How red shoes taught me about love …

I had a mum once. I can’t really remember if she was a good mum or a bad mum. She wasn’t very loving. She only told me once that she loved me. That alone doesn’t make her a bad mum. Not everyone can say “I love you” freely. I am guessing she loved me, at some point, in her own way.

I was adopted.  They also adopted another baby 2 years after me.  We were told we were special because we were “chosen”. They told us they got to walk along a row of newborn babies and were able to choose the one they liked the best. Unlike other mothers, who had to keep the one they got whether they liked them or not. I believed that for a long time. Now I don’t.

I don’t have that mum anymore. She didn’t die. But she’s not my mum. I’m not sure she ever was.

I’m an odd person because I don’t really understand how you love a mother.  I’m a mother myself.  I totally get how a mother loves her child. I don’t get it in reverse.

The man I used to call “dad” is dead. I didn’t go to his funeral. I didn’t cry. I felt nothing. I want to say I was glad, but I don’t think I felt that either. He was just a person who died.

He was also a despicable man. He was the type of man who never should have been allowed to adopt a child.  We weren’t special – we were picked for his pleasure.

I was too scared to speak up.  They also had their own daughter after we were adopted. I didn’t want to destroy the only family I knew. I learnt to cope. I would booby trap my bedroom every night so if someone came in things would fall down and wake everyone up. It eventually stopped. The memories didn’t, but the actions did.

When I think back I stopped having any feelings for parents at a very young age – single digits. I never felt safe, protected or loved. I found these things in other families, with friends and with my dog. For a long time I thought it only happened to me.

Sixteen years ago, just before Mother’s Day, my sister admitted she was also a victim of this man we used to call dad. We had never discussed it. She always hated me, thinking he only chose her. I never hated her, but thought he only chose me. He never touched his real daughter.

I was a mum by this stage. I had a 2 year old and a 3 month old baby and constantly worried about protecting them from this man. I never let him hold them and I never left him alone in a room with them. Ever. I did not want these people in my life, even before I found out about my sister. I only kept them there because it was the right thing to do and I didn’t know how to push them away without destroying the life of their real child. No child wants to find out their father is a pedophile.

My sister told our mother on many occasions and she did nothing. She did nothing. I don’t understand that at all.  It is a mother’s instinct to protect her children. My mother failed in that respect.  From that moment she was no longer my mother.

I have purposely told this story in a clinical, unfeeling way, because that is truly how I feel about it now. I’ve dealt with it all and have come out the other end relatively ok.  I haven’t ended up a cold unfeeling person though, nothing could be further from the truth. I am a very warm, loving and giving person. I feel very deeply, have strong relationships with my own children, my partner and my dear friends.

Why am I writing this today? It is coming up to Mother’s Day.  There are two days of the year I don’t enjoy – Mother’s Day and Father’s Day.  Admittedly Mother’s Day has become a lot better since having my children but Father’s Day – that’s a whole other story, which I’ll save up for September.

To keep this real, you need to know that I have found my birth mother, and I have a relationship with her. It’s also a whole other story which I will write another time.

I didn’t originally intend for this post to be a reveal all. The purpose was to talk about an “aha moment” where something I haven’t understood for most of my life actually crystallized. Without the background though, this post would not have made any sense.

Most people I know love their parents & siblings dearly. Regardless of how they get on with them, at the crux of it all, they love them. I read blog posts about relationships people have with their mums and I just can’t get it. I can’t feel the feelings I’m supposed to.  If I read a story about a sick child or a child passing away, I’m a mess. I can feel those feelings as if it were my own child. Tell me about a parent or a sibling, and as sad/bad as this may seem I feel nothing.

I recently read a post by @CarolDuncan where she talked about her mother’s funeral. For the first time I felt something. I got it. I understood how she felt, how her mum felt. For the first time I understood a relationship between a mother and a daughter.

I finally realized these relationships weren’t a “one size fits all”. They come in all shapes and sizes. There are loving relationships, there are smothering relationships, there are volatile relationships and there can be no relationship – but always at the crux of it is this special love.

I never understood it because I never had it from my mother. I think a mother grows alongside her children – being a mother is part instinct, but also part learning. I also think the love you feel for your mum grows and changes through the different stages. When you are little you love your mummy because she comforts, provides for and protects you. As you grow older you look up to her because she is still so perfect. Then you reach your early teens and your mum is no longer an idol – she has flaws – you possibly don’t like her as much. You blame her for your problems, you find fault in her parenting. You actually realize she is a person who isn’t perfect. That comes as a shock initially and relationships go haywire for a while. As you progress through your teens to your early twenties you watch your mum come to terms with her children growing up and no longer “needing” her as much, you watch your mum go through menopause (which turns her feral at the drop of a hat), you watch your mum and dad drift apart or maybe find each other again and you gain a different respect for her as you realize just what she gave up to be your mum.  With each year, through each phase the love and respect grows stronger and the bond deepens. This happens whether you are best friends or sparring partners. You have both grown together.

I now understand why I don’t feel these feelings. I haven’t “grown” with someone like that. There is nothing wrong with me, I just didn’t have that opportunity. And you know what? I am totally ok with that. I feel free.

I do have the opportunity to be a mum and I am now doing it with my boys. Whilst I am not the most “conventional” mum around, I believe I am a good mum. My boys and I are growing together on this special journey that only we can share. It can’t be recreated. It is what it is and it is our journey.

Did I mention that I finally get it? I am feeling so free about this. I am ok. I know I can’t recreate something that never existed. I know that even though I didn’t have that relationship, I have very loving relationships with many people in my life.

I also have the chance to be friends with the woman who gave me life. It won’t be the relationship I thought I always wanted – but it will still be special.  Even more so now because I understand how it should be.

I hope that when my time is up my boys will wear red shoes to my funeral. You will need to read Carol’s blog post to understand what that means.

Thank you so much Carol Duncan for freeing my mind of something that has haunted me for years.   We’ve never met, however you and your mum are now part of the tapestry of my life.   Thank you for taking me on the journey of saying goodbye to your mum – it was special.

Happy Mothers’ Day to all the mums who read my blog. May your journeys be filled with much love, laughs, happy memories and red shoes.

About Annieb25

A mum to 2 teenage boys, would be writer, thirsty for knowledge, Radio Solution solver on Radio 1116 4BC and so much more!!
This entry was posted in Family, My Boys, Parenting and tagged , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

41 Responses to How red shoes taught me about love …

  1. Pingback: Tweets that mention How red shoes taught me about love … | Living Life as Me --

  2. catebolt says:

    You know my gig. I get what you’ve said here and I like the way you’ve done it. I think this is something very few would understand. I’m glad you’ve given yourself the right to write it.

  3. Katrina says:

    Wow. I have tears and a lump in my throat. Not in a way where I feel sorry for you, but in a way where I feel proud to be friends with such a positive, happy and strong woman. We have only known each other for a few months, and I am grateful to know you. You have been on a journey I can’t imagine. You know lots about my family (as I talk too much) so I am glad you feel free and ok to talk. xxx

  4. Jayne Kearney says:

    Oh my goodness – such a brave, heartfelt and meaningful post. Finding meaning in tragedy and pain are some of life’s most bittersweet and profound blessings, in my book. And sharing those discoveries helps others to know that it is possible to rise up and out of the murkiness that may be our past – but not only to rise up but to rise up whole, joyous and loving. Well done you – for sharing this story, but mainly for living your life so authentically. x

  5. Oh wow, this is a very special post. Thank you so much for sharing. As soon as I read “Mother’s Day” and the couple of paragraphs after it, I had tingles up and down my body. That’s how I know that what you’re sharing is true and powerful.
    God Bless You for freeing yourself and helping others by writing this. I was surprised when I first realised how many people had very negative experiences and difficult relationships with their mothers.
    “She did nothing.” That is why I always try to do ‘something’ to protect children.
    It’s interesting, by writing about our “demons,” we realise that it was part of a wider social problem/issue, and it wasn’t just us. I wrote about Trauma and Recovery in my most recent post, there are some great quotes by Judith Herman in there.
    I agree, Carol is pretty tops too.

  6. Annie, I have chills down my spine and tears in my eyes and immense gratitude that there are gorgeous and generous people like you prepared to share your stories. Having not experienced your pain and isolation, but seen and heard from many others who have been through some of your experience, I know how important it is that women share these stories.

    You are generous because being open about these incredibly human and raw reactions helps other people heal too – well, that’s what I think. Perhaps that is presumptuous of me because my own childhood was relatively uncomplicated.

    Carol’s post had the same quality – sharing something that evokes precious feelings in most of us, and even for you who had to endure unthinkable years of outrageous non-parenting. I wish I could give you hugs, a hug for coming out the other side as a loving parent of 2 boys, a hug for finding a partner to share your life with, a hug for giving the gift of this post to your readers, and hundreds of hugs to say you deserve many more.

  7. Bern Morley says:

    How the hell you are such a lovely, positive person who can give so selflessly, after all the shite you’ve been though, just blows my mind.

    I’d love to hear about your biological mother one day. Being adopted myself, I seem to be drawn to peoples experiences when it comes to this.

    Thanks for sharing Annie, you are just tops. 🙂

  8. Carol says:

    Annie … oh my … the elephant in the room. Why oh why do we still find it so hard to talk about abuse? I am so touched by this post – you talk about a childhood I can never imagine. We were no ‘perfect’ family, but mostly I felt safe and that my world was an inviolable sanctuary. At least until about 14 … that’s another story for another day!

    I admire you for so much for allowing yourself to love your children, to love anyone, and revel in the honesty of that.

    I didn’t know if anyone would be interested in what I wrote about my mother, but I know now how much telling these stories helps other people.

    Ironic, really, given how often I convince other people to share their stories on my radio program “because telling your personal story is the best way to help other people”!

    You are so brave, and beautiful, and I am honoured to call you my friend.

    And I’m crying buckets!

    Thank you for sharing, and revealing a significant part of who you are.

  9. Annieb25 says:

    Oh gosh. I’m so humbled by the comments above. Thank you all so much. It feels so good to write this down and finally understand some things about mother love. If one person reads my post and has an “aha” moment – then I will feel very honoured and happy.

  10. Kylie L says:

    Wow- what an amazing post. So brave of you to put it out there, and so well articulated. I really admire you for writing this, and for living it even more so.
    Hoping that this coming Mother’s Day brings you happiness and loads of love from your children- whom I’m sure adore you.

  11. Kerry says:


    Sadly I can relate to the experiences you have towards your “guardian”. I make no judgement towards her as she would have had to deal with her actions (or lack thereof) in her life.

    For you, I just want to say thank you for making my life just that bit easier to deal with. Your story is heartbreaking yet inspiring because you have managed to make peace with your past and move on, despite some very soul destroying abuses you have had to deal with.

    You are an amazing person for sharing this story with the public. This is not an easy thing to do – showing your feelings and opening up. By virtue of publishing your story you have articulated how to and help other survivors cope. For this I truly thank you.

    It is good your boys have a wonderful loving and warm mother (you!) that cares and is enjoying the safety of a real home. Both you and I never had this as children but ours are blessed that they do. You have broken a cycle so to me you are worthy of all the admiration and successes in life that come your way.

    I hope your Mother’s Days, this year forward, are special and that you always enjoy life to the fullest.


  12. Tracy Rudd says:

    Annie, I left my cuppa in the kitchen, but was immediately so gripped by the emotional honesty of your story that I haven’t noticed the length of the post, only the courageous and beautiful soul of it’s writer.

    Thank you for sharing your pain with us. Yes, if it enables just one person to open up, to begin the healing journey, then your own openness has been rewarded. I’ve just blogged a little piece about growing and learning from the pain we experience in our lives, and then I come over here. You provide such a glorious example. Mwahh.

  13. MsDovic says:

    I just felt the heavy depth of sadness in my heart breaking for the little girl you were. And then the softness and calmness of it healing back together as I realised the woman that you are now. Your post was amazing for what it was. And that was you.

    What we all crave from the moment we let out our first cry is comfort, love, warmth, protection and security. For every moment of every year that you didn’t get this, may you experience 100 times over flowing between yourself and your boys.

    I will think of you this mothers day often. Hell, I’m not sure how I’ll stop thinking of you :).

    Thankyou for sharing a most honest and raw post.

    PS I need to go back to @carolduncans post. For reasons different to yours, that mum/daughter relationship bypassed me too….and that aha moment is something I’m still looking for. But like you, finding my own spot (even without the aha) is a much more wonderful place to be.


  14. Linda says:

    Wow Annie. Wow.

    You are clearly an amazing argument for ‘nature’ in the ‘nature versus nuture’ argument. More power to you for coming out of a murky childhood, strong, positive, resilient and open to love and happiness.

    Without wanting to sound trite at all… respect.

  15. Darren says:

    Wow. That was so powerful and moving.

    I can’t add anything to these comments that others haven’t already said. Except thank you for sharing such a private journey. 🙂 Immense respect to you. What a strength of character you have.

  16. Julie-Ann says:

    I think I am speechless. I just want to give you the biggest hug.

  17. Siobhan says:

    Thank you for sharing your story. What a brave person you are.

  18. Liz K says:


  19. anjwritesabout says:

    Floored…gobsmacked…stunningly clear writing about something normally overly emotional. Detached, perhaps, but still emotive. You amaze me! xo

  20. Seraphim says:

    It has taken me all day to get to read your post and I now know there was a reason why, it was a story that deserved and needed all my attention.
    I am honoured that you shared it. So much of what you said was so powerful and true. Whilst I can’t imagine what you endured I am in awe of the fact that it did not damage your capacity to love, mother and protect your own children.
    Sending you lots of love Annie. You are an inspiration.

  21. Naomi says:

    Thank you for sharing this. Very brave, very honest.

  22. Pingback: The Step World of Mums … and Dads | Living Life as Me

  23. Jodi says:

    Annie, you are so brave, so honest and so inspirational. Thank you for sharing.

    My Mum passed when I was 15, she was a good Mum, not great but I’m sure she did the best she could. I don’t ‘get’ mother daughter adult relationships because I have never had this. I miss my Mum every day and still get angry that she selfishly died and I have to miss out on this and my kids have to miss out on a Grandmother. I know it wasn’t her fault, although did wait a whole year of being so sick she couldn’t eat and surviving on Sustegen before getting a second opinion from the doctors, who knows had she have taken care of herself and not been scared, she may have been okay. This is why I am still angry but still miss her.

    I’m going off tangent now, sorry, but thank you for sharing. You are a wonderful person.

  24. dicardy says:

    You do still have a bright look in your eyes.

    Don’t let them take that away.

    My family has a friend who’s son knew
    the victory of the church, I am grateful
    you may at least carry-on regardless.

    I guess we all must.

    But I would harken them that their
    own log perhaps be updated to help
    perhaps with their vision at times.

    I know to us it is all.
    But to none we would wish.

    “A grateful breath in realisation that
    yes, it does end and hope to avert future


  25. Geof Anderson says:

    When you do your High school years at the ripe old age of 13 through to 16 (we only went to year 10) you expect a persons behavior to be subjected to those wonderfull things called hormons .
    You expect a young girl sitting next to you in English snap at you and you think you knew everything because you just had a class of Physical Development and you spoke of how your body changes you know the lot!
    Your a young boy in a country town that sits next to a cranky girl in class that says to you when you brush her hand or arm by mistake to get a lend of a ruler Yells out ‘Dont you Touch me!”,you know everything, its hormons you had just been told all about them from Mrs Mathews PD class.
    I am sorry Annette I didnt know what was wrong, I always thought it was me who made your skin crawl and you would shy away from me when you had to sit next to me,you would look down in class and hardly look up,and for that I thought you were a snob and you hated my guts in school,
    I am so so sorry for thinking that back then!
    I now wish I had of known and we could had somehow made life better for you and your sister, again I am sorry we didnt help,
    You see this is one of the things I can remember from school ,you in our English class with Mrs Williams and your attitude toward me while sitting next to me,,,I now know why,
    Today they have councillers for school kids you just had to live with this crap you were being delt out hold it in and deal with the idiots you had around you ,One of those where me ,for being such a idiot and not seeing the signs,I am so bloody Sorry
    I had no Idea this was going on in this small country town of ours where everybody knew everybody else you could leave your house unlocked,I now realise I was stupid an nieve and I looked at life with rose coloured glasses,maybey it kept me sain,
    its a shame you had your youth taken away to soon,I was lucky I suppose I only got a back hand now and then a split lip and a occational blackeye,but I was a boy thats what happened to you,it made a man out of me but it taught me never to hit my kids and to wrap my arms around around them and tell them I love them,,
    I now look back and realise when someone says the good old days they are talking about now not then,seems we did have good times and its true we didnt know what went on behind closed doors,Annette I am sorry I (we) couldnt help you
    your old school mate

    • Annieb25 says:

      Oh Geoff that was so moving. Please don’t feel bad. It was so long ago and, whilst it was hard, I am who I am because of all my experiences in life – good and bad. I do feel bad that I made you feel bad – I’m sorry I did that. I didn’t have the greatest social skills with boys at school. Don’t be sad for me – I am a very happy person. Thank you so much for writing those words which must have been difficult for you. You are a very nice person. x

  26. Kimba286 says:

    Hey! I have only just read your blog and Geoff’s reply today. I know your story we have talked at length before and I like Geoff wish we had have known what was happening in your life. Geoff, Annie was an amazing girl who managed to hide everything in her breaking heart, we could not imagine what was happening in her homelife and just thought her never wanting to return home from the many family holidays she spent with my family was just because she was having a great time. I remember the booby trap bedroom when I would sleepover but being young and naive I just thought it was a game, little did I know the true reason behind it and the great protector and friend I had. My mum and I talk about Annie often and I know that mum’s heart is sad that we did not know and couldnt protect you Annie. I know that in spite of all that was taken from you in your childhood you are the most remarkable friend and demonstrate what real strength is. After reading your inner thoughts today and realising how you have shaped your own personality and values despite everything I can really say I am privileged to call you my true friend of almost 45 years. KimXXXX

    • Annieb25 says:

      Kim, your comment made me cry. It has taken me a few days to actually sit down and think of what I want to say. You and your family were truly what got me through. I always had you and, as you know, I practically lived with your family – whenever I got the chance I was there. Your mum did so much for me – she should never be sad about what she thinks she didn’t do – I wouldn’t be who am today without the influence of your family. I have always considered your dad as my dad, I used to secretly pretend he was, for most of my growing up years. Thank you for the words you wrote above. I too am privileged to have your friendship and look forward to another 45 years of it! xxx

  27. emlykd says:

    well.. From the scrolling I had to do to get to the bottom of the page to WRITE a comment.. I think everyone agrees with me.. This is an amazing post, Annie.. And I applaud your courage in writing this post.. Can’t be easy to speak about these things. And you are so at peace with it. I guess there’s no point getting too worried about the past, you can’t change it right…? Admiration and respect in massive amounts here for you!! xxxx oh, and much love too…

  28. Christie says:

    Wow. I came back to look around your blog after visiting recently for Bloggers Without Makeup day. Talk about taking down the barriers and baring all for your readers. From reading this post I get that you are brave, amazing, generous, wise, thoughtful, insightful, resilient, have I said amazing yet?
    It was interesting reading your perspective on the journey of mothers and their children. I wonder if we can break the cycle of “shock” that their mothers aren’t perfect by freely admitting our mistakes as mothers and apologising to our children when we stuff up. I’m hoping so.
    Thank you for sharing this story, I probably wouldn’t have clicked on it had I known what I was in for, but I’m glad I did. I’m glad you wrote this. And I’m glad you are okay.

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  30. Kristin says:

    Annie, you are truly incredible. What soul you have. To have endured this and to come out the other end without bitterness, with an open heart for your own family and friends, that is truly an accomplishment.

    Are you really going to move me to tears every time I visit your blog. I’m not sure I’m up for that!

  31. emlykd says:

    I have read this post again.. I think you knew how to love.. Perhaps didn’t have the right capacity to express it in.. and now you do…. love…. xxxxxx

  32. Lauren says:

    I think you’ve grown into a lovely mother. ((Hugs and tears.))

  33. I’m feeling angry, sad and happy; all at the same time. Angry that anyone would do damage to a child. Sad that there are many, many other children, place in the same circumstance. And happy? I’m happy because you’re okay and you are able to love your kids. I’m sorry you didn’t know what is like to really have a Mother. There’s greif in that. I lost my beautiful mother 4 years ago. There’s greif in that too. Hooray for you for writing about it and I’m glad you this side of it.

  34. Maxabella says:

    I think you are your own mother, Annie.

  35. Veronica says:

    I am so glad you got your AH HA! moment.

  36. Brenda says:

    You are a brave and beautiful soul, Annie. Thank you for sharing your story with us.x

  37. Ash says:

    Wow Annie that is such a brave and powerful story that it has left me speechless. Your strength is inspiring and you write so beautifully.

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