It is truly heartbreaking to hear how some children must live their lives. Maria Landon is one of those children and she tells the story of her childhood in Daddy's Little Earner.
From her birth, Maria's psychopathic father boasted that he was going to make her the best prostitute on the block. She (along with her mother and brothers and sisters) was abused — physically and emotionally. At the age of 9, her father began to sexually abuse her and by 14 she was working on the streets as a prostitute under the control of her father.
When Maria became pregnant with her first child, everything changed for her — she knew she had to escape the life she was living. But trying to escape one's past is not so easy and she struggles to make a life for herself.
Daddy's Little Earner is an agonizing story. It places Maria's experience in front of us in all its horror and pulls no punches. It raises questions about how someone like Maria's father could get away with what he did. But abusive people often display charming personalities to endear those outside the family.
Maria's story helps us understand the techniques that abusive, manipulative people use to keep their "loved" ones under their control. It also conveys the incredible confusion experienced by those who are abused as they try to grapple with the evil perpetrated on them while, at the same time, feeling love for the perpetrator. No child should have to live through what Maria lived (and lives) through. But hundreds and thousands of children around the world do.
Maria is now the mother of two sons aged 19 and 22. On the inside cover of the book, we are informed that 'her aim is to help people who have been taught as children to think that they are worthless...' It should also remind those of us who have not experienced what Maria and other children have experienced that building a sense of self-worth in children is one of the most important things we can do. A child who feels that they are valued and valuable is much less likely to be controlled by others.
Daddy's Little Earner ultimately leaves us wondering what will happen for Maria. We are not told how old Maria is now. But at the end of the book, she refers to a visit from her father when she was 30 years old after she has gone through years of counselling. Almost all the book is about her life up to around 19 years old. We are told almost nothing about the years in between. But now what? There doesn't seem to be any deep resolution — just a suspension in tension between love and hate for her father. I hope that, one day, Maria will be able to share with us something of the journey she has taken since she was 19 up until the present day. She speaks of transitory periods of forgiveness and hatred. One thing she knows: she never wants her father in her life again.
It would have taken great courage for Maria to tell her story. We need to listen to it, and the stories of others, to remind ourselves that there are children who are suffering deeply. We need to be sensitive to their suffering and the consequences to them so that we can respond appropriately, lovingly, and constructively when they need our help.