My Thirty Year Long Childhood Fear

Monsters under the bed, the dark, and The Boogie Man are all common childhood fears. Many parents have spent countless nights checking under the bed for the illusive monster, only to be called in a few minutes later to check again “just in case.” In our house, a small bathroom sconce is left lit each evening to ensure any fears are warded off and Jack is able to peacefully drift off to sleep.
Thinking back, I don’t remember having these fears. The dark never really scared me, and as the eldest sibling of four, I was well aware that there were no monsters, nor Boogie Man coming for my siblings nor myself.
I wish my fears had been so innocent. If only my parents checking under the bed could’ve resolved my fears. Instead, my fears were both dark and deep rooted.
Rather than monsters and darkness and boogie men , the constant threat of abandonment and failure plagued me as a child and drove a fear so deep within my soul it became part of me; my “normal”.
I feared the feeling of inferiority that seemed to anchor itself in the pit of my stomach like a ship to the sea floor on a stormy day.
In an attempt to overcome this all consuming fear I became the all too typical “Type A” first born. Earning nearly perfect grades while working nearly full-time, playing sports, and throwing myself into my social life were all attempts at making myself feel good enough. How could I be a failure making straight A’s, earning my own money, being popular, and being involved in sports?
And yet it still wasn’t enough. But why?
I have wonderful, supportive parents who have been a constant in not only my life, but my son’s as well. Growing up, we were super close with our grandparents, and Thank God, my Nana is still with us today and we’re as close as ever. For a long time there was something missing, though. Or so I thought.
My mother and biological father divorced when my sister and I were very young. So young that I don’t even remember them being married. Not long after their divorce my mother remarried my dad, Joe. While I know there was a time before Joe, as far as I’m concerned there really wasn’t. As far back as I can remember, Joe has always been there. From school events, to walking me down the aisle and giving me away, to the birth of my child, my Dad was there loving and supporting me along the way.
Yet something inside of me still yearned for my biological fathers love and acceptance. As a parent myself, I simply couldn’t understand how another parent could have a child and consciously choose not to be involved in their child’s life? How could he just walk away from us; abandon us? After all I had done to prove myself worthy of his love, how could he still not realize my “good-enoughness?”
Call it biology, call it crazy, but I still wanted him to love me. Maybe I didn’t want him to love me so much as acknowledge me and my accomplishments? So I continued to push myself to be the best. The best at everything; school, work, sports, and eventually marriage and motherhood. My childhood fear of failing, courtesy of my biological father, actually lead me to stay in a dysfunctional marriage for far longer than I should have. Though I knew the marriage was long over and needed to end, I couldn’t bear the thought of “him” learning of my divorcing, the ultimate failure in the eyes of my Irish Catholic father’s eyes. Nonetheless, the divorce emerged the victor in the battle of good vs evil.
A few years have passed now and many relationships have changed. Beloved grandparents have died, second marriages have occurred, and new babies are expected any day now.
Most importantly, my sister and I have learned that our father’s lack of love, acceptance, and presence in our lives had nothing to do with us. He is vacant. Somewhere deep in his soul something is awry. He knows what that is, and I have a fair idea too, though out of decency I will forever keep that to myself.
While I have cut all ties with my biological father I will never forget nor forgive that he was never there to soothe my admittedly seldom Boogie Man fears. He cheated my sister and I out of ever knowing the love, pride, joy, privilege, and excitement it is to be “Daddy’s Little Girl.” Worse than that, he instilled in me a fear that at any given moment any man that I dare trust may up and leave, or worse, make a promise that he never intends to fulfill. Until now…
Finally, after thirty years, a horrific divorce, and a wonderful second marriage, I finally feel as though I’ve recovered. I truly feel like my son and I are safe. I wholeheartedly believe God brought my husband, Mike, to Jack and me; completing our family. I no longer fear abandonment, nor failure. I know my husband will be there to catch me should I fall, and celebrate when I succeed. Best of all, I know if I ever have a nagging fear that there just may be a monster under the bed my husband will check and double check to make sure I feel safe and secure.
After thirty years, I no longer fear failure nor abandonment.

5 thoughts on “My Thirty Year Long Childhood Fear

  1. What you describe sounds like “anxious attachment”, something I read about last year, and which I thought had some bearing on my life, including staying too long in an unsatisfying relationship. My parents were in ways distant, and that made me strive for attention. It could explain the fear you had, but perhaps not. Good that you found your way out. Ian unresolved fear/anxiety can last a lifetime. What’s significant is that you finally confronted it…and it vanished. Good job!


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