the pool the care-giver went into the house and left them unguarded in the pool Another girl, who bullied my daughter, pushed my daughter under the water and held her there.
When I heard this I called the care-giver and insisted that the children NEVER be in the pool without her being there. Still, I continued to take them there.
I didn't feel I had a choice.
Finally the time came to an end, and they returned to the previous situation. However, later that year I was again left without care for my children.
A previous teacher at the school was able to take them.
Her son bullied my daughter, one day holding her hand in a pot of hot soup.
Her husband had a bad temper.
And then my daughter also talked about a friend down the street where she would often go and play. This friend had two older brothers that used to 'tease' and 'bully' the girls.
And then school began, and my daughter was in a class with a myriad of bullies. We struggled, we met with parents, we met with the teacher.
Finally, finally after grade six, we left. We left because my daughter insisted that she wasn't going back.
She was smarter than I was. By tons.
At home? At home I fed them well, loved them, kept them safe from too much television, kept them away from the malls during the Christmas hype.
But still, shit happened. It happened under the watch of others. It happened and I didn't know, or if I did know, I tried to work with it, to change it.
I feel so responsible and ashamed.
My husband reminded me that under my mother's watch, a stay-at-home mom, there was bullying between my siblings.
It doesn't make me feel better.
To my thirty-seven year old self I want to say I understand and I know you did the best you could at the time. I also want to say "What were you thinking?"
To my twenty-five year old daughter I want to say how sorry I am for all of it. For all of the times I should have acted sooner and didn't.
To my twenty-nine year old son I want to say that I should have spent more time with you, drawing at the kitchen table, or talking to you, instead of hiding in the basement when I first got home from work. You were only two, and I should have been there.
I should have been there. I should have been more vigilant.
But I wasn't.
And I have to live with that.
Yes, it is important for me to re-visit the past.
But, I don't have to live there.