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.
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.