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. Names have been changed in this young author's story.
My mom used to waltz and sing with my twin sister Tammy and me. She picked us our own “personal” songs. Mine were “Once Upon a Dream” from Sleeping Beauty and “Edelweiss” from The Sound of Music. She would dance around the house with us, singing our songs. It always felt so nice. My mother also read all of the Harry Potter books to us, with special voices for each character. Every morning, she had us go out into the backyard and yell, “GOOD MORNING, WORLD! I’M GONNA KICK YOUR BUTT!”
When we were teething, my mom gave us frozen fruits and vegetables as well as sushi to chew on, instead of stuffing a plastic pacifier in our mouths. It taught me to love healthy food, even if kids my age didn’t understand why I craved broccoli and spinach.
She never fed us canned food. She used to talk about how unhealthy Chef Boyardee was and how only “latchkey kids” have to eat that and McDonald’s, because their parents couldn’t be bothered with giving their kids good food. She didn’t work. We never realized we were living far beyond our means.
My father died when we were young, and I don’t remember him. My mother was his second wife, and he never added my mother, my sister, and me into his will. So when he died, everything went to my three grown, distant stepsisters. My mother had stopped working when she was pregnant with us, believing she would never have to work again. She called herself “retired” at 38 years-old.
When my father died, all we received were Social Security checks because my mother refused to work but also refused to go on welfare. But she continued spending as if she was still supported by him. She also became depressed and began drinking, which got steadily worse as the years progressed.
On top of being an alcoholic, my mother was mentally and emotionally unstable. I studied psychology in high school and college, and I now believe that my mother’s mood swings came from fear of abandonment, and that she may even have borderline personality disorder. The drinking made her mood swings worse.
But when I was little, I believed the punishments and her inconsistent moods were somehow my fault, that I was bad because I’d made my mother angry. When she was sober, she’d tell me I was beautiful and smart, but when she was drunk she’d accuse my sister and me of being “whores.” We were 12 years-old.
I could never be sure of the sincerity of the compliments she gave when sober, because she’d say the opposite when she was drunk. To this day I don’t know if drinking made her tell us how she really felt -- and all her compliments were lies -- or if it made her say things she didn’t mean. I have a lot of trust and self-esteem issues because of her inconsistent judgments.
One day when I was in elementary school, a counselor asked me about a bruise on my face. I told the truth, that the bruise came from my mother when she slammed me into the toilet that morning.
After that, a social worker confronted my mother about the abuse. Then my mother started telling me and my sister how her foster fathers (yes, plural) raped and sexually abused her when she was a child. She said that if we told on her again, the government would take us and put us into foster care.
From Bad to Worse
When Tammy and I were 15 years-old, my mother ran out of money and lost the house. My mother didn’t have many friends when I was younger, I guess because of her alcoholism. I didn’t have many friends because of her alcoholism either. So we had nobody to turn to when we lost the house and were forced out.
After struggling and worrying that we were going to be homeless, she eventually found someone to rent us a small apartment, a shock after living in a four-story home my whole life. The bills for our storage units kept piling up. My mother still refused to work or seek help. The landlord kept raising the rent.