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Getting Back My Heart
After my mother put me in care, it took a long time to reconnect
Daniel V.
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“Why do you keep doing this to yourself?” my mother asked me with a tear rolling down her cheek. Lots of thoughts were running through my head, but I couldn’t find the words to answer her question. I had just gotten arrested for shoplifting, and I was ashamed of myself.

For the past year and a half I’d been messing up my life, but I didn’t realize it. Hanging out with my friends and smoking weed was like living a dream for me. I didn’t have to worry about anything. Every time I got high all my stress went away.

Back then I was too stupid to realize that my friends were only there when I had money in my pocket. And I didn’t notice that what I was doing was pulling my mother and me apart. I wasn’t listening to her at all, and I’d rarely be home to help her.

When my mom picked me up from the precinct I felt like there was no future for me. It’s hard to admit, but I was depressed.

My Last Chance

I didn’t know what to expect from my mother, but she didn’t give me any punishments. “This is the last chance that I’m going to give you,” she said.

For the next couple of weeks I tried to stay away from negativity, but the craving for weed kept pulling me back to my friends like a magnet. And that’s when my friends had this crazy idea of running away. At first I was like, “Hell no,” but after a couple of blunts I didn’t care.

We went to Times Square and spent a couple of days there, but after a while I was broke and tired, so I decided to go home. It was around 5:30 in the morning and I was about to get on the train when a couple of police officers stopped me and asked me for ID.

After asking me more questions they said that I had to come with them. And that’s when I got really nervous. Did they have a warrant for my arrest? Did my mom report me missing? What was going on?

“I’m just going to check on you and call your parents,” the cop told me. “Now sit down and be quiet.”

When he finally reached my mother, I felt relieved that I had someone on my side to pick me up.

‘Your Mother Doesn’t Want You’

During their conversation I remember the cop telling my mother, “Miss, do you know that this is child neglect?” I had no idea what that meant. But then the police officer made a couple more phone calls and drove me to a strange-looking building. Some lady there started asking me tons of questions, like did my mother ever abuse me and have I ever felt suicidal.

I asked the woman what was going to happen to me next. She said that I was going to a foster home.

“Why?” I asked her with pain in my heart.

“Because,” she said slowly, not trying to hurt my feelings, “your mother doesn’t want you anymore.”

As soon as those words got through my brain I thought it was the end of the world. I couldn’t believe it! My heart froze, and broke in a thousand little pieces.

Lost and Wondering

That night I was in a group home with a whole bunch of questions, like, “What is wrong with my mother? Why would she leave me like that? Does she still love me?” I felt like I was lost on an island with no map.

A couple days later I was on my way to a foster home. I was really shy at first, and didn’t want to talk to anyone about myself. Most of the time I stayed in my room, and just thought about all the wonderful times that my mother and I had spent together. I wondered how she felt saying those words to put me in care, the words that affected me so much.

What Went Wrong?

image by Teo Romero

When I was growing up, my mother and I were always close. My childhood in Russia was peaceful and I had lots of family around to support me. Even on bad days, being with my mom made my day turn good. I felt like she was always there whenever I needed her. And I knew that nothing would ever happen to me while I was in her arms.

But when we moved to America we were on our own, and that was hard on both of us. My mother was struggling and had to work very hard for only a few dollars. I didn’t have anyone to talk to, and no big family there to love me. My mother gave me lots of love, but when she left me I was always bored and lonely.

I guess that’s what pulled us away from each other. She had to work, and leave me at times, and I needed someone to be with while she was not there. I started to hang out with the wrong people and not listen to her. But I never thought it would go this far.

I wanted to apologize to my mom for causing her all this stress. I never thought of how much it hurt her. She created me and then couldn’t take care of me, so that’s double the pain for her. At that point I didn’t know who was the failure—me, or my mother.

Reaching Out

I felt really guilty about what I’d done and really worried about my relationship with my mother, so after a couple of days I decided to call her.

“Mom, I miss you, and I’m sorry,” were the first words that came out of my mouth, and with them came tears.

“I don’t know what to tell you,” she said with disappointment. At that point I felt like this conversation was going to be a dead end.

“I love you, and really want to see you again,” I said.

“Why did you run away?” she asked.

“I don’t know,” I said, trying to avoid answering.

“Well, think about it.”

“I was really bored staying home all the time, and I wanted to hang out with my frie-”

“Don’t you realize that these friends of yours are leading your life to nowhere? Matter of fact, even worse than nowhere, to jail, and to growing up to be a nobody. Is that what you want to be, a nobody?” she asked me, blowing her nose.

“Of course not,” I quickly answered.

The Biggest Question

I promised my mom that I would be a new me, and try to succeed in life. Then I asked her the biggest question on my mind: “Why don’t you want me anymore?”

After a long pause and a sigh she finally answered me. “You need a break, a break where you look at yourself and your behavior,” she said. “For now I feel like I can’t help you anymore. I have been trying, and my way was not working.”

I begged my mom for one more chance, but she said that she’d given me plenty, and I’d messed up every one.

“Daniel, I love you with all my heart, and this is as hard for me as it is for you,” she said. “But I think that this option will be best for you for now. You could have gotten locked up or even hurt. I don’t want that to happen. I want you to be something in life.”

I promised my mom I would try my best.

image by Teo Romero

Hurt, But Determined

Then we talked about ways I could change my behavior. She said that the faster I improved my behavior, the faster I’d be home.

When I hung up the phone I felt much better. I knew now that my mom still cared about me. Before this phone call I thought that she wasn’t ever going to speak to me again.

Even though I felt hurt by her decision, it helped me to get a hold of myself, and get back on track. I was determined to show my mother that I wasn’t a failure. I felt I had the strength to improve myself, not only to get my mother back, but also to get back my positive self. I felt like it was going to be a long process, but I was ready for it.

Two Different People

It was really hard to live without my mother in my life. I could only see her twice a week, and that wasn’t enough.

When we would see each other at my social worker’s office we would talk for hours about random things, and afterwards she would take me out to eat somewhere. The first couple of times I felt strange seeing my mother, because she and I were like two different people now.

It didn’t seem normal getting to know someone all over again when you’d known the person for your whole life. But I could feel that this was the best thing that I was doing for myself. Even though it was a little weird, it felt like I was getting back my heart.

Visit by visit, our relationship improved. But at times I still felt like a stranger. Sometimes we would have bad days, and with bad days came arguments. I hated arguing with the only person who loved me in America. But I couldn’t control my mouth, and my anger.

I expected my mom to be less hard on me after me leaving her, but she was much stricter than before. I didn’t know that learning to listen to my mother would be this hard.

Still Upset

Sometimes I would get angry because my mom was trying to gain control over me, and I felt that she had lost the right to control me when she put me in care. Sometimes the thought of her leaving me again would come to my mind, and that would make me the angriest of all.

I didn’t want to ask my mom if she would put me in care again because I was shy, and because I really didn’t want to hear her answer. Instead, I’d get angry and start arguments for no reason.

I knew that my anger was one of the things that I needed to improve if I wanted to go home. And I definitely wanted to go home. I felt that if I could live with my mother, my future would be distinguished.

So after a while I learned to overcome that fear of going back into care by telling myself that my mother would never do that to me. I also told myself that if I behaved well and listened to her, the thought wouldn’t ever occur to her. I started to feel her love again, and that gave me more confidence.

The more my mother and I saw each other and talked to each other, the stronger our relationship grew. During our visits, my mother was only focused on me. I loved that feeling of knowing that someone actually cared about me. It felt good. It felt like I had someone on my side to be there for me.

A Second Chance for Us

In a few weeks I’ll be getting discharged to my mother, and I’m not going to mess our relationship up for anything. If my mom gets a job and can’t spend lots of time with me, I’ll be ready for it. I’ve found some new friends who are more positive, and I know what could happen if I go back to the past.

I’m not the only one who has been trying to improve to make our relationship stronger. My mother is going to parenting classes, and is trying to be the best mother that she can.

Even though we still have arguments once in a blue, we resolve them with a peaceful talk, instead of screaming at each other for hours. I feel that my mother and I are a strong team now, ready for anything.

Knowing that I’m going to live with my mother again is the best feeling that I’ve ever experienced. The future ahead of us is a chance to build a new relationship, one that I strongly hope will last forever.

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