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Sharon Bacher's harrowing account of the impact upon young children of isolated families, mental illness and domestic violence

"No, I won't, I won't, I won’t go with them. Who are they, coming up the steps to take me away? Why should I go, why mommy? I don’t want to go" I run and hide behind the curtains.

Don’t open the door daddy. Don’t let the bad people in. Don’t let them take me away. Daddy opens the door. He doesn’t listen to me, but how white his face is. But daddy, they’re only little ladies, you’re much stronger than they are. Why do you smile when you don’t like them? Bad, bad ladies, who want to take me away from my mommy and daddy. My daddy is so strong, he can take a stick and hit them. He can throw them into the sea.

The red one says “Is Paul ready? Have you packed his things for him?" My daddy says “yes", but he’s holding my furry elephant bag next to his heart and saying “Is there no other way?" Mommy is crying. What must I do mommy? Can’t I stay with you? Don’t cry, please don’t cry. I won’t let them take me; I won’t leave you. My mommy loves me, look how sad she is if daddy sends me away.

Mommy puts on her music. She sits next to the music and cries. She holds her tummy tight and rocks backwards and forwards like she’s on a swing. She doesn’t listen to the ladies. The one in red whispers but I can’t hear what she is saying. She puts her arm around my mommy’s shoulders, but mommy pushes her away. “Hey, you leave my mommy alone!" I want to shout at the ladies; I want to go and sit on mommy’s lap, but then they’ll catch me and they’ll take me away. I have to stand here behind the curtain, and be very, very still. Even not breathing, or the ladies will take me.

My mommy is singing. It’s our special song, we always sing when we are scared and want to feel happy. “I whistle a happy tune, and every single time, the happiness in the tune, convinces me that I’m not afraid." But now the song doesn’t work and mommy can’t get happy. The tears fall onto the record player like a puddle and the music sounds like meeowing. Daddy switches it off and calls “Paully, come... please Paully." I don’t breathe. I’m not going nowhere. Why do they want me to? Don’t they love me anymore?

The other one says to daddy “Let’s get Paul. I know this is very painful for you Hermann and Minna, so the quicker we get things moving, the bettter." But my daddy walks up and down, up and down, he hits his head with his hands. “Oh that it should come to this, that it should come to this. My only son ... to lose my son..." And he roars at mommy like an angry lion: “It’s your fault, yours! You should be the one to go into a Home, not Paully. You are the mad one who runs screaming into the Street! You are the one who dresses him in girl’s clothes. Why should they take my son away!"

And the lady says, “But this is terrible, Sandra. Surely Paul’s going into Arcady has been discussed with the family? It feels like they’re all totally unprepared." And the other one says “But of course we've talked about Paul’s going. we've talked and talked, and it was stated quite clearly at the Court Enquiry. Everyone agreed that for the meantime it would be best ... I suppose talking about it is not the same as the actual going, though. Look Hermann, Minna, I know this is tearing you to pieces, but you are making it much worse for Paully. What must he think when he sees how upset you are about what you are doing? Can’t you try and be positive ... for his sake at least?"

I know what I think. They are bad, bad people to make us unhappy. I have to stay and look after my mommy, can’t they see that? Otherwise, when daddy is cross and shouts she will be frightened and have nobody to hold in her arms and kiss her better. They don’t know what daddy does when he’s cross. They didn’t see him when he threw the cups on the floor and broke mommy’s record player. He’s so strong, if he wanted to he could just pick up the bad ladies and bang them together and lock them in the room. He could! He could!

The other one sees me. Oh, no, she’s I coming to get me. She’s a big witch who steals other people’s children. “Leave me alone, leave me alone." I'll scream so loud the police will hear and then they will all get into big trouble. I can shout bad words “don’t touch me you fucking fucking!" Her ugly face is smiling at me. She thinks I’m stupid but I will hit her if she touches me even with her little finger. I pull a face at her -- it’s the ugliest face I’ve got. Daddy says “Paully, that’s not nice. The lady wants to help us." “I hate you daddy, for telling lies. The lady doesn’t want to help me. She wants to take me to that place. You told me. You told me." Well first they’ll have to catch me, an” I can run very fast. I am The Incredible Hulk. I can bash that lady and bite her hand.

She’s talking to me. What’s she saying? “Paully, do you remember me? I’m Delia, from Arcady. Remember you came to visit and you played with the toys in my room? Mmm? Do you remember? I showed you the children and the room you will sleep in when you come to stay at Arcady?" She has a soft pretending voice. Now she says, “Lets get your things together Paul, and get going. Mommy and Daddy will come too, and they can stay and have dinner with you and be with you until you are ready for them to go home. They will come and visit you very often, I’m sure."

I run past her and into my mommy’s bedroom. I’m going to lock the door so nobody can get in. But the lady says to daddy “Let me try alone? Okay? If we all follow it–ll be worse. Sandra, can you talk to Minna and Hermann? She rushes after me and pushes the door. I push hard and try to lock it, but she’s got her foot in the door. I stand on her foot, “Get away, get away!" I scream in my worsest, fiercest voice. But she manages to get inside the room, and now she closes the door. She stands against it and looks at me. “You can’t catch me, you fuckin", I shout, and jump onto the bed. She says “I’m not going to try and catch you Paully. When you've finished jumping on the bed and fighting, then we’ll go."

"Well, I'll never finish jumping on the bed." I jump higher and higher and pull a tongue at Delia, and then I pick up the newspaper on the bed and throw it at her. Now we’ll see, now we’ll see what she’ll do.

She doesn’t do nothing. She just stands and says, “You don’t want to come to Arcady, eh, Paully." “Shuddup", I say, “Don’t talk to me. I hate you, you fuckin."

"you’re so angry, you don’t even want to talk to me," she says. I throw the pillow at her. She throws it back at me. She’s making me so mad. I jump off the bed and open mommy’s cupboard. I take out mommy’s shoes and throw them at Delia. Whack! Whack! I got her on the arm. Mommy’s got lots of shoes, I can throw them all at her. “Now whatyagonna do?" I say, wrinkling my face. Watch how frightened she’ll be. I make my hands into fists. I can beat her all by myself!

She holds her arm ... “When you throw things at me you hurt me, Paully. I guess you hate me so much right now, you want me to be sore. Well, let’s see, what can we do? I know you’re very mad at me, and I can’t help that. But I can’t let you hurt me Paully. I don’t like being sore, so I have to stop you from hurting me."

Suddenly she grabs me by the arm when I’m not ready, and puts her arms around me, tight. What’s she doing, I can’t breathe, I can’t breathe. “Let me go, let me go you bladdy ... I hate you," I kick her hard as I can in her knees with my strong shoes. Her face is crumpled and I can see I hurt her. That'll teach her. I pull away, and pull and pull. But, she’s quite strong for a lady. I can’t get away, and even how much I push and struggle, I can’t move. “Get off me! I push right from my tummy, “GET OFF!!"

Now she’s sitting on me, and holding my hands so tight I can’t move. When I kick she moves so fast that my feet are stuck, she’s talking all the time “you’re very angry Paully. You wish you could hurt me so that I'll go away and leave you and not take you to Arcady. You really don’t want to come. I know this is not comfortable for you, but, I can’t let you hurt me Paully. As soon as you stop fighting me, I will let you go. I don’t want to hurt you, my boy. I know you’re upset and frightened." Then she’s saying, “its alright Paully, I know, I know ... its alright my boy," and her voice is very soft and sad, and maybe its true. Maybe she doesn’t really want to hurt me.

I can’t breathe. I’m so tired. I don’t like this. I can’t struggle. I don’t want to cry but the tears are coming into my eyes. I don’t want her to see she’s won. “I want my mommy, I want my MOMMY!"

There, I let go. Horrible bladdy ... she also lets go.

She says “its okay Paully. Just take a deep breath. you'll see everything will be okay. She looks tired, like me. I think she wants to cry too. Her nose is wet and her face is red. I don’t know what else to do, but I can’t fight any more. She says “Can we get up now, and go into the lounge Paully?" I get up. “you’re very strong, did you know that? It was really hard for me to hold you." She shows me how a big bump is coming on her leg. “If you’re planning to bash me around often, I’m going to have to learn karate!" Then she whispers in my ear. “A big fellow like you can manage to get to Arcady without a big noise now, can’t you? Let’s show mommy and daddy how strong you are inside."

Mommy and daddy are waiting with their tired, sad faces. Daddy is holding my elephant bag. He says, “Come son. There’s no other way." Mommy isn’t crying any more, she’s just quiet and her eyes look far, far away. She doesn’t even kiss me goodbye. I don’t take daddy’s hand. I don’t love him any more. They don’t want me, and I don’t care. I'll never come and visit them, ever, ever again.

Delia says, “well, let’s go then". And I follow her, but I won’t hold her hand.

From The Child Care Worker Volume 8 No.4, 1990

The International Child and Youth Care Network

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