“Have you bought Leah Remini’s book?”
I never heard of Leah before my friend asked me this last week. Leah Remini is the outspoken actress who published her story about growing up and leaving Scientology. A cult that makes most cults look like a trip to Disneyland. After watching her interview on ABC, I knew I needed to read this story. So today I downloaded to my Kindle and started to read…
“When you are raised in the church , your whole life— each and every day— becomes all about the church.”
― from “Troublemaker: Surviving Hollywood and Scientology”
I knew that this story would hit me. I didn’t grow up a Scientologist, but I did grow up where my whole life was about the church. Although my path is not the same, in many ways…it’s the same.
What I didn’t expect was to recognize a truth…a truth that almost takes my breath away.
Leah tells about her daughter, Sofia. The way she talks about the first few days of parenting had me crying…so hilarious!!
Then she starts describing Trish, her nanny. Trish was not a Scientologist nanny, a decision Leah made despite the urging of her friends to do otherwise. She described how a Scientologist parent would not react like normal parents to a child’s pain and she decided to not react that way. “Instead, the second I heard Sofia crying from a fall or bang, I was shouting, ‘Are you okay?’ Mommy will kiss it better. I refused to raise Sofia in a way that would make her incompatible with the rest of the world as I felt I was…”
This made me stop.
Memories come flooding back. To my psychiatrist telling me to tell myself out loud, “I am a good mom.” Over and over until I could say it without doubt and shaking. And there’s this deep, achy part of me that feels like it’s going to scream one last roar of pain and silence for eternity.
Leah may not have consciously known, at that moment, she was separating herself from the broken faith her parents gave her. By choosing to not parent the way she was parented, or the way the church told her to parent, she was breaking the chains.
And I can see that I’ve done that. I was breaking free long before I physically broke free.
When I chose to let my son question “Why?” to everything I said.
When I chose to not put my 1-month old in a dress to go to church.
When I chose to put my 6-month-old in a swimsuit at the pool and not feel guilty.
When I told people that my children would not give hugs, give kisses or even be polite unless they felt safe.
When my 4 year old told me that God told whom he would marry and I didn’t tell him God doesn’t tell 4-year-olds stuff like that.
When I chose to defy the man who told me that a child’s place was under the pew and I stayed home so they could go to sleep in their own beds.
When I decided that I was not going to treat my kid’s without dignity or respect and declared that spanking was not an option.
When I refused to make my girls wear long sleeves and long skirts to school.
When I rejected the idea that my 6-year-old daughter wearing a swimsuit to the pool in front of a boy would make her a “slut”. (yep, said to me)
When my daughter told me she was going to marry her Kindergarten boyfriend and I didn’t freak that she was going to have sex the next day. (she was 6…)
When I kept hearing the way to live righteously was to to make my children behave, respect the pastor and do what they were told and I refused to make them do any of those things.
When I finally decided that I did not own my children, that they were Abba’s children and I was to treat them with love, mercy, kindness and respect.
I chose to parent my kids differently, because honestly, I’m kind of lazy. Relaxed, hands-off parenting just works for me. But deep inside I chose to love my kids the way I wanted to be loved. And strangely enough, by loving them, letting them be who Abba designed them to be, not worrying about every little behavior that they did or could do, I began to love that little girl deep inside of me. It continues today. As I walk through the teenage years with my girls I can hear those chains breaking. Link by Link. As I love them, parent them differently, the wounded teenage girl inside is being loved back to life.
In many ways, becoming a mother saved my life.