The bathroom fan was making that familiar obnoxious sound it makes when the light switch is flipped on.
"Does it always make that noise?" The tall man said.
How should I answer? I can't lie. What happens if I say yes? Will I get in trouble? I didn't know what the right answer was supposed to be. "Sometimes," I said.
He wrote a note down on the paper on his clipboard.
I felt like I was going to get in trouble. My mom was at work. I'm assuming my dad was too since he wasn't there but I don't remember much more from that day. Later my mom questioned me about the inspection, what the tall man said, how I answered. I remember a sense of feeling like I had answered wrongly, ruined things and our rent was not going to be paid.
We were on welfare, which included some form of rental assistance. When DPSS is paying your rent, an inspector is regularly sent to assess your home and make sure everything is in proper working order. That's how I understood it anyway. I remember my aunts would come before the inspector's scheduled appointment to help my mom make our home spotless. I mean *spotless*!!!
Like many children in the 80's, my brother and I were latch-key kids. Walking home after school to an empty house, alone and unsupervised, while our parents worked. My childhood changed drastically during the recession of that decade. I started my education at a private school, driven to and from school by my stay-at-home-mom. By third grade I was attending and walking to and from the local public school. The recession provided my dad with a string of lay-offs to add to his resume.
Why my parents thought it was ok to have their very shy, young daughter, allow a stranger, a grown man, into our home, while alone, and give him a tour, I have no idea. I had to show him every room in the house, bedrooms, kitchen, restrooms. I knew he wouldn't look in the closets though. Which was good because that's where I threw all my stuff when I 'cleaned' my room.
This incident from my childhood immediately came to mind when the investigator showed up at my door last week. I wasn't sure why. Why it came to mind and WHY I was going through something so similar as an adult. Were my children destined to relive my own painful childhood moments?
No! My childhood is not theirs! What happened last week--my children didn't have to experience alone, like I did. They didn't have to take on any adult responsibility, like I did.
I am the mom now and I am the adult in charge, facing adult situations. My children haven't been left to figure out challenges that children shouldn't have to figure out. I am there for them.
I answered the door last week and closed it behind me to shield my children. Oldest was standing next to me, but he's a grown man and I still handled it. It stops with me. My children aren't growing up with awkward memories of coming home after school alone. I'm not putting my fears on them. I'm not forcing them to face situations that I am too embarrassed or ashamed to face myself. I have not left them unprotected.
I am doing something different. I have changed their future and my past. My past is not being repeated negatively, but being used positively to shape the way I parent, which shapes the childhood my kids have.
I am learning from my parents choices and how it affected me as a child. I am applying those lessons forward. I refuse to blindly repeat past mistakes. I am learning from them. I am free and so are my children. I am not a victim of my past, destined to never escape, repeating negative cycles and perpetrating the same fears and disappointments I experienced as a child, onto my own children. I am paying it all forward, positively.
Having felt rejected--I accept my children. Having felt unloved and insecure--I reassure my children and show them my love. Having felt alone and abandoned--I am there for them and am not going anywhere. Feeling like I had to grow up too fast and take care of myself--I AM the grown up taking care of them.
I am applying these truths to every area of my life. How my parents treated each other, which trickled down to us kids, I am learning from. The good and the bad. My parents had fears and wounds they could never escape from. They unknowingly passed them on to us kids. I see this around me every day, parents, adults, repeating their own parents negative patterns of behavior. I won't do it.
Instead I choose to acknowledge the weaknesses and pray for the grace to make better choices. No, my past is not going to repeat itself for my kids. I am choosing to break the negative cycles and embrace, appreciate and pass down the positive legacies I am still inheriting from my parents. My mom was a woman of faith. Regardless of the hardships she faced or mistakes she made, she kept on believing. So will I...and even better.