I don’t know that this is necessarily related to the trauma stuff on the blog, for the regular followers you might be interested in my new perspective on this now that I have spent at least a few hours a day with her family and know more about them.
I still have not met her stepdad, so I have no idea how he figures in except that he is “rigid.” Rigidity is usually an indication of a need to control and a fear of the world and of others. It’s also something that is very hard on kids sometimes, when they can’t abide by all the rigid rules.
But I have met her mom and seen them interact and I can see C’s attitude toward her mom and towards her mom’s expectations. My view now is, in a way, more benign than before. Not that C isn’t subjected to emotional and physical abuse—she is, most Country X-ers are physically pretty well brutalized. And not that the emotional abuse doesn’t have an effect.
It’s just that I don’t think C’s mom is merely callous. A colleague described to me her mom as someone who mostly sat there, laughed and talked with friends, while C did all the work. However, this is not what I have seen. C does do a lot of the work, but often her mom weaves most of the day and C does everything else. Weaving makes money. It’s not simply a hobby. When her mother is not weaving, C has less work to do. It’s not as though her mom doesn’t do the laundry when she can do it. She does.
So I no longer than C’s mother simply doesn’t care about C or wants C to take on adult responsibilities merely because she herself is lazy. I think, instead, that her mom was very young when C was born—her mom was only 16, and she may not have been a very mature 16-year-old. She had a second marriage and a second child within 3 years: I don’t know the age of the next kid in line, but it seems to me she can’t be younger than 11. She is more likely 12 or 13. C just turned 14. The next kid is only 7.
Anyway, it seems to me that C’s mom may have been physically and emotionally unable to manage the task of being a wife and mother and, consequently, C was burdened with picking up the slack. She was given too many adult responsibilities too young and too little opportunity to grow or even to rest. Because C has accommodated her mom’s need for support as well as she has, her mom has relied on her more than her sister who, at only 2 years younger, could be doing quite a lot more of the work than she is, which wouldn’t necessarily be so important except that C has had very little chance to have a childhood or to develop and grow.
C’s deep sense of herself as being someone without value may result from that as much as anything else. Her stepdad, it seems, degrades her and treats her differently than the other kids, but more importantly C has failed to perform at the level she has been expected to perform throughout her entire life. She has failed, because she wasn’t equipped to succeed. She was being asked to do more than a child of her age and developmental stage can do. So she feels “bad” because she can never care enough: deep in her heart, she always wants the chance to be a kid and enjoy herself even when her family needs her and this naturally will feel selfish to her. She feels lazy, because she can never work hard enough because, again, deep in her heart she wishes she could rest and play.
Her mom isn’t entirely indifferent, but she has been unable to meet her own needs adequately or to sacrifice them for the sake of the well-being of her children. Instead, C has done that.