The Fight Song of the Tiger Son

My handy dandy suitcase.

My handy dandy suitcase.

Floss, Latin textbook, ratty T-shirt, notebook. As I threw these things into my suitcase, I wondered whether I would survive that day.

I ran out of my house. Wearing shorts and a thin jacket, the cold cut at me even though the sun still shone. Shouldering my backpack and holding my suitcase in both arms, I felt like a fictional character, running away from home. Except this time everything was real.

I made it a few blocks down until I saw her car approach me. Contemplating whether or not to make a run for it, I knew I wouldn’t escape – no mile time was fast enough to outpace an angry mother. Her beige car pulled up alongside the road, and she lowered her window to yell at me.

“Get back in the house, now!” my mother screamed.

Minutes before, she had threatened to kill me. Inside my house, she had started one of her angry outbursts, but it felt more dangerous than all of the other ones. In that moment, standing on the sidewalk of the road, heart racing, I defied my mother for the first time.

“No!” I yelled back, and I continued to walk down the street.

She hollered at me to walk back again. I kept going. A light-blue minivan passed us, and I wondered what they thought of me and my mother. I wondered if they knew that this was a defining moment in my life, that there would forever be a “before January 10″ and an “after January 10.”

Several minutes passed before she said, “Look at the neighbors! You’re making me and your father look like horrible parents!”

That’s because you are one, I thought. Not my father, of course, but my mother – all of the abuse, the manipulation, the lies. Memories of how she hurt my grandparents, my brother, and my father all bubbled up. I kept walking, and the movement warmed me.

“I’m sorry,” she said, for the first time in my life. Two firsts in one day. It was weird, to hear my mother apologize to me. I always associated apologies with people who were humble, people who knew that pride never won in the end. Maybe she was just saying it so that I would stop embarrassing her, but I knew it was a step in the right direction.

Eventually, I walked back to my house. I didn’t let her talk to me though. She went back to work, and I called my best friend to pick me up. That night, I stayed at my friend’s house – I was too afraid of what my mom might do to me after our little episode. But I knew that I had gained an upper hand, that I had shown her I wasn’t afraid to leave for good.

The next morning, I sent my mom two texts. In the first one I told her that if I were to come home, she could never yell at me, throw things at me, or be abusive at all for any reason. In the second, I told her that I had several videos of her screaming at me and my brother, and that I would make the videos public if I felt that my life was endangered by her. Even though I only really had one video and this may have been blackmail, I felt that it was the right thing to do.

My friend's adorable, non-abusive cat.

My friend’s adorable, non-abusive cat.

All my life, I’ve dealt with the consequences. How do I make myself feel better after the abuse? How do I recover from the blows, how do I tend to my wounds? How do I pick up the pieces and make myself whole again?

In a few months, I’ll be 18. I could live my entire life cowering from my mom, or I can take a stand now. I have the support of my friends and my family. Heck, if it weren’t for my friend and her family who let me stay with them, I wouldn’t be writing this post.

This isn’t the end though. I know my mom will lash out again. She’ll lose control and go overboard. She already has. My next goal, besides making her respect me, is to get her help for her mental health. It’ll take a long time for her to realize and accept that she has a problem – that all of her anger is unnatural – but I know she needs it.

As much as the insubordinate teenager inside of me hates to admit it, I am thankful for my mother. She’s taught me to battle fiercely for who I am and for what I believe in. From her, I’ve learned the fight song of the tiger son.

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36 Comments

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36 responses to “The Fight Song of the Tiger Son

  1. I’m at lost for words, I really am. In one way, I’m so sorry to hear that you have had to live in an abuse household. In the other, I am absolutely humbled by your bravery and courage for writing such a powerful- yet sad- post.

    I hope you won’t ever have to live with such trauma for the rest of your life.

    Stay strong,

    -Grace

    • Grace, I’ll be off to college (keeping my fingers crossed for it) in the fall so if that works out I’ll have a nice change of environment for awhile. Then I’ll move on and get a job or continue my education, we’ll see… thank you for your support!

  2. Oh my dear God, I was more than a little scared reading halfway through … Courage comes in different forms and your way of standing up to her and making up your mind to do something about it is one of them. You have a good sense of who you are plus what good she’s done for you, along with that courage I believe that you will be fine despite what may come your way. And remember, Thomas, all of your friends are there for you.

    • You’re right, there isn’t just one way to show courage. I have thought about my relationship with my mother a lot (as you can tell from reading my blog) and I feel like I’ve learned a lot from doing so. Thanks for always being here for me, Devina.

  3. I think you did the right thing – Now you have a stage to start from, you can now start to really establish a good relationship with your mother…I hope everything goes well for you :)

    • Yeah, at this point I only wish I had done it sooner – though, in the end, I suppose the timing was just right. I’m hoping so as well, thank you for your support!

  4. samssocial

    Another poweful post. Stay strong, you are amazing x

  5. I ‘liked’ this post because of the depth of your words. You stood up for yourself. You have been abused. And yet, you recognize the suffering of your mom. You are exactly the kind of person to initiate positive change in our world. You know when you get on an airplane and they go through the safety instructions. And you are instructed to put your own oxygen on before you help someone else. You protecting your self and being strong for you will be the best way, in the end, to help your mom. Grace, courage and strength to you Thomas.

    • I know it’ll take a long time to heal the wounds my mom has made – more so for herself than for me – but I’m hoping that by showing her she can’t just hurt the people closest to her, she’ll learn to find healthy ways to release her emotions or get help in doing so. Thank you for your wise words.

  6. Elaine

    You… you are just… Thomas, you’ve reduced me to shivers of awe, awe and sympathy all at once. That you can be so strong – that you have suffered this for so long and that you still have the courage and the heart to say you are thankful for your trials despite them – is absolutely incredible to me. Your questions here are profound; the answers you’re in the process of discovering have made you wise beyond your years and to see that all written out here so carefully, so beautifully… just, /wow/. Powerful beyond words. I am truly blessed to know someone as dynamic and inspiring as you, and I can’t wait to see where your passion for life takes you, my dear.

    Any condolences or hope I could offer seem so fragile when compared to what you’re finding in yourself, but I offer them nonetheless. If anyone deserves the best in life, it’s you, and I wish it upon you with everything in me. I know you’ll find it.

    • Elaine, thank you so much for your beautiful words – I always love reading them, in any form. I’m grateful to know such a great writer and to have read her work, as well as to have had her read mine. I read your latest blog post and I am wishing you the best as well… congratulations on figuring out your path!

  7. ^ what everyone else said, plus:
    What you are enduring now is so difficult. Don’t believe for a minute that it’s not the hardest thing you’ve ever dealt with. A parent treating their child this way goes against what we all believe to be “right”.
    But you will overcome. You (and hopefully your brother) will rise above this and use it to push you up and forward, not down and out.
    I haven’t followed enough of your posts to know if you have a religious background, so sorry if this offends…but I will pray for you and your mom, for peace and strength to overcome life’s challenges.
    Keep writing. This may be the thing that helps you, her, and other people like you both, through more hard times.

    • I agree – I always felt like some of my peers took the unconditional love of their parents for granted, and what I’ve been through has made me appreciate respectful relationships so much more. It still amazes me every time I see two parents speaking to one another without screaming. But it’s been a learning experience and I cannot express how grateful I am for my friends (in real life and online) and for the resources I’ve been given to deal with it all.

      I am an agnostic atheist, but I appreciate your prayers! I believe that we should all believe in what we want to believe, as long as it does not bring harm to any individual. Thank you for your words of support.

  8. I am a lost for words so I am just going to leave a short message: You are truly inspiring.

  9. Thomas, you are so brave. I’m so sorry you’ve had to go through everything with your mother, or are even still going through, if that’s the case. Parents are supposed to provide love and support, and to think that your mother has given you the opposite seems so unfair. What you did to stand up to her before was an amazing thing to be capable of doing. I don’t know if you’ll “stand up” to her fully in the future, but I hope whatever you do works out okay. I don’t know how to say how much your post affected me without seeming flippant, but I honestly hope – even if it seems strange coming from a random commenter – that everything turns out happily for you, including your relationship with your mother.

    • Of course you don’t sound flippant, Mary, it warms my heart to know I have support coming you – you’re definitely more than a “random commenter.” I’m still fighting and doing my best, so I’m hoping that a happy ending – even if it’s not perfect – will come some day.

  10. Wow.
    I don’t think I could say any more than the commentors before me have. This is incredible. YOU are incredible.

    There’s a lot of courage in you and it’s so inspiring. I can only imagine the will power and the bravery it must have taken to actually return home, after you made the huge decision to run away. I’m so glad you have such friends to stick by you.

    And, as someone above said, it’s incredible and wonderful that you can still appreciate your mother for the good that she has done you, as well as be able to see that she’s damaged.

    God, you’re incredibly brave and I’m actually moved to tears. I’m sure your strength and bravery will always pay off.

    • I’m not going to lie, it did feel exhilarating/horrifying to run away, then come back, then run away, then come back. For most of the time I kept thinking that I shouldn’t over-think it, that what I was doing was completely necessary and would pay off in the end. Interestingly enough the first thing I did after getting to my friend’s house (after sobbing in her bathroom for a few minutes) was research laws about running away… always have to maintain that practicality.

      Anyway, thank you so much for your support as always! I’m glad and extremely thankful for my friends too, I don’t even want to consider what it would’ve been like for me if they hadn’t been at my side.

  11. Adrian

    Echoing a lot of the commenters here, I’m simply lost for words here. The writing is so vivid, that I could not even begin to imagine what it’s like to be in your position. Stay strong, and keep having the courage continue your endeavours.

  12. Very courageous and very right. As everyone else mentioned, your writing here was brilliant, although that’s not really the point. I wish you the best of luck with your mother.

  13. Wow, this literally brought tears. Your strength is so encouraging. It truly is. I came from a little different house hold. My dad was just overly strict and likes to throw things and often times break things. I love my dad, but his temper can be very scary. It’ll be good for you to go to college and be a part of that different scene. I know it helped me a whole lot. I’m about to graduate college now. I do miss my dad. We don’t talk much now at all. He had always been so distant it seemed except when he was yelling at us.
    Anyway, I’ll be thinking of you while the year goes on. I really enjoy following your blog. Your words are very powerful.

    • I can relate to that, and I’m really glad that going to college has helped you. Maybe, hopefully, your relationship will ameliorate with time. Thanks for reading and commenting!

  14. Serena

    I think you made the right decision. I hope you are okay and those goals work out!

  15. Thomas, you are a seriously brave young man. I don’t mean that in the condescending way that adults talk down to teenagers (I am close to ten years older than you), but sincerely. Not only did you stand up to your mother, but had the courage to share your experiences with the world. I have never had this courage with my own mother or with myself. Though her abuse has been mental and never physical, I feel like I can somehow relate. Through your strength and your purity as a human being, those of us who don’t naturally have that courage can stand up for what we believe to be right, and that is really something important. I admire you as a person and know life will be great for you once the universe gives you the chance to thrive. You are an amazing person. Please find the strength to keep your head up until the world brings better days. It’s not all darkness, I promise.

    • Lulie, most of my mother’s abuse (especially in recent years) has been mental as well. I know that there are so many children out there who are way younger than me suffering from abuse of much worse magnitude, which is one of the reasons why I know I have to get through my ordeal so that I can go out and help them. Thank you for your words of reassurance, and though I’ve only followed your blog and your book reviews for a short period time, I think that you’re stronger than you make yourself out to be too.

  16. Andreas

    Another wonderful post, Thomas. I have always admired your courage. You’re a brave man. Sometimes, I do have the same feelings about what I feel about my mom. She lashed out at me and all that, but as time passes, I’ve learned that I have to embrace it and live with it. :) And now that I’m in college and I do live alone now (in Singapore), I’m starting to feel my freedom and all the best for your college. :) Which college did you get admitted to?

    P.S: Stay strong. Always. :)

    • Andreas, it’s wonderful that you’re feeling the embrace of freedom while you’re attending college. I haven’t attained acceptance anywhere yet (I have to wait until late March/early April) but I’ll probably publish a post when I get notice!

      Thank you for your support, always.

  17. Pingback: Process | the quiet voice

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