My mother’s primary relationship has been with drugs my whole life. If she wasn’t selling it, she was doing it.
I spent the first four years of my life living in a trap house in Brooklyn, where my mother sold drugs and guns. She and my dad were both in the Bloods, but he abused my mother and disappeared when I was very young.
Sometimes people bought weed and smoked it right in our house. My mother kept guns hidden in the oven and elsewhere around the house. I often went to sleep to the sound of rap music blaring outside my door.
One night, the music was so loud that I came out of my room. I smelled a strong odor that I learned later was weed. The lights were dimmed and empty cups and bottles were on the table and the floor. People were laughing and cheering.
I saw my mother sunk into the leather couch with a woman dancing on top of her. The woman’s clothes lay on the floor. I was confused: Why is this naked lady dancing on top of my mother? I wanted Mommy to take me back to bed, but one of the guys there told me to go back to my room before she saw me.
When I was 4, my mother lost custody of my brothers and sister to their father. She came home one day looking defeated and my siblings weren’t with her. She packed my clothes up and dropped me off at my grandmother’s house. She kissed me on my forehead and told me she’d be back.
“I have to go away for a little while, baby, but I’m coming back for you. I love you.”
Later, when I was old enough to understand, my mom explained that she had been in trouble and left the state to lay low for a while. But at 4, I only knew that she had left me behind.
I started going to school, and my grandma picked me up every day. When I woke up in the middle of the night, there was no party in the living room. There was always a snack in the refrigerator with my name on it. I was happy to be out of the chaos, but I missed my mother.
A year later, Mommy came to get me and took me to Georgia. I was amazed at the sight of so much land covered in grass. It wasn’t anything like the loud streets and buses in New York. We stayed with her boyfriend in a pretty house that had a white fence around it. They explained that I would have a baby sister soon because my mother was pregnant.
Where Is Home?
I remember that as a peaceful time, but when I was 6, we left Georgia to escape more gang violence. Back in New York, my mother struggled to take care of us, and then she started to neglect us.
Starting when I was 10, she would disappear for days and leave me to care for my little sister alone. I knew the smell of weed by now, and it was always on her when she came back. I didn’t go to school during this time. I heated food up in the microwave for me and my sister to eat. On the days that I couldn’t find enough food in the fridge, I would go hungry to feed my sister.
When I was 11, my sister and I entered foster care. After I’d been in care for about a month, I saw my mom at an agency visit. She said she missed me and my sister and that she was working on getting us back. But after that I stopped hearing from her, and finally my caseworker told me that my mother was serving a five-year sentence for attempted murder.
When I was 14, I moved in with my aunt and grandmother in the apartment my mother grew up in. Walking through the neighborhood, I better understood how my mom got sucked into the Blood life. Crime, drugs, gang activity, and violence were all around me.
My mother got out of jail when I was 16, and I hoped she was going to do what she had to do to get me and my younger sister back. Instead, she contacted us once every few weeks, and never even told us where she was living.
My mom knows I missed out on a lot of parenting. She apologized once and when I graduated from my Certified Nursing Assistant program she told me she was proud of me. It felt good to hear that.
Who’s the Mother?
I’m 22 now and just aging out of foster care. I finally got my own apartment and I have a part-time job. But this transition to adulthood is scary, and I still want a real parent.
I was ecstatic when my mom started coming around this past summer. I thought maybe she wanted to make it up to me after all the neglect and my 11 years in foster care.
She was staying with a friend in his daughter’s house. She complained about having to babysit his grandchildren, so I invited her to stay the weekend with me. I did this even though the rules of my apartment say that people who aren’t on the lease can’t stay with me.
At first, she was really helpful. She cleaned, cooked, and did laundry for both of us. She showed me the ropes of the welfare office and when I didn’t have money for food, she used her food stamps for us. That weekend turned into a week, then a month.
After that first month, she stopped cleaning and helping out. Then she started staying out all night. I worried because my neighborhood is dangerous at night.
She’d promise to go to an appointment with me and then change her mind. She’d tell me she would cook dinner, but I’d return home to no food. Her way of taking care of me was to go out and get weed to calm me down. And it worked, but then I’d get angry all over again when something else happened.
My mother smoked and drank every night, and I did it with her. It wasn’t good for me, and one day, in the welfare office, I said, “When we leave this place, I don’t want to smoke again.”
“Because smoking is a luxury and I’m sitting in the welfare office hungry.” I was so stressed out and tired.
She’d been living with me for a month and a half when she came to the apartment looking scared and said, “I owe some people some money.”
“For what?” It sounded like she wanted me to pay it off.
I had never known my mother to do cocaine before. It is so frustrating: She is almost 50 and still experimenting with dangerous drugs. My mom is talented, and she keeps throwing it all away. I inherited my writing skill, among other things, from her, but she squanders everything.
“I’m sorry to bring this to your door,” she said. “But if I don’t give them their money, there are women in the hallway who want to fight me.” What could I do? I paid them.
A week later, my boyfriend and I walked into the apartment, and my mom wasn’t there. And neither was my new flatscreen TV. Or my PlayStation.
I took a few deep breaths. The only person with the spare key to my new home was my own mother. How could she do this to me?
Growing up, I blamed myself for all the bad things that happened to me. But they’re not my fault. Every bad decision my mother made was fueled by drugs. Those bad decisions landed me in foster care, and now in an apartment that doesn’t feel safe, even after I changed the locks.
I used to be so confident that my mother would come around one day. I was looking forward to repairing our relationship after I aged out. But I’m no longer sure if there is any hope for us.
As an adult, I can’t let her get close to me anymore. Drugs make you lose sight of everyone else, even the ones who actually love you.
To protect myself from more disappointment, I will not associate with my mother until she has her life sorted out. Until then I have to love her from a distance and pray for her. I have to move on with my life.
- Foster Care
- substance abuse