Being in a Children’s Home brought both good things and difficult things into my life. The good things consisted of: Plenty of hot food every day; Clean clothes and a clean bed to slip into every night; Not having to put up with a dirty environment and horrible smells; Feeling physically safe from pawing hands, swift kicks, and hurtful blows; Being able to go inside when I was tired instead of being left out in the harsh elements; Having access to books and an education; The absence of chaos, loud screaming, and the smell of alcohol; and access to medical treatment when needed.
The negative aspects of living in a Children’s Home were: Lack of privacy; someone being around you all the time and having very little alone time; Having to take naps during the day when I wanted to read books; Being forbidden to talk or socialize with people outside the Home; Lack of affection, communication, or one on one conversations with any one; Loss of freedom to go any where I wanted to go for five years, and make friends; and lack of response to my emotional needs or the needs of the other children. We were seen as numbers, not people. I was lonely there. It sounds strange, all these people living in a building and no one talked much to each other. I never had therapy as a child. I never remember a single person asking about my feelings or what had happened to me as a child. Very little information was shared with the children about what was going to happen in the present or future regarding their lives.
How did I survive for eight years in a series of institutions? I survived by being self-reliant and doing every thing myself. There was no one to depend upon for emotional needs. No one acted interested and no one developed trust. I moved through the system by being good, obedient, never causing trouble, and by being quiet. I never screamed, or cried, or had temper tantrums. I never crawled out of windows at night, never tried to run away, and I never took what belonged to other people. I didn’t get into fights, or destroy property like some of the other children did.
Instead, I read every book I could get my hands on. I read poetry, psychological books, mysteries, books on animals and nature. I wrote stories and poetry no one ever took the time to read. I drew and colored flowers, made things with my hands, and bought flower seeds with my own earned money. I built flower gardens at the Children’s Homes and planted , fertilized, watered, and weeded the flowers as they grew. When I was older and had proven to them I was responsible, they allowed me to walk to the surrounding libraries, and join in after school sports. I won my sports letter in five different sports and made the honor roll at school. As long as I could find the transportation myself to get there and back, I was allowed to join activities at school. The initiative came from me. I worked hard, went to college on scholarships, earned a degree, and rented my first apartment when I got a job. I carved out my future by using my intelligence, persistence, and creativity and it changed my world. I later had the courage and strength to resolve some of these childhood issues in therapy. The following quote says it all.