Heretolisten.org is a resource for caring adults—the front-line staff in schools and community based programs—to help teens who are struggling with difficult emotions.
Email Newsletter icon
Follow us on:
Share Youth Communication Follow YCteen on Facebook Follow YCteen on YouTube Follow YCteen on Twitter
Follow YCteen on Facebook Follow YCteen on YouTube Follow YCteen on Twitter
My Mother Jenny
Selena Garcia
headshot

I never felt stable or comfortable in any home. I was removed from my birth family before my first birthday because my mother was a prostitute and my father was in and out of jail. A family named the Pattersons adopted my brother and me. I didn’t know they were my adoptive parents, and I loved them for the first five years. Then they began abusing us when I was 6 and my brother was 7.

After that, for any little thing—not cleaning my room, not washing the dishes, arguing with their biological daughter, not finishing dinner—they would “punish” me by starving me or beating me until I bled. They did the same to my brother. They also would lock me in a room with their dogs, knowing I was afraid of them. My adoptive father was intimidating when he yelled, but my adoptive mother beat us more than he did.

The Pattersons said they loved us and would always be there. I thought, “If love means being abused on a daily basis, I would rather be heartless.” When I turned 7, my brother and I began to plan our escape. Once, we planned to go to school and never return home. We also thought about jumping out the window and running away.

Eventually, my brother did run away. The Pattersons called the police, and two officers brought him home. I could not stand to see the pain in his eyes. I pulled the police aside and told them that the Pattersons were physically abusing us and locking us in the basement for days at a time. One of them said, “These people are 60 years old. They don’t have the strength to abuse you.” Then they laughed. We were trapped.

This went on for three more years. When I was 8, my adoptive mother died of cancer. After that, Mr. Patterson beat us more often. About a year after Mrs. Patterson died, Mr. Patterson got very sick. My brother and I went into foster care. He was placed in a group home and I went to a foster family.

No One Cared Enough To Stop Me

I was moved to 16 different foster homes in two years. At age 12, I began running away, smoking weed, cutting school, and getting in fights. I felt that I could do whatever I wanted because no one cared enough to stop me. I was angry with myself: I thought I was the reason I was placed into foster care. I had so much rage that I took it out on anybody and everybody.

When I was 12, I actually began to trust one of my foster moms. She was going to adopt me, but when her daughter took my clothes and threw away my poems I beat her up. The foster mom decided not to adopt me.

I felt stupid for letting my guard down. I thought to myself, “That’s it. I’m never trusting anyone again.”

Then, when I was 14, I was placed in the home of Jenny and Jose Garcia. When I first walked through the doors, I could feel the good vibes and smell the chicken baking. The smiles on the kids who lived there when they looked at my new foster mother were so huge that I thought at first it was for show.

Jenny’s first words to me were, “This is your new home, and this is a clean slate. Whatever you did in the past was the past. This is the present.” Then she told the boys to bring my bags to my room. I was sharing a room with Erica, 16, and Natasha, 12. I was happy to share a room, which felt better than being alone at night drowning in a bed full of thoughts.

Jenny and Jose’s two grown children and their spouses also lived there, plus another six kids under 18, some related, some foster, and some adopted. It was a full house and I loved it. The house was big and very clean. I got along with everybody there, and I thought about letting down my trust wall.

Afraid to Get Attached

My foster mother was kind-hearted and sweet. She knew when I was upset and when I was holding back my tears. She knew when I did something wrong and was hiding it. She never laid a finger on me: When I misbehaved, she grounded me or took away my phone. When the agency asked her if she still wanted me, she always said yes. Whenever she thought I needed someone to talk to, she would be right there.

Still I smoked weed and got suspended from school for fighting and threatening teachers. Social workers kept asking me why I would risk losing something so great: They knew how much I liked living there. With previous foster parents, I had wanted to leave but been afraid to say so. Therefore, I would try to make them not want me anymore. Jenny was different; I wanted to stay with her. Looking back, I think I acted out because I was afraid of getting hurt again. I would make her send me back before I could get too attached.

After a while, I started to feel bad because I was putting her through all that pain and she still stuck by me. Her steady love began to convince me that not everyone in the world was out to hurt me.

Jenny was not the only one in the house helping me through tough times. My foster brother Kevin would ask me if I was OK and tell me it is not weak to cry. When he saw me getting upset, he would try to calm me down. I never thought someone could understand the things I was going through, but he did.

I started to look at him as more than just a brother. One cold day Kevin and I were outside together. He noticed that I was shivering and gave me his sweater. I blushed. I really liked him but I did not want to ruin our relationship as siblings. He pulled me to the side and asked me what was wrong.

I said, “There’s this guy and I really like him but we’re close friends and I don’t want to ruin that.” He looked down and then grinned.

image by YC-Art Dept

“Does he know you like him?”

I said, “I’m not sure, but if he does he shouldn’t play around with my feelings.”

Then he said, “Well, I like this girl too. Actually, I love her.”

I felt so happy that I thought my heart would explode. He looked me in my eyes, pulled me in close, and then we kissed. When we got home, I asked, “What we are going to do about Jenny? What if she finds out?” He told me we had to hide it.

Two weeks later, I realized I couldn’t hide my feelings from my own family. So one night I kissed him in front of the rest of the family. To my surprise, everyone looked at us and started smiling! Jenny was actually fine with us dating. I loved him and he loved me. From that day on we were inseparable.

Kevin: Running the Streets

But then I discovered that he was a street boy. He broke into cars and smoked weed. One day Kevin came home with $600 and Jenny asked him where he got it. He told her “I found it.” She knew he had stolen it. Later on that night, the police came, handcuffed him, and walked him out of the house. I felt so upset. Although she knew I was in love with him, she told me I was better off without him. I nodded my head and said, “You’re right.”

Nevertheless, I continued to see him behind Jenny’s back. The next New Year’s Eve, I was at home with the family. We counted down with the TV: “3, 2, 1, HAPPY NEW YEARS!” A new year, 2014, with a clean slate.

I heard my phone ring and saw it was Kevin. I hesitated to answer because I knew what he wanted, but I wanted it too. “BABE!” he screamed. “Meet me at Grant Avenue where the A train is.” Before I could say anything a loud boom came from upstairs; I ran up and found out that my two foster brothers had gotten into a fight. My mother and father ran upstairs to break it up.

Jenny screamed at me and told me the fight was my fault. My face instantly changed from tan to red. I thought, “Why is she screaming at me like I did something wrong? Everything is always my fault.” Looking back now, I think maybe she just lost her temper and took it out on me. However, even though she had been patient and kind, in that moment I was sure she did not care about me. No one had ever cared, and no one ever would. I went to my room, packed a bag, opened the window, and climbed out to go see Kevin. I was gone the whole weekend.

Sunday night on the subway ride home, I was thinking, “This is one of the worst things I’ve done” and wondering how Jenny would punish me. “Maybe she’ll take away my phone or won’t let me go outside.” I began to cry quietly because I did not want to make a scene. My worst fear invaded my mind: “What if they kick me out?” That is what happened at all the other foster homes. However, this was different—I wanted to stay at this one.

I got off the train, and as I walked home, I cried uncontrollably. I opened the door expecting her to scream and curse and tell me how much trouble she could have gotten into if I did not return. However, Jenny ran to me with tears in her eyes. “Oh my God, I’m so glad you’re OK.”

This Woman Cares

At first, I felt confused, wondering what was wrong with her. Why was she even wasting her time with a delinquent like me? Why did she care if I was OK? She did not hit me or send me to my room.

She said gently, “Why did you run away?” I did not answer. She then said, “I actually care about you. No matter what you do, I will not give up. I see something in you. You are not just ordinary. You are great.”

I began to cry and tried to hide it, but she wiped my tears. She asked me why I hide my face when I cry. I said, “Crying is a sign of weakness, and if I show people that I cry, they will walk all over me.”

“Actually, crying is the best way to release anger or pain. It’s better than bottling in your feelings.”

I asked her why she sticks by me and she replied emphatically, “You’re my child. I will never give up on my child. I love you.” I finally understood: This woman cares.

It felt great. I felt loved and I loved the feeling of feeling loved. It is like no other feeling. She had told me that Kevin was not good for me plenty of times but she did not hit me with “I told you so.” She told me that I could learn from my mistakes.

When Jenny says something is going to happen it does. No matter what mistake I make, she is there to lift me up and dust me off. I realized that she was right about me learning from my mistakes. One thing I have learned is that I am not alone. Three months ago, the Garcias adopted me.

horizontal rule
(FCYU-2015-10-04b)

Visit Our Online Store