The Tyranny of Ted
It was natural for Mum to let my siblings look after me, as she had lots of chores to do on the farm. My siblings were given the responsibility to take me out in the pushchair when I was old enough to sit in it. They went high and low, sometimes far away from the farm. They found it such fun to have a living doll to play with.
In the west of Norway there are many rivers and big waterfalls. I have been told that one day they strayed off with me in the pushchair. We were about to cross a river when one of the wheels got stuck and the pushchair jumped. I flew out through the air and splashed down into the waterfall. My siblings and a few kids from the neighbour’s farm were also there, and they almost laughed themselves to death as they saw this tiny child spinning round and round in the river with her hair stuck out at all angles. I spun in the waters like I was in a washing machine. Then Sally suddenly thought to herself, this is maybe not a good idea. Why don’t we help Laila? So, at the age of seven, she saved my life from drowning, by pulling me up from the river.
The very first memory I have of Ted was when I was about 14 months old. It was a day when Mum went for a walk with all the kids. It turned out to be a three mile round trip. Eventually, when Mum turned around to walk back home, Ted said he was tired and he started to make a fuss about wanting to sit in my pushchair. He managed to get his own way and as Mum squashed Ted in behind me, he immediately started to push me towards the very thin, unpadded metal pole that was in front of the pushchair. I remember the pain in my belly as he pushed me with his feet for the next 1.5 miles on the way home. Mum did nothing to stop him from trying to kick me out of the pushchair.
There were not many pictures taken of me as a kid, but I do remember once, when Mum decided to take a picture of me and Ted. I was around three years old at the time. She told us we had to hold hands. Ted always said, “I hate her, I hate her, I don’t want to touch her, she is a witch.” But I wanted my picture taken too, as had all my siblings. I knew that I had to act fast and I also knew the risk I was taking by what I was about to do. But, to get my picture taken, I thought it was worth it.
Mum said, “I won’t take your picture unless you hold hands”, so I just put my hand in Ted’s arm as quickly as I could and smiled on Mum’s command, and then Mum snapped the picture. As soon as she had taken the picture, Ted started to beat me up. He grabbed me by my hair and pulled a big handful out. He then went for my face and his nails forced themselves into my face until blood ran down my cheeks. Then he hit me to the floor, and as I was unable to move, he now had an advantage, because he was able to put more force into kicking me. It was as if he knew that I would suffer more pain this way whilst I lay on the floor. I had been through this so many times before and I knew what was coming.
I screamed to Mum for help, but she had long sat down in her chair with a cigarette, was busy reading her weekly magazine, and didn’t pay any attention to me crying for help. The pain was excruciating, especially in my stomach this time, because this was where he decided to kick the most. He never wanted to stop. The more I cried the more he kicked, and when I thought he had stopped, he started again. It was as if Ted was driven. When he started to hit me, he just couldn’t stop.
Every time Ted hit me, it was as if he decided to allow the “devil” to control him—that is how I saw it. I always cried for help to Mum. I never gave up hope that she would help me. I always thought she would see Ted for what a tyrant he was. But Mum resigned herself to everything, especially to me crying. I often thought that if I had been born a boy, how different my life might have been. Mum had three girls before she had a boy. Did having a boy make her so happy that when she became pregnant again, she thought she might have another boy? Was I such a big disappointment to her, being a girl?
Crying to Mum for help, when she was just a couple of feet away from where Ted was beating me, was such a dilemma for me. I had all the pain from the beating, but there was another pain inside of me that is hard to explain. It was like a knife hitting the centre of my guts. I experienced an unbelievable fear, seeing my rescuer so near yet not doing anything. It was always as if I was living a nightmare, where rescue was so near, but still so far away. My cries were never heard. I always had to ride the wave out, taking the beatings, whilst always, out of the corner of my eye, I could see Mum just sitting there reading her magazines.
Sometimes Ted and I would play outside with little cars; we played normally like siblings are supposed to. We made roads and little mud houses and used moss for the rooftops on the little houses we made, and everything was okay. When my roads were finished, Ted suddenly had that look in his eyes and I knew his playing was over. His second amusement started—“time to destroy hers”! There were very few days in my childhood when Ted left me alone whilst we were playing. He always destroyed the things I had made and made any excuse to beat me up. This was no ordinary sibling conflict. Ted used tremendous violence. My only defence was my mouth. When he started to destroy the things I had built and demolish my roads, I called him the devil. This stimulated his rage every time and he snapped. I don’t know why I had to do that, knowing he would get worse, but I had to say it. There was no other way I could defend myself and exercise my defence.