By Marlo Scott
This is a teen-written article from our friends at Represent Magazine, a platform for and by young people in foster care. Represent is published by Youth Communication, a nonprofit organization that helps marginalized youth develop their full potential through reading and writing. Some names have been changed in this young author's story.
My father and I had a good relationship when I was a kid. Back then, he would talk, not yell. He would take me to work with him and to the movies every Friday and he’d talk to me about the Power Rangers. His love gave me the confidence I needed to stay focused in school. I knew that when I got home, my father would be there to help me with my homework.
My mother died when I was 11, and I blocked out everyone else’s feelings because mine were so torn. Even if someone were talking directly to me, I would sometimes not answer. If they kept talking and annoying me, I would snap at them, “Shut up and leave me the hell alone.”
My father took her death very hard, too, and his anger levels rose. When I ignored him, he screamed and occasionally threw things at me. A few times, I threw punches, and we ended up in fistfights.
I missed getting along with my father; our relationship had helped me stay balanced and calm. Now he and I argued so much that I began to think we would never be able to have a normal conversation.
Meanwhile, I could not figure out how to live without my mother. No one seemed to care about me, and it felt impossible to manage my emotions. This made me feel even more alone, and a lot of aggression built up inside me. I grew more rebellious.
In response, my father grew distant. He stopped asking me anything. He forgot what school I attended; he seemed to give up on me. We would only see each other at bedtime and before he left for work at 6 a.m.
I began to cut school and smoke. I preferred to hang with my friends and girlfriends instead of my father and my younger brother, which made my father mad. It became impossible for us to get along, so I went out all the time. I figured, “Why stay home and risk an argument?” However, bottling up my anger did not make it go away. One day that anger spilled over and I got in deep trouble.
It was two weeks before Christmas. I was 14. My father and I had been arguing a lot, even though I was trying to stay calm and avoid tension and conflict. The Christmas tree was up, the gifts all wrapped, red and green ornaments all over the house. I looked through the nametags on the gifts under the tree and saw that my name was not on a single present. As a tear dripped down my face, I stormed out of the house.
I walked to the subway. I had no train fare, so I hopped the turnstile. The MTA worker in the information booth screamed through the loudspeaker, “Pay your fare.” I ignored him and went up the steps to the train platform. On the platform, I stole a Play Station portable from a younger boy, and I got caught and arrested by an undercover detective. I spent a cold night in jail and then had to go to court.
The judge placed me in an outpatient program, but I continued to cut school and violate my curfew, so I went back to court. At this point, I was 15. The judge sentenced me to a residential center for juveniles called Graham Windham, for 12 months.