Fear Series—Broken Childhoods

Childhood fears


When I was a child growing up in an unsettled family life, my most dreaded fears would come upon me at night while I tried to sleep. I’d worry and wonder about if when I awoke in the morning, my father would still be there.

Many times I awoke to find my fears had come true. My dad had once again been evicted by my mother’s angry tantrums.

I didn’t understand why all of my friends had two loving parents and did so many fun things together as a family. I wasn’t used to that. My father was often living on his own. My consolation was that my father would pick me and my younger siblings up on Sunday mornings from his parent’s house where we spent most of our weekends until I was almost fourteen years old.

He’d take us to his favorite greasy spoon restaurant for bacon and eggs. We’d listen to the radio blaring in the car as my dad cranked it louder and pretended to sing along with his own version of the lyrics while we’d laugh. But all the while, inside my head, I was always focused on what came after breakfast.

My heart ached every time I kissed my dad good-bye. After he’d take us home I’d always be thinking that I wouldn’t get to see him again until the following weekend. From those thoughts would invite other thoughts to circle my head, such as trying to figure out ways to make my parents get back together, or more about ways to get my mother to allow my father to come back home.

I didn’t understand that it wasn’t my job to fix things because many times throughout the years, after my father dropped us off and my siblings jumped out of the car in a hurry to run out and play with their friends, I’d sit a bit longer with my dad, and then he’d usually ask me if I could help him to get Mommy to take him back.

My heart felt heavy as I took in his sadness, and I wanted to help make him feel better, even though I knew my meddling would undoubtedly get me another slap in the face.

But I summoned my courage and would try once again to approach my mother with curiosity and still, with hopefulness, to no avail.

I remember the mantra I used to chant in my head to overcome my anxieties every time I’d think of scary or uncomfortable situations, “Nothing bad will ever happen to me or my family.”

Things couldn’t have been further from those words of my chant. Many unhappy things happened to my family. But as long as I’d direct my mind to my positive mantra, I felt that in some superstitious sort of way, I could keep them at bay.


D.G. Kaye ©April 2015

23 thoughts on “Fear Series—Broken Childhoods

  1. Your childhood story is sad, yet your telling it encourages others to persevere while healing your own wounds. (Just now I’m reading Louise DeSalvo’s Writing as a Way of Healing.) Through recent counseling session I have discovered that my father’s anger was rooted in fear, a revelation to me, but so true. Cheers for today, Debby.


    1. Thanks Marian. When I wrote Conflicted Hearts, it was also a discovery of figuring out what it was that made my mother tick. Nobody is angry, mean or evil without a deeper cause within them; with the exception of a mental illness, which of course can still have some bearing on inner issues.
      I learned a lot about my mother after writing my first book, which has given me so much insight for the sequel I am currently writing to that first book. 🙂


  2. Nothing sadder than a helpless child facing parental chaos and irrationality. Anger is the hardest. You make me feel each pang of grief. And I love the unconscious use of mantra, and how it always helps. “All shall be well, and all shall be well, and all manner of thing shall be well.” Julian of Norwich


    1. Thanks Elaine. I didn’t used to like to talk about my childhood and thought I’d write about it in my book and if someone wanted to read it, they could take something from it. Through reading the open hearts of so many wonderful writers, such as yourself, and the many I’ve befriended, I realized that it is important to share these stories so others can take something from how a child’s mind works while living in anguish. At a very young age I always tried to overcome dark thoughts by believing in some beacon of light that things could always get better. I didn’t want to live on the dark side, and I have maintained this practice through all of my life and hurdles. ‘We get what we focus on’, so let’s try and keep it positive. ❤


  3. Oh Deb, so much of your childhood mirrors my own.. Though my parents didn’t divorce until I had left home.. the fights the arguments. And I was always trying to be peace maker.. or referee..
    So my heart goes out to you and all children who have to endure this kind of separation.. Its heartbreaking.. And leaves its lasting legacies .. Big Hugs.. xxx Sue ❤


    1. I think it’s important that people know, this is not normal, or acceptable behavior. I know you and I have led parallel lives in many ways, and it makes me sad that you can relate. Peace to you my friend. ❤


  4. I love that even as a child you somehow intuitively knew a mantra, a self-soothing of sorts might help. Perhaps that still helps you maintain a positive attitude somehow even though you now know your childhood mantra wasn’t the right one. I also think people who, as children, tried to keep peace and fix everything do perhaps grow up to be compassionate adults who eventually learn to fix only those things in their power to change. Strong post.


    1. Thanks for reading Debby. Yes, as a child, chanting, “Nothing will ever happen to my family”, obviously was juvenile, but helped me at the time. I’ve moved on to deeper mantras which still help me keep things in perspective when the tides roll in. 🙂


  5. Beautifully worded yet so heartbreaking, Deb. I have no doubt that now you know that those ‘happy’ families with 2 parents were likely not 100% happy behind closed doors. I think you are helping many people with this thoughtful fear series.


    1. Thanks for your feedback Christy. And yes, the grass always looks greener on the other side; especially for children. I thought I may start writing more about the effect emotional turmoil can have on children. Of course, not everyone reads our books, so I thought I may share some stories here occasionally for others to take something from.


  6. That painful motherless child space within so many of us…that sad, brooding place that longs to love but somehow believes that love offered is never enough. You write beautifully for the broken child in each of us, revealing the eternal spirit that carries us forward toward healing and wholeness, despite the overwhelming odds. I am grateful for your courage.


  7. All families have good and bad stuff dear D.G… But at the end, the good things prevail and if they don´t, we might even create good memories, I guess…
    By the way, the mantra: “Nothing bad will ever happen to me or my family.” is beautiful and truly speak out loud about you as a beautiful human being!.
    Sending love and best wishes. Aquileana 😀


  8. impressive and emotional, Debby… as adults, we’re all the “result” of the relationship we had (or not!) with our parents during our childhood and pre-adolescence… most of the kids do feel “guilty” whenever they see their parents unhappy or after their divorce… it’s hard, painful, and sometimes impossible to become a balanced and harmonious adult, if our parents haven’t been able to build strong foundations… there’s a French expression: on ne guérit jamais de son enfance… – one never heals/recovers of his/her childhood…


    1. Thanks for reading Mel. Yes, we certainly are a product of our environments, and only the lucky overcome. I love the French term. Thanks for sharing that. ❤


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