I Was A Child

Aside from introducing myself, I'm really unsure of where to begin. This probably isn't the beginning of my story but it's definitely a start. Have you ever heard someone say, "I had to grow up too quickly" or "I didn't have a childhood"? Those simple statements are the literal definition of my life. At 9 years old, I didn't know how to be a child. I never played with friends, went to sleepovers, or had birthday parties. I was too busy taking care of my two younger siblings. Making bottles, getting them dressed, changing diapers, cooking meals, giving baths... the whole nine yards. I was raising children that I didn't create. I was raising children as a CHILD. My "parents"? They were drunk. They were high. They were fighting. They were passed out. They were somewhere else. One of my earliest memories includes packing lunches for my sister and I before school. We lived in a little trailer in Powell, Wyoming and we walked to school every day. Rain, shine, snow, sleet. We walked. One morning on our way out the door my sister asked for popsicles. Being a child myself, I grabbed us some popsicles and tossed a knife inside her backpack so we could open them on the way to school. Here we are two young children probably 6 & 9 walking to school, eating popsicles and minding our own business. That is until we finally arrived at school and my younger sister's teacher decides to go through her backpack in search of something - but what she finds instead is the knife. Landing my kindergarten sister in the principal's office. Before long the school officer is involved, my parents are called and all of us are sitting in the office. I can remember the tears rolling down her face as the school officer explains how serious this is. Little does he know, I'm the one who put it in there this morning. As he scolds my sister, I can feel the rage welling up inside myself. Because I know it was my fault. The only other thing I remember about that day is getting whopped later that evening after school. It was "MY responsibility" to get us both to school. It was "MY responsibility to make sure she was safe. It was "MY responsibility".... But I was 9. I was supposed to be the child, not the adult. It should have NEVER been my responsibility to set an alarm. It should have NEVER been my responsibility to wake up my younger sister and get us both ready for school. It should have NEVER been my responsibility to begin with. However, looking back now I realize I'd gladly take that beating all over again because it meant that my sister wouldn't have to. I was forced to grow up early. I never got a childhood. I was "mom" to my siblings. I was the adult in my home. Even though I was only 9 years old...even though I was a child.

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Mike Lyles

Author of “The Drive-Thru is Not Always Faste...

Staresville, United States