Cinderella- the Real Story
By Kathryn Taylor
Our story does not begin with "Once upon a time"; it begins with.........in the past, and even now, in homes all over America, there are children living in families who for some reason or another cannot bond to their parents. I was a mother of 3 and had never considered the consequences of un-bondedness. But, we were soon to find out- the hard way. Let's slip into the life of Cindy and Fella Fantasy and see what tales there are to tell.....
I still remember the moment Cindy and Fella walked through our front door. I was mesmerized. Eight year old Cindy was dressed in a frilly dress with shiny black shoes. Her long blond hair was neatly french-braided. Her azure blue eyes were breath-taking, though they revealed how afraid she was. Her twin brother, Fella, was equally adorable with his big brown eyes and long lashes.
It was the typical birth-family background: neglect, domestic violence, alcohol and drug abuse. There were four other siblings, all taken in by blood relatives; but no one wanted the twins. Such adorable children did not deserve to live the kind of life they had lived thus far. Social Services terminated parental rights and made them available for adoption. Adoption seemed the natural and godly thing for us to do after parenting them for a year. We loved them and could not bear to see them sent off with strangers every week-end for the "try-before-you-buy program".
I thought back over the past year...
"I want to call you Mom," Cindy giggled after one day of being with us.
Fella, far more quiet, followed suit. Cindy was so full of joy. She laughed non-stop for weeks. Or was it joy? She was very clingy and stayed very close to me. She seemed more cautious of men. She loved to dress up, but would be the first one to get dirty. If anyone could hold her own with four brothers, it was her. She was a wonderful student and had beautiful penmanship. Always sweet and pleasant, she was liked by everyone she met. She helped do chores with a willing heart. The stories we heard about her were the opposite of what we were seeing. I wondered why it was so different with us.
Fella, however, was having a bit more adjusting to do. Having three natural sons of our own, plus two other foster sons, Fella seemed lost amongst the boys. He fell third in line by age. He was very quiet. You could tell when something bothered him, but one could never drag it out of him. He was a solemn old man trapped in a little boy's body.
The year before the adoption went relatively uneventful, nothing but ordinary childhood adjustments. Their problems were very minor in comparison to some of our more troubled foster kids. Cindy and Fella fit into the family as if born into it. Everything was fine... for a while. "Happily ever after", appeared to be at risk.
The week of the adoption I broke my foot tripping over a vacuum. The week after the adoption, our family moved out to the country to give our children a quieter, safer, and more peaceful life.
Cindy and Fella began missing their birth family, the ones who rejected them, neglected them, hurt them, and abandoned them. Somehow, they began creating their own fairy-tale world. In it, their birth family was the one that was kind and loving, and we were the ones that did not love them and abused them. My role in their story was to be the "Wicked Step-mother". I prefer to call myself the "Trapped, Stepped-on Mother".
"I hate you!! You hit me and beat me!! I want to live with my REAL mother. She loves me!!", Cindy would yell at me whenever she was mad.
"You used to want me to be your mom," I would say, "When did that change?"
"As soon as you adopted me," she would say with contempt.
"This has got to be temporary," we thought. "They just need to adjust to the move."
A year passed. The week of their adoption anniversary, my husband severely cut his hand at work. How strange, we thought, to have two injuries in a row so close to their adoption day. The twins began playing "monster tag" with me. One would be really good and the other would be totally rebellious. The better the one was, the worse the other would be. The body language, actions, words, and facial expressions would ooze total defiance. Within two minutes, they would completely switch. It was hard to believe. It seemed as though they shared a demon, jumping from one to the other. I thanked God daily for my older sons. I thought I was loosing my mind. Thank God they witnessed the same things I did.
When we were home alone, Cindy and Fella would defy the simplest of directions. They acted like they couldn't hear. They mumbled whatever they said. They answered, "I don't know", to everything I asked. It seemed they were purposefully trying to lose privileges. They found more ways to misinterpret instructions, disobey simple requests, challenge authority, and argue, than Einstein could invent things. They wanted all the fun and privileges of the family and none of the work and responsibility. Because of this insane behavior, it put incredible burden and hardship on the rest of the family. We all had to take up the slack and do their share of the work. We constantly had to watch them.
We discovered that whenever there was company over, it was a great opportunity to get them to do a little work. They took great pride in making others believe that they were eager to please, and obedient. This backfired on us, however, because to outsiders it seemed that Cindy and Fella were always doing all the chores. It seemed they had the worst jobs and never got to play.
People began talking about the Fantasy family. Rumors claimed, "Oh, if only they were loved like the real children. The real children get to join clubs and sports. They get to go places and play. They were never in trouble."
All of Cindy and Fella's misery seemed to take place by the decree of the "trapped, stepped-on mother". It was all too obvious to those around that I only loved my birth-children and Cindy and Fella were mere slaves. This is just what Cindy and Fella wanted people to believe. No matter what I tried, I would always wind up being the wicked one. If they were restricted in any way, they played it to the hilt. If I told them they were going to get to play no matter how bad they were, you would think I had told them to hoe the garden with a toothpick. (And we have a very large garden) On one such occasion, some friends came over to swim at our house. Cindy and Fella got into the pool and clung to the side in 70* water on a 95* day and shivered in misery as the other children splashed and played around them. Even though this family came over just to swim, they all wanted to get out solely to make the twins happy. This left the rest of my children hurt and angry because they knew what was really going on.
On the anniversary of their third adoption year, I fractured my ankle. I was sitting in the car and had forgotten something. I jumped out of the car and my foot caught in my purse strap. It felt like someone grabbed me and threw me to the ground. When I spun around, my ankle did not. My husband ran out, and tried to calm me down. When I looked up, Cindy was standing behind my husband, arms crossed, looking at me with a cold, calculated, satisfied stare. My blood ran cold.
I ended up having eight pins and a metal plate put in my ankle. It was months of recovering and things did not let up with the twins. They seemed to be more manipulative and deceiving than ever. More people were in the home helping as I recovered. Friends and relatives became critical as they caught glimpses into our family. Cindy would act out all day long knowing so-and-so would show up that afternoon. Then the games would begin. Relationships were damaged and some were even severed, all over the twins.
The problem with Fairy Tales is they are told by one perspective. Revisit the tale of Cinderella with me, yet this time imagine that Cinderella was a child suffering from Reactive Attachment Disorder. We can all surmise that Cinderella's mother died and she never knew her, major loss number one. Her beloved father dotes on and spoils her. Enter another woman and her two daughters. All of a sudden, she no longer has the sole attention of her dad. Then, after all that, her father dies right before her eyes. Step-mother does all she can to console and love her, but to no avail. Cinderella changes drastically. She quits taking care of her belongings. She takes poor care of her body. She appears dirty and unkempt. The village begins to talk and all surmise that it must be how her step-family is treating her. Cinderella isolates from them, in fact, even begins to steal from them. Often her step-sisters find their belongings missing. Cinderella confesses with the most honest expression, "I didn't do it. The mice and birds stole it and brought it to my room. I merely found it on the floor, therefore, it is mine."
Her behavior becomes more and more out of control. She has completely alienated herself from her sisters. They want very little to do with her anymore. The step-sisters get their chores done quickly and efficiently. However, Cinderella does hers so poorly she has to do them over and over again, or just does them so slowly, it takes her all day. Often the step-mother is forced to have her stay in her room.
Years later, because of her beauty she wins the heart of the prince with her charming superficiality. Because of the step-mother's loyalty to her country, she desperately hides Cinderella in her room to protect the prince from a sure to be miserable marriage. However, Cinderella escapes from her room and putting on the show of her life, convinces all as to the horrible abuses she has suffered at the hands of her wicked step-family. Since everyone always believes the child, Step-mother and her daughters are banished from the kingdom.
It is my hope that this story will let others know they are not alone. More importantly, I hope those who have judged others, as we parents have been judged, will be able to consider the truth in this story and give other "trapped, stepped-on mothers" the benefit of the doubt.