Oliver Sykes - Children's author METRO: Oliver pens ‘Degrees of Separation’ feature (31/03/2023)

METRO: Oliver pens ‘Degrees of Separation’ feature (31/03/2023)

I was 8 when my mum left my dad and 5 siblings – I never wanted her to come back

Peering out of the living room window, I watched Mum throw her bags in the boot of the car, climb into the driver’s seat and drive away without a backward glance. 

I was eight years old when she left and I haven’t seen her since.

Around me, my five brothers and sisters were sobbing and Dad looked visibly shaken that his partner of 14 years, the mother of his six children, had just walked away. Then he turned round and saw me. ‘Why aren’t you crying?’ he asked.

I shrugged guiltily. I couldn’t tell him that I wasn’t feeling sad or abandoned that Mum had left – although that would come later. I couldn’t tell him that actually, my main emotion in that moment was elation. I couldn’t wait to see the back of her.  

The thing was, I’d never had a close relationship with my mum. Far from it. I never felt like she loved me, or cared about me, especially in comparison to my siblings. I was always the one to get the blame if anything went wrong and she always seemed so much stricter with me than anyone else.

She was always punishing me in ways she didn’t with my brothers and sisters.

I assumed for a long time that all mums were like this, ruling the house with an iron fist while dads went out to work.

Yet, as I started to go to sleepovers at my friends’ houses and saw how their mums never shouted at them and would listen to them, hug them, the gears of my mind started to turn… maybe it wasn’t so normal?

So when she left, and my siblings were crushed, all I could think was, ‘I’m not going to get in trouble again.’

Since I’ve become an adult, I’ve spoken to other people whose parents left them, and they’ll explain how it took them years to come to terms with their feelings of abandonment and not feeling worthy.

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