My daughter was born on October 22, 2020, at 12:40 p.m.

The photo below is of her.

My parents have never seen this picture.

They may never.

Infant daughter

Photo by author

Even if I hadn’t had this baby at the time of the COVID-19 pandemic, no one would have been hanging out in the waiting room to see her regardless. No two sets of grandparents playfully fighting for who gets to hold her first. No coos and baby talk and cell phones capturing hundreds of photos.

My husband’s parents both died years ago and my parents, very much alive, are dead to me.

Blood is thicker than water.

I can’t tell you how many times that aphorism has been quoted at me as if a few words from a stranger could shame me into mending anything.

Blood may be thicker than water, but water was there for me when blood wasn’t.

I was raised like everyone I know to “honor thy father and thy mother.”

I’ve read, “The eye that mocks a father and scorns to obey a mother will be picked out by the ravens of the valley and eaten by the vultures.” (Proverbs 30:17).

I know what’s expected of me as a daughter: to forgive my parents for their trespasses and to believe they did the best they could.

I’ve even been told, “You’ll understand what it was like for your parents when you become a parent yourself.”

I’ve been a parent for over six years now. This baby is my third. Becoming a parent didn’t help me become sympathetic to my parents. Instead, it showed me why I shouldn’t let them be in my children’s lives at all.

One of my earliest memories of my mother is of her slapping me across the face. I was three or four. I don’t know what I did, but obviously the wrong thing. I started crying, and she told me she was sorry and hugged me.

That was one of the only times, in my entire life, I ever remember her apologizing for hurting me.

As a child, I told myself that all I needed to do was grow up.

If I just grow up, no one will beat me anymore. If I just grow up, I won’t have to live with the constant fear and anxiety of when I might next be hurt. If I just grow up and get out, I’ll be okay.

That was my childhood mantra. Just grow up.

My mother often pulled my hair. My mother often kicked me. My mother often spanked or smacked me with her hand or objects like a tennis racket, and, once, a metal mop. She once beat the length of both of my arms so that my forearms were bruised and I could barely hold a pencil for a week. But my mother always left bruises in places I could cover.

I never knew what might set her off. It could be something as innocuous as forgetting to load the dishwasher with the forks pointing up. Her only tell was the way the left side of her lip would curl up. When I saw that, I might try to run, but it was usually too late.

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