A Childhood on Fire – breaking the cycle of childhood trauma

A Childhood on Fire – breaking the cycle of childhood trauma


When Magnus was born, I brought him home, I had all these feelings of
immense love and joy and excitement and… I also had this, this feeling of anger towards my father and my stepfather. Being a father made me question why
my father abandoned me and it made me angry to think that
my stepfather could treat my brothers and I the way that he did. One of my first memories was waking up early and playing in the house while my mum and stepfather
were in bed. My brothers and I were playing around the oven
or playing with the oven and my stepfather must have heard that or thought that that was going on
and he woke up and came out and as a form of punishment, he decided to
show us what fire would do and he set us on fire. I don’t remember being afraid or scared or
thinking like, what’s going on? This is crazy. This was just, this was just my life. We were frequently made to like hold
burning matches in our fingers or there’d be some other forms of punishment
that were really abusive. So, yeah, he lined us up in the house,
it wasn’t even outside. Watching him strike the matches and light
my brother on fire and hearing him scream and cry and then that happening to my next brother… And I remember the pyjamas that I was wearing and how the…when the flames touched the shirt it was, it was like plastic melting that like, you know,
you could smell the stench of the material and the skin. And they were so significant that, like,
the burn, the pain, just… it was almost like there was no pain in it. When it was done, being consoled by my brothers and me trying
to console them and then just really, like, moving on with our day. For some reason, I feel like it was a weekend and relatively soon after that I was back in school and obviously my teacher discovered the burn. Almost immediately after that, of course, you know, I was taken out of my house and away from my mum and stepfather and so were my brothers and we were
moved into foster care. Magnus, you and your brother are the
most important thing in my life. I will always love you no matter what. Remember, you are a human being first. See everyone the same way. The connections you make with other humans
are the most important investment you’ll ever make. Please don’t forget to connect to
something greater than yourself. The abuse that he enacted on me was not isolated. This wasn’t a one time, I set you on fire
and then we move on. After going through foster care and then
returning to my mum’s house and his house it continued. The type of abuse and the severity of the abuse
had changed, but it was like living with the torture. There were still beatings but probably
more mental and emotional abuse. He would beat me and then when I sought love
and attention from him afterwards the verbal abuse would come in, you know,
reprimanding me for trying to, trying to find comfort or going to my mum to try to find comfort or to one of my brothers or something. Name calling, you know, he loved to call me nigger, one of his main nicknames for me for most of the time that he was my stepfather was nigger Nick. He would say that in front of my mum,
my brothers, friends, in public, it just became a part
of who I was. It didn’t register as being something wrong at a young age because you don’t even know what that means or the context of it. And then as I got older and did realise what it meant, and just had been happening so long
that more than anything, it just, I felt embarrassed about it. I think that the military was as a fantasy place
for me as a kid. When I was growing up, the commercials that the
Marine Corps showed were just really simple. They were looking for men, they were looking for men
who were going to go out and slay dragons. And so as it played out in the moment, I don’t think I was directly saying to myself, I’m going to sign up for the Marines to escape abuse,
but I’m going to sign up for the Marine Corps to escape, to escape everything, to get away from abuse
and poverty and the neighbourhood and it just seemed like a better place. The few, the proud, the Marines. Ten years after being in the Marines,
I deployed to Iraq. My platoon provided security and escorting a convoy, our convoy came under heavy fire. We’re going through this with returning fire and, you know, it seems like an eternity and it’s probably a few minutes and we push through that and keep going and realise it, you know, nobody has been injured. And after the firefight I realised that it wasn’t the first time that somebody was trying to kill me or somebody had done something so significantly significant to me that I could have died. Odin, I’ve been scared many times in my life. I was scared when you were born in the living room. I was scared sometimes as a marine. Trying new things can be scary. Being adventurous can be scary. I will always be here if you need to talk
about fear and courage. Love, dad. In my second tour all these questions started
to come up and I wanted to believe in the president, our politicians, all of the people
that got us there and when I got home, I stumbled across this movie, you know, and inside it sort of confirmed my worst fears that we’ve been lied to and I was duped. Seeing that on film just really upset me. It made me feel like I was disposable,
that I didn’t matter. It was like seeing the fall of your hero in front of you. America’s the hero and I’m a part of that inept machine, the colonisers, the oppressors, the bumbling military machine that went into this other country and utterly destroyed it. This failure was the last failure in a lifetime
of failures by my stepfather who tried to kill me, the state in providing a plea deal for him, my mother for remaining with him and not being there to protect me, my father for not being around and being a part of my life and ensuring that that wouldn’t happen to me
or it wouldn’t happen again to me. It was clear that I would have to protect myself and that no one else would be there for me. Years later, when I had kids, I knew that I would have to be the person
that was going to protect them, that I would have to be there for them, that there wasn’t going to be someone else that was going to ensure their safety or their wellbeing, that I would have to be the person to do that. When I sit down to write notes, I’m obviously writing them to my sons, Magnus and Odin, but I’m also writing them to myself. Are you making a movie about my dad?
I am. Just my dad? Just my dad? I have a beard. I don’t know if I am the first person but I suspect that I am or one of the first people that is saying these things to them, is telling them that their skin is beautiful,
just the way it is, their skin, their nose, their eyes, all of those things and before they get to a place in life where people begin to use words to describe them that they would not use to describe other people, they’ve already been told, they’ve already felt
what it’s like to believe in themselves, to think positively about themselves and not have to be reactive to other people’s feelings or beliefs about who they are. And it’s empowering to write notes like that to them. I wish somebody would have done something like that for me. Dad, dad.

39 thoughts to “A Childhood on Fire – breaking the cycle of childhood trauma”

  1. Childhood trauma are cruel like i recieved the fault of something i didnt do burn a courtain but i want afraid of nothing just heights.

  2. I respect this man. Thanks for making this, to all the people involved.

    I wish people would be more understanding of stuff like this.

  3. The way the father talked about the trauma and what it meant to him as a son seeking a bond or the realisation that he had to fend for himself no one else would is really empowerind even more for being a former soldier.Processing trauma and writing his sons notes were a way of dealing with the past and the present.Throw away the macho culture of ignoring problems and stigma when males have fear and pain.Ignoring is no solution dealing is the way

  4. Thanks for sharing your story. It hit home for me in a lot of ways. I also had a white stepfather who abused me also. It’s hard enough for kids coping with families who have stepparent dynamic but what happens when the child is of a different race- it often adds another layer of resentful ness from the “parent” that turns into abuse. I just didn’t have any siblings. I was removed from my parents home also. I too am recovering from the trauma this. The best we can do is give our kids what we didn’t have as
    Children. Bless you.

  5. It truly takes a monster to abuse an innocent child. I hate that you were failed by the system. People like your stepfather should be locked up for a long time and need to be mentally evaluated. When I was younger I was verbally abused constantly by my own father causing me to have severe self esteem issues and poor social skills. I have a fourteen year old daughter. I have never laid my hands on her and every day I let her know how smart, beautiful, and wonderful she is. I listen and never overreact. That is the way to raise a child. I applaud you for overcoming and realizing the abuse rather then letting it take you down!! Remain strong 💪💪💪!!!

  6. Men like Nick are the real heroes we should aspire to be like. The fact that he is able to raise his kids with such love after enduring his trauma is amazing. Breaking the cycle of abuse, especially of this severity, will benefit generations of his family.

  7. Nick, I’m really inspired by your story. Thanks for sharing this with the world. As a child, I came under abuse as well. It was a different form of abuse mixed up with mistreatment too. I understand how it feels. If there’s anything I can tell you, and maybe you already know it, is this: it’s not your fault. You were a beautiful child and became an outstanding man. That’s what is worthy to know.

  8. Just imagine what would have happened if this man and his brothers had been homeschooled! The torture they were being submitted to would probably have gone unnoticed.
    The main argument put forward for homeschooling is preserving home values; well, this story clearly shows that some homes aren't worth preserving.
    All my sympathy goes to the three kids, now men, for resisting torture without breaking completely.

  9. Hovever tragic and unfortunate this is – it should not be used as an argument for a total ban on corporal punishment.

  10. What a amazing man and father! Some would repeat the same cycle and use the excuse of their childhood for what they do. ❤️

  11. somebody on this channel called The Guardian should have told you you're lifting weights wrong you are going to break your wrist my brother

  12. im so sorry u had a horrible life and the government is wrong your parents are wrong. and u are the best dad ever yo I've had a miserable and horrible life just as well but I know I'm here for a reason and that reason is to expose our government

  13. Nick, I’m so sorry for your pain and trauma. Thank you for being a hero to so many by speaking up about abuse and the system.

  14. What about his brothers? And, his kids are not black, so more than likely they won't face the same super racism that black people do

  15. I'm sorry dude, but i blame your mother for putting you boys in harm's way. I don't want to hear any excuses about how hard it was for her. She allowed that dude to mistreat the fruit of hwr womb. I also blame your biological father for not being the man he should have been.

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