Life After…My Childhood

I am honoured that Sian, whom fellow bloggers may know from The Potty Mouthed Mummy, has chosen to share the story of her childhood here, in the first Life After… guest post. After reading her sad yet so beautifully told story, I desperately wanted to give her a huge hug. Thank you, Sian, for being so brave and for helping give hope to others.


Many a night in my childhood, I would awake in a cold sweat from a recurring nightmare. In the nightmare I would climb out of bed, peer over the banister and see a bag at the bottom of the stairs; one of those giant army green camping style bags. And I would know, he was back in our home again.

Some nights the nightmare would turn out to be real. As every time I had the nightmare I would wake up to check if it were indeed just a dream or if in some horrific way I had seen it coming.

He. My mother’s boyfriend.

My father left when I was five or so. Soon after my mum’s boyfriend, Paul, moved in.

He was much younger than my mother. So many people upon hearing what he had done would say to me, as a youngster, “Oh but he’s young”. As if age excuses it.

To my mum she believed I adored him. I put on a good show, as she loved him so much. When he was away she was a shell. Nothing I could do would please her. When he returned, my brother and I were almost invisible. She certainly wasn’t her best self while she was with him.

Days when she would forget to pick me up from school as they were in bed all day

Days when they wouldn’t care who heard or saw what they were doing…

Things like that haunt me, stay with me.

So, in a desperate plea to make my mum happy with me, to find some common ground with her, I acted like I loved him.

He was in our lives while I was 6-11 years old.

Sometimes I think of myself at that age, how much older I already was than everyone else.

A childhood lost.

Because the truth is, he hit me.

He would hit my brother and I viciously.

My mum would go to work and leave her unemployed boyfriend to care for us.

My brother and I were united, for once, in our fear and hatred of him. My brother, being older, was able to escape the house more. I do not blame him for that and to be honest, he wasn’t really aware how bad it was for me.

I remember playing out in our street with friends one day, the other children who lived doors away. I had to check in at an allotted time throughout the day. I remember checking my watch and seeing it was 2.04pm and running for home. My friends were shouting after me that it was in fact 1.04pm. But the fear was so ingrained in me that he might hurt me that I could only run home preparing to apologise for being 4 minutes late.

The most awful moment was one Christmas Day. I had been bought a Walkman and some version of “Now That’s What I Call Music”. I was listening to a Queen song and I remember feeling a little sad, recalling that Freddie Mercury had died the same year.

He saw my face, grabbed me and hauled me upstairs calling me ungrateful.

I was thrown into my bedroom.

He asked me why I was such a brat.

I tried to explain. But he would not listen.

He bit my lip and pulled me off the ground with the force of it.

He left deep purple marks in my lip, obvious to all.

My mum asked later what it was and on the spot I blamed the dog, who was later hit rather harshly. The guilt was unbearable as his yelps repeated in my head. And the irony of my mum protecting me, but against the wrong person.

Another time I was thrown down the stairs, I have no idea how nothing broke.

Eventually age 11, while he was away again, I told my mum what he had done to me, to my brother.

In my heart I believed she had known all along and was ignoring it.

But she did not.

She had no idea.

She wept, got drunk and ended it.

He was never seen again.

But it stays forever.

The secret behind my slightly, and ever present, serious yet sad face.

The way I have seemed 40 since age 10.

My quick temper, the one that makes me worry the same darkness in him has passed to me. I know I could never hurt Harrison like that, but I fear it nonetheless.

My quick to defend myself attitude; born through trying to stand up to him on many occasions. I remember him shouting at me once “Who do you think you are?” and I responded fiercely “Sian Johnston”. That one line stopped his raised hand in its tracks. Surprised perhaps.

My aversion to being held for too long. Due to seeing far too much intimacy as a young girl.

It would have been so easy to become someone who just stopped trying.

I could have been the girl who didn’t work at school.

The girl who slept with the boys too early.

The one who took drugs and lived on handouts.

That’s the obvious pattern for someone like me. I was told as much by teachers at school when they generalised about “certain types of people”.

People who are abused become abusers, they would say.

Criminals tend to come from a history of abuse, they would say.

As if they knew.

But instead, all I ever did was fight.

From that age, where he would hurt me, I began my love of getting lost in books. Escaping to worlds that were not my own. Which lead to a desire to learn, to read more, to be better and to actually escape my world.

I saved and put myself through University.

I got a degree. I got good grades. I got good jobs.

But the story doesn’t always end that way. Every time I see a girl in the news who was from the wrong side of the tracks, abused and has been arrested or worse, murdered. I always think of myself. Because I could have been her; I could have let myself fade away into nothing. Used my past as an excuse for so many things.

Now I have my husband, who knows all this past, who is so patient with me. Then of course there is my son, who I will never tell about this. He doesn’t need the burden of knowing how much I was hurt. He doesn’t need that darkness in his life.

My mum and I are now very close, the past will always be there. There isn’t a week that goes by when a memory doesn’t pop up in my head. But I try hard to push it away.

I try to focus on what I have now, my life after that childhood. Because thinking about it all too much, it hurts. It doesn’t feel like my life.

I wish it hadn’t been part of my life.

But in a way, it shaped me to be strong, determined and someone who never quits.

Which is truly the most perverse part of it all.


If you would like to share your Life After story, please get in touch

29 thoughts on “Life After…My Childhood

  1. Honest Mum says:

    Oh Sian, I’m reading this crying, I am so, so sorry you went through this as a child, you are so brave to write about it (thank you Leigh for offering this platform) and well done for not letting it define or stop you, for breaking free and being an incredible woman. You should feel so proud of yourself. Never fear you could be like him. Lots of love xxx


  2. Lisa@intotheglade says:

    Sian, you are so I inspirational to share this horrific story. I am willing to bet you have helped someone else to talk about it. You should be so proud of yourself lovely. You have broken the cycle. With lots of hugs xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  3. Caroline B (@poptartsandpnd) says:

    Gosh, I can relate on many levels. Suffering physical threats and actions as a child must have been awful. My mother frequently hit me around the head when she was very annoyed with me and that was a big enough indignity and act of savagery.

    I have a terrible temper, and too I would never dream of allowing it to hurt my children because they were happening to be annoying. Children are annoying but breaking them emotionally doesn’t achieve anything).

    Hugs and lots of sympathy. Just know that we are who we are today, despite what we went through and also, because we have experienced terrible parenting, the ‘right’ way just seems more natural, because it’s the right thing to do. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

  4. poutinginheels says:

    Oh Sian. 😦 I cried reading this, thinking of you so isolated, so terrified and so badly hurt by someone whose job it was – as an adult – to love and protect you. And I’m truly so sorry to hear of your experience. It just beggars belief doesn’t it? The pain grown up people inflict on children. I can feel the rage building inside me about it, as I type.

    If it helps a little, let’s just say I can most definitely relate. When my Mum married my second stepdad at the age of 11, my life changed forever and, like your story, not in a good way. What happened to me is different but I too lived under a shadow of threat and constant fear. And like you, even though, it helped to make me a stronger person, it has also left it’s scar.

    But…you have done SO incredibly well. You’re a remarkable woman by any standard, but to not go of the rails (like I did) is just amazing. You should be so proud of yourself and everything you have overcome / are overcoming and have achieved. Well done my darling and thank you, thank you for being so courageous in sharing your story. Such an incredibly difficult thing to do, but yet so powerful. Much love xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  5. lifeatthelittlewood says:

    So beautifully written my little friend, despite how difficult it must have been for you. And in spite of all this horror in your younger years, you have turned into one of the sweetest people I know. Like Em, I’ve taught kids from similar backgrounds, who have spiralled out of control after times like the ones you describe. It’s not surprising at all, but to pull yourself back from that, to achieve all that you have – well, that takes a strength that I think you doubt in yourself sometimes. Be very proud, my Siany!
    A gorgeous feature Leigh xx

    Liked by 1 person

  6. Tim says:

    Sian, thank you for sharing your story and Leigh, thank you for giving it a platform. I’ve picked up bits and pieces of the background story before but not realised the full extent of what you went through. I’m so glad you’ve come through it all stronger and so well-balanced in spit of it all. It’s a reminder to those of us who had relatively ‘normal’ childhoods that we should appreciate what we had, no matter how imperfect we might consider them to be.

    Liked by 1 person

  7. Not A Frumpy Mum says:

    My lovely Sian, you are so amazingly brave to tell your story and I can’t even begin to imagine how awful that time in your life must have been. I can never understand anyone who hits a child.
    Harrison is so lucky to have such a strong and inspirational woman as his mum, who will be fighting his corner every day of his life. Like others have said I want to go back and give little Sian a hug but seeing as thats not possible I’m sending you lots of virtual ones. xxx

    Liked by 1 person

  8. Notmyyearoff says:

    Wow Sian that sounds like such a tough time and I’m so sorry you had to go through all of that 😦 I’m glad he went for good eventually but what a hateful horrible man, how can anyone treat a child like that. I hope writing this provides even the tiniest bit of therapy and I hope someday someone sees this and it helps them. Maybe it’ll give them the courage to tell their mum or dad about a horrible person in their lives. Sending you love xx

    Liked by 1 person

  9. mrshsfavouritethings says:

    What an amazing post to kick off. This sad tale is moving and written beautifully. It makes me realise that Sian is even more awesome and wonderful than I thought. I too want to give Sian a hug. but I also want to hug the child she was. I want to protect her and show her a mother’s love. This post has really moved me. Thanks for sharing lovely Leigh. Hugs Mrs H xxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  10. Victoria Welton says:

    What a totally traumatic childhood you had. You have done brilliantly in your life to come out the other side and give your son the family and childhood that he deserves. More proof of the fact that people have a choice of how they choose to be and what they choose to do with their lives. Big hugs to you Sian. Well done for sharing xx

    Liked by 1 person

  11. Complicated Gorgeousness says:

    Dearest Sian. We love you. You’ve hinted at this for so long and I am glad you now feel in a good place to share. Here to listen any time – either through the blog or in person. I am very proud of you and echo what others have said about being glad to call you a friend xx

    Liked by 1 person

  12. says:

    Oh my lovely bab. You are such a brave old soul and I do love you. I am so sorry this happened to you and as someone who teaches pupils from similar backgrounds it is amazing you turned out the way that you did. It really is. You should be very very proud xxxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  13. oddsocksandlollipops says:

    What a brave post, thank you for sharing it. You are a survivor Sian, you have carried on fighting and you have achieved so much against adversity.
    This was such a difficult post to read, heartbreaking but I a glad I have read it, and learnt a little bit about a truly amazing & inspiring lady.

    Liked by 1 person

  14. twinderelmo2014 says:

    I had absolutely no Idea. The hairs on my arms stood up reading this and my heart hurt thinking of the pain you carry around. Most think that once the situation stops you get over it – you never do. You learn to adapt but i wholeheartedly agree it shapes you as a person and to happen as a child makes it even harder to stomach. I know you don’t want sympathy but you know what – you don’t need it! Just read back what you have done!! Look at your husband & H. Smile knowing that when you stood and defiantly replied Sian Johnston that Sian Johnston was and is an amazingly courageous strong awesome person.
    Thank you for writing this. I don’t think I’ll ever feel brave enough to ever write about my 20s xx

    Liked by 1 person

  15. mummydaddyme says:

    Oh Sian, this has made me sit here and burst into tears this morning. I knew you didn’t have the happiest of childhoods from what you wrote on your blog, but I had no idea about all this. Sending you all my love, I cannot even begin to imagine my babies going through what you did. That should never ever happen to a child. I think you are an incredible lady to be who you are now. I’m honoured to call you my friend. xxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxxx

    Liked by 1 person

  16. Zena's Suitcase says:

    What a great post Sian. The thing that strikes me the most is that you are a survivor, from choosing to like him, calling out your name and rushing back to get home on time. Legacies like this teach us to be the best parents we can be, there is no darkness in you whatsoever x

    Liked by 1 person

  17. Zena's Suitcase says:

    Sian, what a sad story but what strikes me from the very outset is you are a survivor, in choosing to like this retched man, in speaking your name. Legacies like this are awful but they teach us how to be the best parents we can be. You don’t have to hold onto the dark memories as you are nothing like him and never will be x

    Liked by 1 person

  18. Franki ~ Little Luca & Me says:

    A brilliant way to kick off the series, I think I’m gonna enjoy this series, I love reading about strong people who overcome adversity although I hate reading the awful bits. Well done Sian for being so brave and sharing such an awful part of your life in a hope to inspire or help others. You should be very proud of yourself. Sending you a virtual hug also. Xx

    Liked by 1 person

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