I witnessed the first fight. It’s not what you think.
It was between my X and his daughter. She had come home from school, hot and cranky. He had forgot to pick her up, and she was mad that she had to make the long walk home. He had actually forgot that she was staying with him that week.
She grabbed a box of cookies from the table and went to eat them in the living room next to the TV. My X went over to her to take a few for himself, and she got even angrier. He reminded her that she had to share, and she yelled at him that he was mean. As he turned to go back to the kitchen, she hucked the remote control at him. It hit him in the back of the head.
Now I know his daughter’s actions were pretty bratty. But his reaction was cruel and harsh.
First he grabbed the cookies from his daughter and threw them so hard against the wall that they ricocheted off. Then he grabbed her by an arm and dangled her from the floor like a ragdoll. As his fingers dug into her skin, he dragged her to her room and yelled that she was a spoiled little brat and that he was the boss. As his daughter scream cried, he shoved a broom into her hand and told her to go clean up the mess she made. His mess.
He ranted and raved about how from now on she would be doing chores every day when she got home from school. His daughter was so upset, she started to hyperventilate.
This is when I broke out of my fear trance. I told my X that his daughter couldn’t breathe. He switched into caregiver mode. He sat her down and brought her a paper bag to breathe into. He told her to stop crying. As he scooped up her hair and blew on the back of her neck, he apologised for getting mad, told her she didn’t have to do any chores, and to be a good kid.
Life went on as normal.
Little did I know then, that I would begin to experience this same kind of ploy used by my X. Rage. Threats. Verbal abuse. Sympathy. Caring. Kindness. At twenty-two years old, I had not witnessed and did not know the cycle of abuse. Tension. Incident. Reconciliation. Calm.
But I was soon to be very familiar with it.
To my X’s daughter, I am sorry that I didn’t do more to protect you. I’m sorry I didn’t tell your mom. I don’t know how you survived all those years alone with him, before I arrived or after I left. To myself, you don’t know what you don’t know. I am sorry that I didn’t protect you.
Now I know.