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.

E.B. Johnson | NLPMP | Editor
10 min readNov 13, 2023


Photo by Annie Spratt on Unsplash

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