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Life With the Warden
Artiqua Steed
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I’m on lockdown. That’s when someone has a tight hold on you and controls everything you do. Some people are locked down by their boyfriends or maybe by their parole officers. But in my case, it’s my mother who has me locked down. She treats me like I’m a prisoner and she’s my warden. Rules, rules, rules for everything, that’s all I get.

I can honestly say that my mother’s attitude has destroyed my social life. Well, almost. I’m a 16-year-old female just looking for a good time. That’s all I want. That’s all I ask! But because of my mom, my life is not the teenage dream of partying, staying out late, and having boyfriends. All of that is off-limits for me.

In case you think I’m exaggerating, let me show you a list of rules that my mother has given me:

#1: No phone calls from boys.

#2: In by 11 on Friday and Saturday. By 10 on school nights.

#3: No boyfriends and no sex.

#4: She must know where I am at all times and who I am with.

#5: No hanging out with the wrong crowd.

These are only a few examples. I can’t remember all the rest because there are so many.

Don’t get me wrong—not all rules are bad. I understand that there have to be some rules to keep order and to discipline the unruly. But I’m not unruly. I don’t drink, I don’t smoke, and I have never tried any drug. Yet still my mother keeps a tight hold on my life.

She Always Assumes the Worst

I’m not sure why my mother treats me this way. Maybe it’s because of her experience with my older sister. My sister got into big arguments with my mother when she was my age and ended up moving out twice. Now, at 19, she has an 8-month-old baby. I’m not saying that’s bad, because my sister got her diploma and is working to support her child. But ever since my mother found out that my sister was sexually active, she has been on my back.

For example, I missed my period twice. She immediately assumed I was pregnant. She rushed me to the doctor and made me get a blood test. Before I got the results she asked me if I was fooling around or something. I told her no.

She said, “Are you sure? You can tell me anything. Trust me, I’m your mother. I’m going to find out anyway.” I was crushed when she said that to me. My own mother doesn’t trust me. (And I wasn’t pregnant, in case you were wondering.)

I know she cares because she is my mother but she takes her concern to the extreme. Everything I do, she questions. Let’s say I’m in the bathroom fixing my hair. She will come in and say, “What are you doing? Where are you going? What are you getting ready for?”

‘Don’t Let Me Hear You Have a Boyfriend’

And don’t let a boy call my house. She will break on me, “Who is that, why is he calling? Do I know him? You are too young to be talking to any guy on the phone. Don’t let me hear that you have a boyfriend.”

I mean, where did all of that come from, just because of one phone call?

One time I went out and I made the mistake of telling my mother where I was going. I told her I would be hanging out in a local mall. Don’t you know both my mother and my father came out looking for me? Luckily, they didn’t find me—I would have been so embarrassed. (I had met up with some of my friends and we decided to go someplace else instead.)

On my way home I bumped into them and they had to tell me they’d been out looking for me. But they didn’t even get mad that I wasn’t where I said I’d be. Probably because they knew they were wrong to be checking up on me like that.

Even worse is what my mother did to me a little while ago. You see, I recently met a guy. He was very nice and he was in the Army. Two days after I met him he had to leave to go to his base. So we decided to write to each other. When I got my first letter from him, my mother broke down on me. She told me that anyone old enough to be in the Army shouldn’t be writing to her 16-year-old daughter. She said, “You better write to him and tell him never to write back.”

Put Up or Move Out

I sat down and looked her straight in her face. I told her, “First of all, mother, he is only 18 years old. Second of all, he and I are only friends. And I don’t see anything wrong with writing to him. Don’t you think I’m old enough to make my own decisions in this particular situation? What? You don’t trust me?”

That really got to her. She claims that she trusts me, but time and time again her actions have proven that she doesn’t.

At the conclusion of our discussion, my mother told me that I could write to him. Then she went behind my back and wrote to him herself. She told him never to write to me again. I found out when he called me and read me her letter word for word over the phone.

With every sentence he read, I became angrier and angrier at my mother. I couldn’t believe she would do something so low. When I confronted her about it, she apologized and agreed to let us write to each other again.

I love my mother a lot but her rules and her lack of trust make me so mad. I guess I’ll have to put up with it until I go to college, though. I plan to go far. I don’t want her popping up on me unexpectedly. And when I get out of college, I am only living with my mother until I can find a good job and a nice apartment.

Otherwise, I can see us five years from now, when I’m 21, arguing about what time I should be home.

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(NYC-1995-12-03)



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