I was raised by my paternal grandparents.
It began when I was five weeks old, after I spent the first weeks of my life in a foster home. My mother placed me in the care of strangers shortly after my birth, then left town, not to be seen for about four years.
During those five weeks, my family had no idea of my whereabouts, and I had no contact with any relatives.
To this day I don’t know where I first called home, who changed my nappies or who burped me after each bottle. My grandparents later told me that when they collected me from the foster home, a young boy answered the door – my foster mother’s son. When my grandparents told him they were there to collect me, he responded with Oh thank goodness! All she does is cry.
The only way my grandparents discovered my whereabouts was because my father – presumably out of a sense of outrage at his paternal rights being thwarted by his ex-girlfriend – petitioned the court (with the financial backing of his parents) for sole custody of me.
Of course, my 21-year-old, unemployed and painfully self-centred father had absolutely no intention of raising me himself – no, no. That pesky task could be easily contracted out to his ever-doting and reliable parents. Which it was.
Consequently, after a few legal appearances my grandparents were awarded guardianship of me, for 20 years.
Obviously, recounting this story to others is not without its unpleasantness. If asked for an explanation of my upbringing, I can quite easily go on autopilot and simply state that my parents were young…my grandparents stepped in.
But that’s not the real truth, and it doesn’t convey the extent of the drama that unfolded because of this arrangement. It lets the person who asked me this question off the hook – it gives them a sanitary, palatable explanation for what was an ugly and sometimes heartbreaking experience.
But instead of going into all of that just yet, I thought I would post my (un)favourite comments about my upbringing that I have had the pleasure of fielding over the years which have been intrusive and unnecessary. And because I never wanted to make anyone feel uncomfortable, I never responded with That’s none of your fucking business. Instead I just smiled, and joked, and gritted my teeth while I faced the following:
Do you miss your parents?
Ugh. How could I miss something I never had? Do you miss intelligent social interraction? Probably not.
This question is so ridiculous I often feel a twinge of superiority whilst hearing it, because it clearly means I am more intelligent than the person in front of me. I usually start to speak a little slower and gently explain that my grandparents raising me is all I’ve ever known, so really they’re my parents. Sometimes the penny drops for a few puzzled souls, but usually I just received an awkward frown and a “poor you” face from the question-asker. Thanks for that.