My daughter seems surprised that I know all the words to "I am Woman" by Helen Reddy. I just wish I had found that part of my soul that knows how to stand up for our rights earlier. I know everything in our lives happens for a reason. Sometimes it's beyond our control. Sometimes there are consequences to choices. I know that only I can give someone the power to intimidate me.
All the trauma involved in Julia & I surviving her arrival was so overwhelming, that at the time it shook my self confidence. I questioned my own abilities as mother because she was so frail after she was born. It didn't help that an in-law was there waiting to underwhelm my confidence. I foolishly assumed she knew whereof she spoke. Had I been informed that she had the same mental illness that afflicted my brother, I might have questioned more, and relied more on my own knowledge. It's like I forgot that I had a respectable intellect and for several years had raised other people's children at their behest. I provided daycare for young children, and they and their parents had faith in my abilities.
Why in God's name, did I assume these sister-in-laws knew more than me? I have always been open to learning. My IQ was just 1 point shy of mensa in 1966, when it was tested. Since then, I have tested anywhere from 140's to 170's, a decent average. I was raised by a mother that always made me feel cherished. With her as role model, I should never have doubted myself.
My in-laws are gifted at tearing down self-esteem. After all, they managed to convince Ralph he was DISABLED, and made excuses for his behaviors instead of holding him accountable for his actions. Repercussions for their ill-advised raising are being felt to this day. One of his distant relatives said he had grown up more since we were married than he had his first 29 years. We had only been married a few years then. Don't think I am unaware of Ralph's developmental limitations, but he is capable of so much more than his environment fostered.
I wonder how much more he would have gained if he had had Ken's counsel a few more years. He had such patience with Ralph. Ken was my daddy, where Paul Hile was my FATHER, very different personalities and approaches to parenting. I was so lucky growing up with two dads. I wish I had appreciated it more when they were still here.
Juli and I are still recovering from the pain inflicted by Ralph's family. By the time Juli came along as the last Carter grandchild, his mother probably thought we wouldn't be capable of parenting. She acted as if she were trying to correct Juli in our place, to the point where it damaged Juli's ability to be close like she was with my mother. Juli still loves and respects her Grandmother Carter, but too many wedges have been driven between them by the family. His sisters blame me because Juli has sought pro's against them. Her own words, "Mom, I could always tell they didn't like or respect you. "
It didn't help that when I was struggling with caring for Momma, and trying to manage two households, their idea of help was to call in welfare and to remind Juli that if she didn't put away her toys, welfare would take her away. One of them told her not to cry when she was six and my mother, the light of her life, died, or else mommy might go nutso (or equivalent thereof). Juli was so afraid, she didn't cry for a year.
I take comfort that they will have to answer for their actions someday, as will we all when we stand before the Lord. I know I am far from innocent. I have apologized to Juli for not being stronger. I still fight feelings of intimidation. I haven't forgotten Mike holding a knife at my throat during one of his psychotic breaks. I also haven't forgotten that Ralph is the only one of his Carter siblings that DOESN'T have a firearm of some type in the house. We sold or gave away all of them. We acknowledge our problems and feel wiser not owning guns. I find it questionable that someone who is schizophrenic can not only own a gun, but bluster about it to intimidate me.
I know Julia is an adult now at 18. But I still try to live by example to her. I was so worried about not marrying a violent man like my dad, I never considered checking out my husband's family and their mental status. It was difficult growing up with Dad & Mike being schizophrenic. Perhaps I should have known that at least two out of three sister-in-laws were schizophrenic? I love Ralph now, as much as when I married him, but in spite of his human failings, not because of what he does or doesn't do. He has struggled against his development in learning to be a good husband and father. It would have helped had he not been raised as the center of his universe and been taught accountability. He doesn't realize that they did this because they did not believe in him and all that he could be capable of. I realize those were different times. I still think they are accountable for his training.
"I am woman, hear me roar, in numbers too big to ignore, I know too much to go back and pretend. Because I've heard it all before and I've been down there on the floor, NO ONE'S EVER GONNA' KEEP ME DOWN AGAIN!
Oh, yes, I am wise, but it's wisdom born of pain. Oh, yes, I've paid the price, but look how much I've gained. If I have to, I can do anything. I AM STRONG. I AM INVINCIBLE, I AM WOMAN....
You can bend but never break me, 'cause it only serves to make me, more determined to achieve my final goal, I'll come back even stronger, not a novice any longer, 'cause you've deepened the conviction in my soul. Oh, yes, I am wise, but it's wisdom born of pain. Oh, yes, I've paid the price, but look how much I've gained. If I have to, I can do anything. I AM STRONG. I AM INVINCIBLE, I AM WOMAN...."
There is another verse, but you get the point. I am embracing my inner Helen Reddy!