Kids are to be Seen and Not Heard

by Maureen p
(New York)

“Kids are to be seen not heard.” It was embedded in my head that kids are to be seen and not heard. The adults in my life never taught me to speak up for myself. When the adults were gathered in the kitchen and talking, the children were always in another room. We were not allowed to interrupt the adults unless it was really important.

One time a bunch of my cousins and brothers were playing in the bedroom. The parents were in the kitchen. One of my brothers made up a game where you swung on a belt that was hung over the door. The object was not to touch the floor while jumping from one bed to the other. It was my younger brother’s turn to jump and somehow the belt wrapped around his neck, and he was hanging from the back of the door. One of us ran to tell the grownups, and we were told not to bother them again. We ran back to check on my brother, and he was struggling to try to get free. We got really scared and went again to tell the grownups that my brother was hanging from the door. They didn't believe us and told us to come back when he turned blue. My parents had a strange sense of humor, but this wasn't funny. So, we went back again to check on my brother. Well, he was now blue and not moving, so we went back to tell the grownups. Finally, one of them said they better go check to see what was happening and sure enough my brother was not moving anymore, and he was blue. Then everyone was scared and running around. Someone lifted my brother up while someone else loosened the belt, and he fell on to the floor. Once he was cut down and they shook him he came to. No one took him to the hospital, and we just went back to playing, and the parents went back to what they were doing in the kitchen.

The normal reaction to a dangerous situation was to deny it, make fun of it, then cover it up. My parents never taught us how to speak up when something was wrong. We were told not to answer an adult back. The one time we did speak up they didn't believe us and just made a joke. As I grew up, many times I wished I knew how to speak up, especially when I knew something was wrong. I learned from past experience that no one would listen, so why bother. I was taught not to cry when I was hurt, and I was used to pretending that everything was OK even though it wasn't. This just set me up to be taken advantage of, and many times if I spoke up things would have been different. I was hurt many times from people and if I only knew then what I know now.

I am a nice person, but don't mistake my niceness for weakness. Now I speak up if I don't like something, and, if they don't listen, I continue speaking until someone does..... To be continued….

“I should stay for the children” doesn't provide a better home. Having an abuse free home does.

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