Family Problems During Early Childhood and Adolescence (infancy to eight years old)
It was the 80s and it was a hot and sunny day in Miami. On her way home from work, my mother felt sharp pains in her stomach: she was in labor. After a labor of 5 hours and 10 minutes, my mother gave birth to a 5 pounds and 12 ounce baby. It was then that my life began, on January 4, 1985. When I arrived, I was nameless. My older sister wanted to call me Janet Jackson after Michael Jackson’s little sister. My mom refused that idea, so my sister suggested Latoya Jackson instead. With a smile on her face, my mom replied that she loved Latoya Jackson.
After spending a couple of days in the hospital it was time to go home with my family. My family consisted of a father, who was the disciplinarian of the house. He had one daughter from his previous marriage. My father was of average height and a smoker. He worked full time at The Department of Health and attended church on a regular basis. My mother was a short, long haired, bright skinned lady. She worked full time as a manager at Ross Dress for Less. She also had a daughter from a previous marriage. At the time of my birth, my oldest sister was 11; she was into track and basketball. My middle sister was 9 and loved Girl Scouts. My family also incorporated my troubled cousin who stayed with us. While I was growing up, I considered him more as a big brother than as a cousin.
Our family resided in a 4 bedroom, 2 bathroom house. The only family pet we had was a Chow Chow dog named Princess. Our Neighbourhood was old and very diverse. It was in a business district and had a Publix grocery and other small corner stores. It was a middle class neighbourhood and very child friendly; it was a perfect area and contained many helpful and friendly people.
Ages one to six were a blur for me. At the age of seven, I attended Richmond Elementary which was a diverse school. I was seven when I started to notice a change within my family. On the way home from school one evening, my mother said we were going to our new home; I assumed that we were moving as a family. The house was new and smaller; in fact, it wasn’t a home, it was an apartment. Mother tried her hardest to explain what was going on. She said that she and my father were getting divorced and that our father would no longer be staying with us. I had no idea what a divorce was. My mother tried to explain that my father needed some time to get himself together, and that hopefully one day they would be able to work it out. The only words I took from that conversation were “we will work it out.”
Things started to change rapidly. I saw less and less of both my parents. I only saw my dad after school and my mother around bed time. A typical week went like this: Breakfast prepared by my oldest sister, heading to school, after school attending after school care and then my dad would pick me up. I would wait at his house until my sisters were finished with their activities and then we’d go back home, where my sister would prepare dinner and then it would be bed time. On the weekends, I would spend time at my aunt’s house with my cousins who were around my age. This routine went on for almost a year.
In 1992, Miami, Florida experienced its worst hurricane season. Hurricane Andrew was a category 5 that struck southern Florida. The dynamic of Hurricane Andrew took us all by surprise. After Hurricane Andrew our apartment was destroyed, forcing us to move back in with our father. It only took us a couple of months to find a new home and, once again, leave my father’s house. This is when the behavioural problems started.
Family Problems During Adolescence (nine to twelve)
It was 1993 and I was spending the weekend with my grandmother. It was late in the evening and I knew it was time to go in to the house, but instead I wanted to do my own thing. I was playing hide and seek with some friends when I ran behind my grandmother’s house and tripped on barbed wire; I cut my right thigh open. After getting stitches and spending a day in in hospital, my troubles worsened. Since my dad was the disciplinarian and my mom was more chilled, I started getting away with a lot. I implanted in my head that since Dad wasn’t around, Mom was always at work, and my sisters were doing their own thing, I could do exactly as I pleased.
I became difficult, not only at home but also in school. I was only in the third grade and I was put in a special class because of my behavioural issues. At this time I began to resent my mother. I was overwhelmed with a mixture of emotions and thoughts once my parents started the divorce proceedings. My emotions and thoughts started to manifest in the shape of several behavioural problems. My mother tried to understand and interpret my behaviour but, instead of talking, I just shut down. As a family, we did not have good communication.
My mother realized that my behaviour was out of control and decide to seek counselling. Being the youngest in the house, I always felt I had no one to talk to; my parents was always working and communication with my dad reduced. I attended counselling sessions for about two months at my school. Counselling helps children to adjust and manage any concerns, worries or questions that they may have about their parents’ separation. I took part in group therapy, in which we covered variety of topics. At first I thought it was useless, but in the end it really helped me cope with my feelings about my parents’ divorce.
As I got older my family unit drifted even more dramatically. My older sister who was 20 left with friends to enjoy spring break. That was the last I saw of her until college days. She fell in love and decided not to come back home; this hit my mother hard. Following this, my middle sister who was just finishing high school found out she was pregnant. Just when we thought we over coming one drama, something new popped up. My mom never understood why my oldest sister decided not to come back. Many ideas went through her head, but because she was an adult there wasn’t anything my mom could do. She had to deal with my middle sister. My mother was a little disappointed but happy at the same time as she was going to have her first grandchild.
When I was 9, my family was faced with another challenge. One evening a friend came by our apartment. I was in the back room and I heard fighting but thought nothing of it. The next thing I was aware of was that our apartment complex was surrounded by cops. Within a minute, a gunshot had gone off. My mom had witness her friend committing suicide. This man was in love with my mother, but she only viewed him as a friend. I understood what was going on but no one talked about it. I never knew how my mother dealt with the whole situation.
Just when I thought my troubles were over, my mom went back to dating. When my mother first introduced me and my sister to the new man we didn’t think it was going to be serious. Mr D stayed in the same apartment, but in a different section. The relationship between my mom and new step father grew quickly. Soon, we were moving out of our apartment and into a house together. My stepfather had three children from his previous marriage: two daughters and a son. His youngest daughter was my around my age. I finally had a little sister.
All good things must come to an end. Eventually, my stepdad and I would fight. One day after school I wanted to go to the park, but my stepdad said no. I wasn’t used to hearing no, so I began to act out. I started cussing, talking back and being loud. I was determined to go to the park. As I got closer to door, my step father struck me. I was upset and so I called the police.
Family Problems During Teenage Years and Early Adulthood (13-18)
With all this frustration and anger inside me, I needed to focus on something good. In my first year in middle school, some friends and I decided to try out for our cheerleading team. After making the team, I faced another barrier. I was the only African American to make the team and the only one out of my group to make it. Many of my so called friends stopped talking to me because they felt that the cheerleaders were going to change me. After joining the cheerleading team, I believe my attitude did change, but for the better. To be a cheerleader I had to stop the bad girl image and that was exactly what I did. I cheered for Palmetto Middle all three years I was there.
Cheerleading became my passion. Later, I attended Miami Palmetto Senior High School. High school was the best time of my life. I met my best friend who I am still close with today. In high school my mother kept a tight rope on me. I didn’t party much or hang out. Due to the fact I cheered for my high school football team and all-star competition team, I really didn’t have time to party. Cheerleading kept me busy and I loved every minute of it.
After graduating from high school, I was determined to make my family proud by being the first one to graduate college. Being on my own in another city started off as scary, but I was ready to experience new things. I attended Bethune Cookman University, a historically Black College University in Daytona Beach, Florida. During the first semester, I almost flunked out. I partied way too much and didn’t take my studies seriously. After being lectured by my mother, I realized I needed to get my act together. Once again, cheerleading became my saviour. Once I became a cheerleader again, things got back on track.
While in college I started dating someone who I thought was going to be my soul mate. We dated for the four years that I was enrolled in college. After graduation I decided to call Daytona Beach my home and pursue my love interest. I got an apartment and started another journey in my life, but this journey soon came to a crossroad. My relationship became rocky and abusive. Everyone around me could see it and was nervous for me. Around family, my partner was a perfect gentleman. I became pregnant and the abuse worsened. The news got back to my family about the abortion and about fights, so my mother thought it would be best for me to return home. After months of going back and forth, she finally drove to Daytona Beach, packed my stuff up and took me home. At first I thought my mother wasn’t letting me the adult I was trying to be, but I soon realized she had my best interest at heart.
I finally got my life together, went back to school, starting working, and now I am volunteering at a non-profit organization. My life has been a roller coaster, but I thank God I haven’t experienced worse difficulties. My life tribulations have taught me a lot. I never regret anything that happens in my past; instead, I learn from it.