Say, for example, a child wanders off and gets into some kind of trouble; serious trouble, like abduction or grievous injury. What are the outcomes?As a 3 year old, I managed to sneak away, a lot. This would have caused a great deal of stress for my mother, who was the primary carer of two children 24/7 when we migrated to Australia, when, previously, back in Sri Lanka, she had the support of the whole family. Constantly having to keep an eye on a slip of a child, especially in a new country, would wear anyone down. And then also possibly being scolded by her husband for not keeping a close enough eye on me. If that was me, I would resent…very much. I would hold feelings of resentment towards my husband for not understanding enough and even towards a 3 year old child who was playing and visiting friends as she had always done and so could not be disciplined! Then there would be guilt. And confusion. And anger, at myself, for feeling these things. All of this would collide. I imagine.
From that point, my mother coped by being very strict. She would react with anger if she saw me hurt myself. So I would hide my injuries from her. Such as when I stapled my fingers together or our pet dog bit me, again. As a child, I had no idea why she would react with anger whenever I hurt myself, as if I had hurt her!
Whenever one of my dogs does something so incredibly stupid, such as attempting to leap a 2m ditch, but then failing miserably, and landing in stagnant water and then miraculously being able to walk away, yes, my heart leaps into my mouth and then, as soon as I see that her stupid, little face is fine, I immediately want to murder her! Right then and there. In front of everyone. It is hard to stop the yelling being the first off the mark. But it was pretty funny and the little shit lives another day, so I let it go.
My mother has an excellent memory. Every little thing that I did added to her anxiety that I was going to one day go off on my own and end up killing/maiming myself. She started to restrict my activities. Discouraged going outside. When I became a ‘woman’, so to speak, the level of security was ramped up to extreme. Of course there were arguments. I started experiencing symptoms of depression and anxiety. But I hung in there. I knew there would be a way out some day.
My mother confined me to the house for three months after year twelve. You have to understand though, my mother had to deal with my less than 10 year old self running away and getting into trouble. Nothing ever happened since that accident to end all accidents; that time when I almost lost an eye to a dog. But, alas, that is not the point. My mother had to deal with eighteen years of worrying about the possibility of something happening. Pre-emptive strike was the only way.
I had very little opportunity to spend time with my friends outside of school. Mum would say that friends were only meant to be socialised with at school. I wonder, though, did she neglect to see her friends outside of school? I can’t say. But what I do know to be fundamental to Sinhalese culture is the social aspect. A memory from our first time back since immigrating; it is more than a memory, it’s a feeling really, of the afternoons where my Aunty, cousins and I would sit on the stoop and they would chat and gossip with neighbours while I would watch people walk past. Maybe catch the fresh bun vendor on his way through. Content. Relaxed. This is a favourite pastime with Sinhalese people. And mine, it seemed.
But growing up, I had no choice but to follow their rules. Their house. Their car. I had no money of my own nor did they trust me with a key to our own house. Actually, it felt like they did not trust me at all. But why? My teenage mind couldn’t comprehend that this deep seated mistrust had been growing since my birth. I didn’t know that the fact that I had not given them cause to worry about me injuring myself for many years didn’t matter. I had gained full control of my motor functions by the age of 13, surely? But that’s a lie, I did know why they were keeping such a tight reign on me. Sex. Naive me thought to put their minds at ease by saying that I was in no way interested in boys or sex. More lies, yes, but hey, what is the alternative in this household? They don’t listen to children.
When I turned 18 , however, I took matters into my own hands.
Now, my weird, misguided and sometimes confused ideas about sex are an anthology of its own. But, basically, what my thought processes were, around my virginity, was to just lose the fucking thing. I had narrowed it down to that one thing my parents seemed to value the most about me and that was my virginity. So, naturally, this was the thing I detested and had zero value for. I promptly lost it. They found out and my life, that I thought was just beginning, was suddenly and violently torn down.
Yes, I snuck the boy in and got a bizarre thrill over losing my virginity while mum slept in the other room. I know I have issues! And that was a bad thing to do. But I had waited seven years for this one “fuck you, Ma!” that she was never meant to find out about. It wasn’t worth it. Her punishment was to confine me to the house until I started Uni. For three months. All I could think about at that time was how I had come to an understanding with my estranged friends and I was finally coming out of my shell. To think on it now, I may never have come out since.