When I was little I would sit in my room and wonder why my life was not like other children’s. I would see kids with their parents, doing things that my mother would not do with me, like going to the park and shopping. I would feel sad.
My mother would just come and go. My grandmother looked after me when my mother wasn’t there. My grandmother would try to take her place by taking me shopping, to the movies and to the park. That was OK but I wanted my mother.
I often asked my grandma, “Where is Mom?” She would not answer me. Then one day my grandmother told me, “Your mother takes drugs.”
I didn’t know what to say.
She continued, “I’m tired of not saying nothing. You were going to find out some day.” I began to get upset. I wished my grandmother had told me the truth sooner. I also felt that my mother didn’t want me as much as she wanted her drugs. If she did, she would not spend more time with them than me.
My First Foster Home
Soon my mother’s addiction got worse. Every night she came home high or drunk and I could tell. She would stutter her words and be hard to understand. Then, when I was 9, my grandmother was no longer able to take care of me, so the city decided to put me in a foster home. I was sad that I had to leave grandmother, mother and my siblings. The foster parents treated me terribly. The foster parents hit me for no reason and their children bit and kicked me. They also said that I was going to be nothing, just like my mother, and that’s why I was in every other home but hers.
Eventually I was moved, but most of the places I was moved to weren’t a whole lot better. For many years I suffered physical and mental abuse from foster parents, and for many years I missed my family. All of this affected me badly. I did not want to talk to anyone. I spent most of the time alone in my room.
During visits with my family, I wouldn’t tell them what was happening. I thought I’d get in trouble if I did.
I saw my mother, grandmother and siblings every two weeks. I was especially excited to see my mother. She’d get to the agency first to surprise me and bring me a lot of toys and gifts. When it was my birthday, she had a birthday party for me at the agency. She decorated the room with balloons and I had a big cake.
Whenever my mother was around, something in my heart felt complete. Just her being around made me happy.
My mother never missed a visit and she always said she loved me no matter what. But when I was 11, she stopped coming. Later I found out that she hadn’t been attending her court dates, and she lost her rights to see me. But at the time I did not understand what was wrong. All I knew was that my mother stopped coming.
I just kept thinking about not seeing my mother, how much I missed her, and when I might see her again. This was the hardest time for me.
My Cousin Helped Me Out
Finally, when I was a teenager, I moved in with my cousin Michelle. Living with her felt so good. My cousin let me know I was safe. At first, I would do strange things like put my arm around my plate so no one would take my food from me. At some foster homes they would take my food away before I was finished. I would also stay long periods of time in my room by myself. Part of me was still missing my mother, so I would sit alone and think mainly about her.
My cousin helped me overcome these problems by moving my hand from around my plate, saying, “You can eat as much as you want here.” She would take me with her to the store and spend time with me so I wouldn’t feel alone.
When I did something wrong she would not hit me, she would put me on punishment, or she would talk to me. She did not choose her children over me. I gradually became more open and more able to trust people.
Seeing My Mom Again
Even though the agency did not allow me visits with my mother, Michelle allowed me to have a relationship with my mother. She thought it was important for my mother to get to know me and for me to know her. When my mother first came to my cousin’s apartment, I felt so happy. I gave her the biggest hug and kiss. It was like a part of my heart was still cut, but when I saw her it healed.
As I got older and we spent more time together, I started to tell my mother about what I had been through. She said, “I am sorry you had to go through this. You don’t have to worry anymore because Michelle will take good care of you.”
We also talked about her problem. I learned that what started her on drugs was that some of my brothers died in a fire before I was born. She couldn’t take the pain and turned to drugs.
A Second Chance
When we talked about these things, my mother admitted that she had a problem with drugs and that she struggled to get clean. I respected her for saying that.
Some people who are addicted to drugs won’t admit it’s a problem. Some won’t own up to how their problem has hurt their children. My mother did both, and it was good for me to understand why she had such a hard time taking care of me.
Somehow I have managed to not hold a grudge against her for not being able to raise me, maybe because she seems truly apologetic and because I understand that she was in pain.
With Michelle’s support, my mother and I now have a good relationship and it’s still growing. My mother has now gone to a drug program and recovered from doing hard drugs. I know I am not going to live with my mother again, but I am happy to have a relationship with her. We see each other every weekend. I believe God has given our family a chance.
This article is reprinted with permission from Rise magazine’s Building a Bridge workbook.