It’s true. We don’t see a lot of memoirs being written by adults who were neglected, and outside of some really atrocious cases, we rarely see the details of childhood neglect splashed across the front page, but these stories happen all of the time –
“Jordan’s teacher knows she should be more sympathetic. She admits with some shame that she’s relieved when he doesn’t come to school. When he does show up, he is usually dirty and oddly dressed. He smells. The other kids avoid him. Although he is 12, he is still in the fourth grade. Frequent absences mean he probably won’t get promoted this year either. Notes and calls to his parents get no response. Jordan is neglected.
Jenny, on the other hand, always has the latest clothes and the latest technology. Her teachers are very concerned because she is sexually provocative with peers and even with her male teachers. Her guidance counselor was able to have one briefly unguarded conversation with her. Hungry for love and attention, Jenny acknowledged that she goes after sex as a route to some kind of love. The counselor has called Jenny’s mother repeatedly to request a meeting. Mother says she is much too busy. “I put off my own life long enough,” says the mother. “She’s 15 now and she can take care of herself.” Jenny is neglected too.”
The linked article talks about something we often say about childhood abuse. Survivors often were too busy surviving their abuse in any way they could to have developed the skills they would need to navigate adulthood. Neglect might seem like a different kind of abuse, but it has that same effect.
I’ve seen this play out a number of times, and as the stories I quoted show, it’s not a socioeconomic thing. I’ve watched people in their late 20’s or early 30’s who didn’t grow up poor, but remind me very much of interacting with a hyper 14 year old. They are all over the place, unable to focus, organize themselves, or interact in normal ways with other adults. They usually fall into some behavior they learned to “get through” their childhood, and that was the end of their development.
It takes time to develop those skills, but it can be done. No matter what we didn’t have as kids.