Child Exposure.

What is neglect? Can exposing children to video games and T.V shows after the watershed be described as abuse? A discussion at work today has left me thinking. Of course it can.

Grand Theft Auto 5 is a prime example. I have heard children talk incessantly about this game. Not only is it not age-appropriate but it is alarmingly explicit and violent too. It is notorious for it’s high levels of violence, sex and language. It is clearly NOT for children. Yet, children are exposed to games like this daily in the UK and around the world.

Coming from a background in where a man (my father) hated, ridiculed and abused women, it is so disturbing to see that this game shows all women that feature in it in an incredibly derogatory light. Women are seen as prostitutes, strippers, moaning wives, dumb girlfriends. Women are not seen as powerful figures. What kind of a message is been sent out to boys and young men? Rape culture is sadly growing. Surely, treated women as animals and seeing them as below men is not helping that matter.

Children are unfortunately exposed to all sorts. Ranging from violent video games to late night TV shows to even porn. How can a child understand anything like that. This is pure neglect and abhorrent abuse.

We are supposed to be protecting children. They are our future. Why is the world just setting them up to fail? Give these kids back their innocence.

Sometimes we’re so concerned about giving our children what we never had growing up, we neglect to give them what we did have growing up.

Chapter 1, Part 2.

My relationship with my mother and sister only worsened as I grew older. I became as they described a “spoilt, selfish brat”. I was not a rebel; I never acted “wild” although they often accused me of it. I just wasn’t my sister. She was my mother’s confidante, she listened to her. She was quiet, academic, intelligent and dependable. I, on the other hand, was a loose cannon. My mood swings fluctuated daily, I was irritable and wound up by their presence. I seemed to love drama and allowed it to follow me around. At least in some way I was still a part of their life, I wasn’t shut out completely. I just wanted her to notice me.

During these years my father did the unthinkable. He spent all his energy convincing me I was unloved by my mother and sister. He would tell me openly if he heard them criticise or insult me, every day there was something new to tell me. As I walked in from school, he would beckon me to his room to discuss the events of his day and what he had heard. The door would be locked of course.

I didn’t realise the signs but my mother always had deep concerns. In her eyes he showed evidence of abuse very early on.

He always crossed boundaries and saw nothing wrong in doing so. Not just with me but also with my sister. His touch, his kiss, nothing felt right, it was always too affectionate. I always felt uncomfortable and that he was crossing a forbidden line. But I could never voice this, not back then anyway.

My mother moved out when I was fourteen as she could no longer cope. She tried to take me with her but his grip was too tight and by then I was too brainwashed. My sister left as well and the two teams grew stronger with hate. On a rare holiday to visit her family, I was constantly bombarded with commands to stay loyal to her and see my father for the evil creature he was. Of course at that moment my loyalties were firmly with my Dad and I was left distraught by their abhorrence towards him. They were just worried for my safety as they had been with my mother for years but I was blind to it. I made false promises to them out of fear saying that I would stand by her, I still loved her and I longed for the past when we were once happy.

The moments we laughed together, where I watched her cooking up my favourite meals in the kitchen following her every move. The times when I cuddled up to her as she had her afternoon nap and painted her face with make up as she slept.

Nothing stands out to me more than those memories. The fighting and arguing are almost a blur, those moments just blend into one another. But the flashes of our happiness remain completely clear.

I can’t wait to taste it. My mother has been promising to do this for months. My sister doesn’t seem as excited as me probably because she has tasted it before. It’s a long wait. I go into the garden, the sun is beating down on me. The smell is different out here too. I retreat back inside as the oven timer rings; it’s ready!

My mother tells us to wait as it’s very hot. “Wait”? I can’t wait. I’m not patient. I want it now. She is hovering over the cooker but I can’t see what she is looking at. Her face seems confused.

“What is it Ma?” asks my sister.

“I think we may have gone wrong,” Ma replies.

I stand on a stool and see a glass dish filled with rock hard toffee.

“Where are the flapjacks?” I am puzzled.

“It doesn’t matter, we can eat this instead,” Ma swiftly states.

She takes the dish to the sink and chips away at the toffee. Chunks are flying everywhere. My sister is clearly put off as she walks away. I plan to stay; I like toffee. My mum hands me (what I think is) a very small piece. I put the hot toffee in my mouth.

The top layer begins to melt and I’m left with all the crunchy bits. This is the hardest thing I’ve ever had to eat. I can’t chew, I’m trying with all my strength but I can’t. Little nuggets are stuck in my teeth. My fingers are pulling at them, I am not enjoying this.

My mum is proudly watching me devour her bizarre creation that I so excitedly popped into my mouth a few minutes ago. My tongue is rooting around trying to pull every last bit from my teeth. It’s not working.  I eventually manage to dislodge a chunk and consider whether to swallow it whole or to do the unthinkable and spit it out.

 

This happiness saved me. The dark moments in my life made me return to these memories and through my adult years I have visited them plenty of times.

After the holiday we returned to England. I flitted between both of my parents but predominantly stayed with my father in the family home. It wasn’t ideal, my mother knows now that she should have used all of her force to take me out of that house as ultimately this was the time where he “worked” on me the most.

I dreaded the time I had to spend with Mum. Not because I didn’t want to see her but I knew of the interrogation I was about to face from her and my sister. Each would take it in turns to find out his plans. I clammed up, refusing to answer their questions, feeling more and more left out of their partnership. Their desperation, their anger was immense, it suffocated me. The only person left to turn to was my father, his plan was having the desired effect. I started to resent them.

My parents underwent a prolonged and painful divorce. My father contested it at first. He was incredible stubborn and my mother had insulted his masculinity. Divorce was frowned upon in his homeland; it was not a choice that entered his mind no matter how unhealthy and destructive the environment was.

I made the decision at this moment that would change my future forever and chose to live with my father. For months I did not speak to my mother and sister, they both cut my Dad out of their life, effectively cutting me out too. I know my mother sent my sister’s boyfriend to find me at home. That day my father and I had been out somewhere. On our way home we noticed someone at the front door peeking through the letterbox. My father parked away from the house. We watched as the young man eventually gave up and left. My father said nothing. I was frightened and he did nothing to reassure me. I kept my distance from them partly out of fear but mostly out of shame.

The pampering and lavish gifts continued for three months until it all suddenly stopped. My father had what he wanted; me. The conditioning had also ended. He had reached the point he wanted, he had the five bedroom house all to himself. He was the king of his palace.

Summer was near and I was living in a dream world. But what was coming around the corner was about to shatter everything I thought to be true and real.

© Roshni Bhattacharya 2013

“I’m really proud of you”

Are five words I have never heard from my parents. 

My father never saw anything I did as an achievement. I never made him proud. He saw me as “scum” and “fungus” so how could I ever make him proud? I tried; constantly. At home with chores, making sure I was focused and met his demanding standards, sometimes I attempted to outdo them, I rarely succeeded. Even if I did, he always found something to attack. There was always room for wrong.

I would go out of my way to cook for him, often creating exciting meals for him to try. This would only led to criticism however. 

“There isn’t enough salt in here is there?” or “Is this all you’ve made?”

I just couldn’t please him.

If I landed a good job his only comment would be, “Good”. 

‘Good’ for god’s sake, that’s all I got! 

My mother, growing up, only witnessed my sister’s achievements and my lord were there hundreds of those (!) Her achievements were flaunted and put on exhibition – mine were neglected and buried. They weren’t anything in comparison to hers. 

My mother has praised me on my ability to deal with things. Although I would class myself as sensitive and in touch with my emotions, I would not call myself emotional. My sister was and is emotional, allowing her feelings (especially negative) to control her actions although in no way would she ever describe herself as this. I tend to look at situations more calmly. I always have done. It just helps to cope.

I’ll never know if my father was proud of anything I did. Perhaps it’s better that way.

How could we ever live like this?

How could we ever live this way? When I look at this photo I feel sick. It’s so upsetting to think that these were my living conditions for twelve years of my life. After my mother left home, my father refused to do any housework. The kitchen (as it was so big) became messy and dirty easily. It was an arduous task that needed time. My father expected everything to be done as quickly as possible and he often demanded me to do it. He would never provide any cleaning advice or materials for me, he only ordered that it needed be done to an impeccable standard. It was ultimately my fault the the house had degenerated into the unsightly state it was. I left mess wherever I was. He said he’d always know what room I’d been in. His O.C.D was uncontrollable when we lived together. Any room that looked ‘lived in’ would be classed as untidy. My room was an empty shell (photos to come soon) with no character. I couldn’t keep anything in it, he would just find fault. He did that already, life was so bad.

The kitchen was where he spent most of his time. I liked the kitchen, it reminded me of my mother plus I loved cooking. However, as he was mostly in that part of the house, I avoided it at all costs. I only used the kitchen to make my dinner and of course, to clean it under his watchful eyes.

The dirt and grime on the floor only built up over time. As he never attempted to clean the floor himself and by the time he was assigning the job it me,  it had an enormous amount of filth encrusted on it. It became impossible to clean it normally, it needed an industrial machine. When I remarked that we should get a cleaner in, I was told I was a lazy moron who was incapable of such a basic task.

The floor was never back to a glimmering state. I gave up, as did he. For a man who was obsessed with outer appearance his house never reflected that. Why his friends never questioned it I’ll never know.

020

4. How to hold a pencil.

God, this is an admission even for me but I hold my pencil in the strangest way. Always have done and have always questioned it.

I work in a school. I know how a child learns to hold a pencil. Most children come to school already with this skill. I remember writing and drawing as an infant so I must have learnt to hold my pencil at home however I’m 100% certain my parents never taught me this basic skill.

Why?

Well, it’s the same scenario with tying my laces. I hold my pencil completely differently to my family. My sister hold hers correctly as does my mother and my father never held it any other way than properly. So it leaves me puzzled to why I place the pencil between my middle and fourth finger on my right hand and not between my thumb and forefinger.

My father often teased me about my strange habit but when I asked him who I learnt it from, he would become enraged that I was accusing him of being an idiot. His answer was that I was the idiot as I could clearly not cope with the simplest of tasks. The only answer is that I taught myself and my parents never thought to correct me. Even if they did, it may have been too late as I had become adjusted to holding it that way. Was it neglect? Quite probably.

I often feel like a freak in my family. I stand out when all I want to do is fade in amongst them.

It can hurt sometimes if I write for too long, the pencil pressing against my fourth finger feels normal yet unusual although I’ve been writing this way for twenty seven years. I have tried to change my technique and write “normally” but I just can’t do it.

Is it so much to ask to be taught these basic skills? Surely it’s a child’s right.