Which is better: To have questionably committed parents disappear one night, or to have two cohabitation adults adopt you out of obligation? I suppose this is where the source of my confusion began. Who can I trust?
I was raised by a man named Sensei. At least that’s all I’ve ever known him by. Sensei has been my most solid parental figure since I can remember. As the story goes, he found me when I knocked on his dojo door asking for food. My hair was a long, black, rat’s nest and I wore nothing but panties and a plastic trash bag as a poncho. A single, homeless child is rare in the Underground. Most orphans are taken to the surface, to have a humane upbringing. The few children that are down here either stick to their mothers like glue or are “picked off” during the night. Fortunately, Sensei still had his conscience even after years of living in the Underground. He asked me where my parents were and I said I didn’t know. He convinced me, as a child, to take him to my parent’s apartment. From what he could tell, Sensei told me that my parents had gathers all the house’s valuables and left me. I don’t remember a single thing about them.
Sensei knew what happened to children who stay in the Underground. He said I could live with him in his dojo if I made myself useful. As a child, all I knew was that my other parents weren’t coming back and this man was saying I could stay with him. So I agreed and accepted this man as my new father. Fortunately, Sensei made the same offer to a little boy a year or so before. This little boy, Kyuzo, was rescued by Sensei as a baby after his parents got caught in a deadly “misunderstanding” with fellow business colleagues. I had a brother and a father, now I needed a mother. Where do you find mothers?
Sensei was doing fine raising Kyuzo on his own. Kyuzo earned his keep by doing chores, errands, and learning the arts of the dojo. Sensei was permanently injured and was eager to see his skills pasted on. Living with Sensei meant working hard, but we all tried to have a positive attitude about our lives. Then, Sensei found us a mother. She was a nurse – of sorts – at the Pit. The Pit is a large building that’s used as a jail, hospital, and mental asylum all in one. If you’re not obedient, you become what’s called a Mix-Up, where they “accidentally” mix up your records with someone else in the Pit. Usually, it’s prison inmates that get switched into the mental ward, which is not a wing of a hospital so much as a holding wing for experiments. Experiments such as how much pain can a human stand? What will this chemical do to the human psyche?
Needless to say, our new mother implemented some elements of her job into our discipline. Looking back, her threats of torture and experimentation were usually empty threats. However, we still obeyed her commands immediately. I don’t know about my brother, but I did it because I thought it would make her happy. I thought I would be the one to melt Mother’s frozen heart. In an odd way, she did care about how Kyuzo and I were raised, she just valued different things. Sensei wanted out help in the dojo and to learn his arts. Mother wanted us to learn the realities of life in the Underground by assisting her in the Pit.
As I learned in later years, Mother and Sensei were past lovers or something. But they had this strange tension, like they wanted to be together but somehow commitment was bad. That’s why Sensei chose and convinced Mother to be our mother. He wanted to try working together to prove to her that there is good in life, that a marriage in the Underground could work. Mother and Sensei almost never agree on anything, but they never shout either. They don’t live together anymore, yet they are parenting Kyuzo and I as if they were. They say things like, “what does your father say” and “what would your mother do”. They decided that one or both of us kids would stay at the dojo or the Pit for a few days and then switch. That way we would learn in two different ways.
Growing up, I would ask myself: are we a family or are we neighbors who trade kids throughout the week? What is a family?
*This chapter takes a look into life in the Underground for a child, or how a child might feel family-less. Is being kept alive by an adult really all that families do? Why should people bother to form tradition families?
What I’ve learned is that families are not just about making children and keeping them alive. It’s not just about adults proving their love and commitment to each other. It’s not just about rising the next generation. The family is about all of these things working together. Unity, love, and support are what families provide. In the LDS church, we believe that it’s also about raising children in the gospel so they can grow up righteous. Parents need to be together and stick together for the sake of the stability of the children. Families are meant to be synonymous with safety, in all senses of the word. As stated by Elder Oaks in “Protect the Children”, “The most powerful teaching of children is by the example of the parents.” The childhood experience that Sahera describes obviously taught her negative lessons about life.
Do you have questions? Do you agree with what I’ve said? Please respond in the comment section.*