A Neglected Childhood
When Bambi asked me to write for her blog, I didn’t know where to start. I don’t have a complex
story of trauma, where my childhood and adult life have been dogged by violence or abuse. In
fact, I had a nice childhood and life as an adult has had its ups and downs.
Then I started to think. The truth is my childhood wasn’t that great. Sure, I was fed and housed
well. As an only child, I always had toys and a room to myself. My pet dog was even allowed to
sleep on my bed. So, what was wrong?
My parents ignored me. I learnt to be quiet, which was easy because I liked to draw and write. I
learned that my thoughts weren’t wanted. My needs were met if I didn’t complain too loudly and
any complaints, I might have had were best kept to myself.
Children are Best Seen and not Heard
My mother used to boast at dinner parties that children are best seen and not heard. And she
certainly lived up to that. Sadly, my parents didn’t ignore me because they doted on each other.
Quite the opposite. They hated each other and spent a lot of time apart. I remember they hadn’t
spoken for days, and I was sitting between them at the dinner table handing the salt backwards
I nearly suffocated from the silence.
My parents didn’t like each other and as a consequence, didn’t like me. Another anecdote my
mother loved to share was how she refused to breastfeed me when I was born. She didn’t want
me near her, and I was kept alive by the maternity nurses at the time. My father told me
decades later that many of the other mothers in the ward thought she had lost her baby.
I can understand how she might not have liked me as a child. I wasn’t pretty or very smart. But I
couldn’t understand why she couldn’t love her own baby. I still don’t.
As a small family, we travelled around the world twice. I turned seven on board the SS Arcadia
as it left the UK and headed south to Australia. My parents were restless, and travel was
inexpensive at the time. I saw places and met people other kids could only have dreamed of.
Our house was decorated with souvenirs from strange faraway lands like Africa and South
America. I don’t travel at all now unless I can help it. I don’t go on holidays, and, in fact, I hate
being away from my home.
My mother used to go into a rage when she was upset. Looking back, I assume she had some
kind of depression, but it wasn’t the thing to talk about such things. Denial was huge in those
days. Whether someone was getting a divorce, had cancer or let their cat drink milk from a
saucer, never a word was said. Well, certainly not to me anyway.
I learned to be quiet, really quiet.
I spent hours entertaining myself. My mother always worked, which was unusual for the day, so
I would get home to an empty house and spend each day of the school holidays on my own. I
used to map out the days, flitting from writing to drawing to playing with my dolls. I created
books and loved watching TV.
I was allowed to eat one sweet biscuit for afternoon tea. I was always left with a list of chores
and those kept me very busy, but I used to do them straight away to get them over and done
As I grew up and gained confidence, I learned to open up. I talked and talked, I’m still a
chatterbox today. But the scars are deep and my ability to maintain relationships with men is
strained at best. My parents separated when I was 18 years old, and they both moved interstate
within a few years. This further diminished the opportunity for me to build a solid relationship
When my father turned 90, I called him to wish him a happy birthday. After the usual
pleasantries, he said, “I can’t believe how well you turned out considering how poorly your
mother and I raised you.”
I was quite surprised. I certainly hadn’t expected, nor had I wanted to hear this. I thanked him
and moved the conversation on. Afterwards, however, I did think about it. I wondered why he
had said it. Better late than never? Perhaps he was feeling guilty.
I have grown to accept that I will live and die alone. I have my children and grandchildren, but I
don’t want to be a burden, so I leave them to themselves. So, I fill my life with animals, and
spend a lot of time talking to them.
But am I unhappy? Not at all. I like my own company. I love being able to do whatever I want,
when I want. I eat what I like, watch what I like and come and go as I please. I never feel alone
or sorry, but I am aware that my life is the way it is because I was not wanted as a child. There’s
nothing that I can do about that, so I tried to ensure it never happened to anyone else. And in
the end sometimes, that’s all you can do.
About the Author
Susan Day is an art therapist practitioner, author and artist. She has years of experience writing
articles for websites and once edited a literary magazine. Susan is enthralled with the power of
art and the written word to change people’s lives. You can find more articles on mindful arts
therapy on her website,or you are welcome to check out her
Mindful Art Therapy Books on Amazon.