Birthdays Were One of the Earliest Signs of Child Abuse in My Home
Sometimes it’s the subtle signs that reveal the corruption underneath the parent-child relationship.
As we talk about our abusive childhood homes, there are certain expectations that remain. People are looking for horror stories. Even those who are trauma-informed often struggle to recognize the true face of childhood abuse because it’s often more subtle than we expect.
That was certainly the case in my home, where birthdays were one of the first (subtle) signs that my mother was an abusive, emotionally immature, and manipulative person.
There were no beatings, no drunken brawls. My mother, a true narcissist until the end, never did any of that. For her, it was a slower and more insidious process. She didn’t need to leave bruises when she could leave a lifetime of emotional scars.
Had the adults around me looked a little more carefully, they would have seen her behaviors escalating. Had anyone bothered to pay real attention, they would have seen the harm that was angled into the way my mother celebrated her children’s birthdays.
Why My Birthdays Were Miserable As a Child
When I think about my first 18 birthdays, it’s with a sense of dread in my belly. Typing this now, I’m struggling with a sense of nausea. I can feel the bile rising in my throat. Is that a normal response? Of course not, but that’s the response that most children of narcissists have any time they think of any major childhood milestone.
Birthdays fall squarely into this category for me.
My mother hated my birthday and made sure it was as miserable as possible most of the time. Now, don’t get me wrong. She could put on a good show, but the day always, always, always, ended up being about her, her feelings, and her misery.
The simplest example of this was in the “rules” she set around my birthday. Yes, you read that correctly. There were “rules” that dictated my birthday. A few of my mother’s birthday rules (just for me) included:
- No celebrations until the time recorded on my birth certificate