Heater, Mother of Lance

Bad days

Two minutes before leaving for school Leta announces that she needs to pack both of her jump ropes but she can’t find the red one. I am unaware that she owns more than one jump rope and have no idea where this phantom red one is or where to start looking. As she starts to freak out about it I have to step into another room and lean against the wall. A long breath in, my hand gripping the back of my neck.

When I emerge I tell her I’m sorry we can’t find it now, but we can definitely look for it this afternoon. She frowns as I take her by the hand and head toward the door.

My hands used to be that small and jump ropes just as important.

My therapist makes me talk about my childhood and how afraid I was of my father. Very afraid, I tell her. My childhood was one long army crawl around his temper. I wasn’t necessarily taught to avoid conflict, but I see a potential confrontation and hide as if it might give me a disease. Because someone might get shoved up against a wall and have a finger wagged a little too close to their face.

I don’t remember him hurting my brother. I only remember the look on my mother’s face.

She calls this trauma. I shrug because I don’t have a horror story to tell. No sexual or physical abuse, no nights spent sleeping in the backseat of the car because my parents couldn’t afford the rent. Maybe it was trauma, I guess, and then the lights on the cop car start flashing red and blue behind me. By the time I roll down the window to hand over my license I’ve covered my shirt in tears. He asks me if I’m okay, and I nod so that he will go back to his car and write the ticket, so that I can be alone and shake my head endlessly.

Before I get home I pull over on a quiet street and turn off the playlist that had yesterday made me happy. The silence fills every inch of the car. I want it to swallow me whole.

My ten-year-old self is a specter who hovers just above my shoulder. I don’t know what the hell she wants or is waiting for.

  • Rebecca from Texas

    2012/02/09 at 2:06 pm

    my heart is aching for you…

  • librarianjess

    2012/02/09 at 2:05 pm

    this is so powerful. I wish I could give you a hug.

  • TheSkyIsOverrated

    2012/02/10 at 10:26 pm

    She is whispering to you that she made it… and so shall you. A thousand ((Hugs)) to you Heather.

  • Hezzer

    2012/02/09 at 2:19 pm


  • shelley75

    2012/02/09 at 2:19 pm

    My heart hurts for you. Please please get better <3

  • Trina

    2012/02/09 at 2:20 pm

    tomorrow will be better

    tomorrow will be better

    tomorrow will be better

    tomorrow will be better

    -I repeat this to myself when i’m having one of those days…which lately is more often than not.

    damn you February and vitamin D deficiency .

  • Daddy Scratches

    2012/02/09 at 2:21 pm

    Trauma is relative. Therapy taught me that, too. I used to joke that I was a basket case because of my childhood … but I didn’t mean it, because, hell, I hadn’t been physically or sexually abused.

    The more therapy I went through, the more I realized I really am a basket case because of my childhood. The worst part of your childhood is as significantly bad to you as the worst part of anyone else’s childhood is to them. I still have trouble owning that … but I suppose the alternative is denial. I’m not down with denial. You know, unless one of my parents is actually in the same room as me.

    Hang in there, Heather.

  • edenland

    2012/02/09 at 2:26 pm

    For you, right now this second.


  • NHMaman

    2012/02/09 at 2:29 pm

    I’m so sorry you’re there with that specter.

    My husband had a belittling, alcoholic mother and learned to lie, to be passive, to avoid conflict, to distrust, and to avoid deep, meaningful communication. Often when conflict erupts or during challenging times, a 10-year-old specter lives in our house, too. Therapy has helped him see that coping skills that worked okay as a child are disastrous within our marriage, but it’s a work in progress.

    We don’t have to live with that scared ten-year-old forever, thankfully. I hope your bad days become fewer and fewer.

  • Squeetthang

    2012/02/09 at 2:30 pm

    I can’t say much of anything different than everyone above has said…but just know this is one more person thinking about you…

  • suesheeme

    2012/02/09 at 2:35 pm

    Bad days, during the hardest of times. Please hang in there. I think about you every day, and am rooting for you.

  • kristanhoffman

    2012/02/09 at 2:35 pm


    The good thing about bad days is that they end. Every morning is new. Actually, every second is new. Perhaps you can embrace that. Fill up whatever moments you need to with your grief and pain and trauma, and then let them go. You don’t have to carry them with you. The past does not dictate the future.

  • cynsmith

    2012/02/09 at 2:36 pm

    and another person holding you in prayer.

  • Ghanimatrix

    2012/02/09 at 2:37 pm

    Heather – I rarely comment, but this post made me want to. I was in therapy for years and years before I finally realized that I had spent my whole life being the person my parents told me I was. Even though I thought I wasn’t. One day I finally opened my eyes and I could see the outline of that person who was never good enough and who was mean and who was selfish and I could finally see that I had been crammed the real me into that pigeonhole for my whole damn life. I was in therapy to fight my way out of there and it turns out I was never there to begin with. That 10 year old girl was my real self, before all the bullshit that made me believe I was someone else. What a sense of relief it was – that horrible person I thought I was and I thought I had to fix was never me. It was kind of like being reborn. Maybe that 10 year old girl just wants to tell you who she really is.

  • Katja

    2012/02/09 at 2:42 pm

    you’ll get there, you’ll get there, you’ll get there.
    keep going, keep going, keep going.

    sending you love & light & warmth from munich. even though it’s 6 degrees over here and i have very little warmth to spare. 😉

  • ladygray

    2012/02/09 at 2:43 pm

    sending you love Heather. heaps and heaps of love. “…tomorrow is another day” (Scarlett O’Hara got a lot of things wrong, but about that she was absolutely right.)


  • Missybeme

    2012/02/09 at 2:50 pm

    I have no great words of wisdom to share. Only to say thank you for sharing your thoughts and experiences with us…”the internet”.
    There were days, not long ago, I did was in that same dark grey place. You can get through it and you will get through it.

  • lisdom

    2012/02/09 at 2:55 pm

    Like you, I didn’t get around to admitting some of the shittier parts of my childhood until recently. In therapy, it felt good to tell somebody that I hated being poor, that I resented having to babysit my brothers all the time because mom and dad were barely paying the bills, and that I’m kind of pissed off that my parents never really encouraged me to excel academically or participate in any kind of extra-curricular activities like piano, dance, sports, etc.

    I think many of us get so hung up on not being able to admit things about our childhood b/c we get sucked into the trap that others had it worse, that our story isn’t unique, that we know our parents aren’t/weren’t perfect. And while all those things may be true, we all still experienced our childhoods on our own and felt the intense feelings that we didn’t know what to do with.

  • Meranath

    2012/02/09 at 2:58 pm

    Breathe, babe. Remember to breathe.

    Also, as I was scrolling through I misread and thought someone said they wished you 6 orgies.

  • Plano Mom

    2012/02/09 at 3:00 pm

    For me it was different. No clue it was going to happen, and then BAM. I’m the first kid in school with divorced parents. My Dad never raised his voice, my Mom always appeared to be happy. But apparently they weren’t. Wish I could tell you about your 10-year-old, but mine just wanted to be noticed and loved for who she was, as if she was amazing even in her imperfection.

  • ohmissyme

    2012/02/09 at 3:02 pm

    your heartache breaks my heart. i’ve been a follower for years now and the news of what is going on with you and hubs just blew me away. you are so strong and you have so much going for you. i know this is a troubling time, but don’t forget that you have people, who even though you’ve never met, feel for you and are here to support you.

    thank you for continuing to post, sharing your stories and being real and open. you are the type of blogger i aspire to be.

    thank you.
    xoxo missy.

  • kageysea

    2012/02/09 at 3:05 pm

    I too was deathly afraid of my Father. I still am. He is a very quiet man and I have always found him hard to approach and not knowing what to say. No abuse or anything but it has affected my adulthood nonetheless.
    Now I find myself a parent. I have a 17 year old special needs (brain injured) girl and I have been standing around the corner holding my head in my hands just like you described. Too many times to count. I was taught a few years ago by a gentle soul how to deal with her tirades and behaviors and not get upset. It was a very hard change for me and continues to be hard to enact. It has worked though. I was taught to not show emotion when dealing with a fit or tirade. Just make a decision and say it once and then enact that decision. If the fit continues there are consequences. No emotion but enact the consequence. It took some time a couple of weeks of hell, but it changed miraculously. She came to expect how I was going to react just as she had expected me to freak out and yell. Until I yelled she wasn’t comfortable. Now she knows I mean what I say and if she doesn’t obey there will be a consequence. No threat, there will be a consequence. It seemed very harsh to me at first. It was really hard but she has learned to deal with things herself instead of having me freak out about it and take over her stress. She gets to keep the stress of not finding her ‘jumprope’. I show her tons of love after these things come up. The harsh feeling goes away when I am able to hug her and love her. She knows I love her and that my decisions are just a part of how things work around here.
    I don’t know why I shared that. It was the first thing I thought of after reading your description of your bad day. Good luck. I’m sending good thoughts your way. I hope they help.

  • Indiana Lori

    2012/02/09 at 3:07 pm

    To the 8 year old me who is hiding in the dark by the cold front door, having hid the car keys so her Father, who is busy screaming he’s leaving for good this time at a Mother who should let him go…I hug her tight. I tell her it’s OK, and that in the end, it all works out just fine. As an adult, people can leave, but they can’t abandon her.

    I give her a kiss, let her know her future is filled with light and love, and I tuck her back in bed. And then I parent my children to the best of my ability so that they’ll at least have different stories to tell their therapists.

    Sending you light and love as well.

  • cgeorge1

    2012/02/09 at 3:07 pm

    I am so sorry you are going through all of this. Know that you have the love and support of this complete stranger.

  • full contact knitter

    2012/02/09 at 3:08 pm

    I was never abused sexually or physically. For me, the “army crawl” was around my mother. And it is weird to have someone tell you it’s still considered trauma. My little self is still angry, obstinate, loveable and confused. We’re still getting to know each other.

    After many years of therapy, I’m still trying to wrap my mind around it. I see people, kids and parents no matter the ages, and it’s like being an alien on another planet, here to observe and send back a full report on love and relationships.

    Keep talking, keep thinking, even when it hurts. We’re here for you, a hundred thousand warm hands to gently hold you, hug you, tell you it’s okay, to rub your back or your head, or whatever it is that you want the most, that the ten year old inside wants the most. . Just keep going.

  • Janice

    2012/02/09 at 3:16 pm

    holding space for you….

  • eyemom3

    2012/02/09 at 3:16 pm

    Something I have found helpful, is to think of each day (and sometime each event within a day) as a Grab Bag. You never know what you will be getting, and sometimes you get crap, but there are always more bags to open and some of them are going to be the most awesome things imaginable 🙂 – wishing you and your family nothing but the best

  • RacerDog

    2012/02/09 at 3:21 pm

    ((hugs)) Life is not easy, but it is good. You will get through this too.


  • Coyote

    2012/02/09 at 3:25 pm

    I hid from my dad, too. Because he belittled everything I said, did, felt, thought, believed in or behaved like. Every.little.thing. I’m assuming that’s where I learned that it’s better to hide who I really am, in order to avoid further soul-sucking criticism. I’m also quite gifted at morphing myself into whatever is needed to avoid conflict/confrontation.

    Thank god I was able to parent my own kids with tons of love, respect and appreciation for the incredible individuals they are. Which benefited both them and me.

    And now I’m working on re-parenting myself. Sounds like you are too. Good on ya, Heather. May blessings abound.

  • Aza

    2012/02/09 at 3:26 pm

    I sent you an email with something helpful you can try. Hugs

  • Pixie

    2012/02/09 at 3:26 pm

    I sigh with you. Acknowledge your ten-year-old self that’s hanging around. She might just start to communicate with you….

  • peacegirl

    2012/02/09 at 7:31 pm

    You made a typo! Gurl, you made a mistake and didn’t catch it. Progress? For fuck’s sake I hope so.

  • TucsonPatty

    2012/02/09 at 3:39 pm

    Heather, I am so sorry for your pain.
    I have had such wonderful results with something called EMDR. My counselor says it was invented for PTSD, and it sounds as though it may help you get over some of the trauma.
    I beg your to google it.
    My thoughts are with all of you, always.
    Be well, my friend.

  • ktbkat

    2012/02/09 at 3:43 pm

    Your writing is so powerful, it always has been. That power comes from inside you, hold close to it when everything else is falling down, and you’ll find you are still standing, still going. You are powerful enough to inspire warmth and ache and well-wishes all the way from the east coast.

  • cinrose22

    2012/02/09 at 3:44 pm

    First of all, boy did that post ever hit home. I was in a similar place last year and am still fighting my way out. Can I just tell you to hang on, it will get better? I believe that every experience both big and small have some bearing in who we are today. You are a strong woman and a terrific mom, be kind to yourself. Hugs, love and peace!

    *To Lisdom, when I was reading your post, I had to check to see if I wrote it. Amazing how much it sounded like my life.

  • Natty

    2012/02/09 at 3:49 pm

    Sending you Metta. Sometimes the trauma that you can’t label as an act of violence or a hurtful situation is the most pervasive because you don’t give yourself permission to call it trauma. Give yourself permission.

  • Jan

    2012/02/09 at 3:51 pm

    Been there in many ways, not to take away from the depth and particularity of your own situation. Maybe you need to shut down the blog for a while, and just take time for yourself to heal? This public forum can’t really be that healthy, as much as we care about you.

  • travelmonkey

    2012/02/09 at 4:07 pm

    One day at a time and one hour at a time, and remember to breathe. It will get better and you will have more good days. Keeping you in my thoughts……

  • jeskmom

    2012/02/09 at 4:10 pm

    Thank you for the power of your voice. Mere words on a computer screen should not have the ability huddle us with you in the fetal position of your pain, and yet they do…as far as those words are able. Of course, even though we are here–though so clearly hear you–you live it one foot after another, one ‘take a deep breath and then hope you have the air to take the next one’. But we hear you. And I hope that something is lessened in knowing that we hear and and that we pray (whatever that means for each of us) for a day when you take a step without having to clench your side in pain. I pray that for you.

  • monkeysmom1

    2012/02/09 at 4:18 pm

    You tell that 10 year old that she will accomplish great things. That she will give birth to two beautiful girls, and have a million followers on a thing called the internet, and that people will read her written word for laughter, joy and tears. You tell her to be strong, and that she needs to make it. I’ve been there. Been forced to talk to that 9 year old girl, and then the one at 17, to deal with my parents separating, getting back together, then divorcing 8 years later. (Only to reconcile again! 12 years after that.) I’ve army crawled, around my mother this time, and watched her battle severe mental illness most of my life. And then, today, I hid upstairs, away from my own two beautiful girls, so that I could hide and take deep breaths, exhausted from the daily grind, not wanting them to see it. Perhaps I need to talk to that 9 year old again myself. Thank you for showing us how you make it through the day. I hope it helps you to tell us, I think its helping us more that you know…

  • Meauxzie

    2012/02/09 at 4:21 pm

    You are loved.

  • hugsNpuppies

    2012/02/09 at 4:27 pm

    Meauxzie, you said it best. Pure and simple:

    Heather, You are loved.

  • zchamu

    2012/02/09 at 4:27 pm

    I understand. Hugs.

  • kalala31

    2012/02/09 at 4:39 pm

    just keep swimming..

  • lucidlotus

    2012/02/09 at 4:41 pm

    Oh, my dear. One foot in front of the other.

  • carymsf

    2012/02/09 at 4:51 pm

    I just went through the million-year process of creating an account just to say this:

    Thank you for sharing your stories with us, even when they are incredibly and impossibly difficult. I’m just some random woman out there that you’ve touched with your honesty, and I can’t explain exactly why it matters so much to me to know that I’m not alone in experiencing such. hard. shit. But it does.

    I’m sure you’re feeling really lonely but know that your voice has made me feel less alone.

  • tellmewhynot

    2012/02/09 at 5:11 pm

    I just read this, about making peace with your past. Seems like it might help you too:

    Good luck, Heather. Lots of people pulling for you and Jon and the kids.

  • Sigga Darling

    2012/02/09 at 5:11 pm

    It’s customary to talk shit out over pints at the pub in the UK and there are a few waiting for you here in London on me if you ever visit 🙂 From yet another long time reader who has your back and wants you to know that we care about you.

  • lacollins

    2012/02/09 at 5:14 pm

    My first comment here, though I am a longtime reader: So many more people are with you than you can ever know. Thank you for your writing. Your work is so important to me and to many others. Bless you and Jon and your girls in these dark winter days–my mom always says, spring will come.

  • Funnygirl78

    2012/02/09 at 5:17 pm

    Dear 10 year old Heather: You are a wonderful, worthy and truly lovable little being.

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Heather B. Armstrong

Hi. I’m Heather B. Armstrong, and this used to be called mommy blogging. But then they started calling it Influencer Marketing: hashtag ad, hashtag sponsored, hashtag you know you want me to slap your product on my kid and exploit her for millions and millions of dollars. That’s how this shit works. Now? Well… sit back, buckle up, and enjoy the ride.

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