Mariya’s Testimony

All my life, I have been ashamed of my family. My father left me and my mother when I was 6 years old. The only memories I have of him were all negative.

My mother was no better. She left my brother and me for another man, and had another child with him as well. My grandmother raised us but she passed when I was 11. As I was bounced around from group homes to foster care, I dropped into a black hole.

The shame would really hit home around the holidays when everyone is supposed to be around loving families but I’m not.

It took a long time for me to be able to speak to people about the things I went through because of the choices my parents made. When I became a mother, I felt ashamed and afraid I would be repeat of one of my parents.

**

When I was 17, I tracked my father down. He was in jail. He was locked up for life for murder.

I sought out my father because I wanted to find out he’d changed. Maybe he’d come around and decided to finally love and accept his kids. But after months of letters and phone calls, I visited, and my father didn’t seem to have changed at all.

All the shame I carried and wanted to let go of seemed to come back even stronger.

**

Now I feel that I am finally coming to a point where I am growing past what I have been through. My husband has helped me believe that God doesn’t throw anything at me that he isn’t positive I can catch. Taking Parenting Journey and writing this story also helped me see what I have been carrying. And I have taken strength from fighting the foster care system and seeing that my husband and I will fight for my family to the end.

I have been dealing with ACS since my oldest son, Aden, was 11 months. They came into my life when my grandma was diagnosed with lung cancer and I went through PTSD and depression. ACS gave me hell because of my mental health but I went through a mental evaluation and signed up for anger management and parenting skills classes. I was on my own and nervous as hell, but I followed what they asked me to do and within 60 days the case was closed.

Then, two and a half years ago, ACS was called on me again for neglect. Again I was alone. My grandma had passed away and my husband and I had separated for several months. My depression hit an all-time low. My son was missing school. My house wasn’t clean and it wasn’t much food in the home.

ACS wanted me to get some type of help so they mandated me to services. My husband came into the shelter with us and I ended up pregnant with my daughter. After I gave birth, ACS feared I’d go through post-partum depression again so they put me back in counseling and parenting.

I’m very proud that, no matter how many times they threatened to take my kids away, no matter how pointless I have thought many of the places they’ve sent me have been, no matter how overwhelming it has been, I kept fighting. Unlike my parents, I have never wanted to give up my kids. I’ve made sure that my kids see that Mommy will fight to the death to make sure my family isn’t broken.

**

The difference between me and my family is that I am willing to learn to be a better me—for myself, for my kids and for my family. I want my kids to grow up to be proud of their parents and the life that we have made for them.

With the support I’ve gotten, I’ve definitely become a stronger, more dedicated mom. I’m more understanding and gentle with my kids. I take out more time to listen to them and understand what they feel. I am strong and strict and diligent and dedicated and supportive and loving to my children.

When I am with my kids, I smile, I laugh and I am full of life. My emotions are at an all-time high when I’m in Mom Mode. The simplest things my kids do light up my face. My sons’ love and affection makes me so darn proud because I know I am building my family with love as the foundation.

We love going to the park and the library. My kids absolutely love books. They can spend hours reading and looking at magazines. I love when my oldest son, Aden, reads to his brother and sister. It makes me feel amazing to watch their bond grow strong.

One thing I love to do is go to the park and have little scavenger hunts. I’ll buy a toy they really like, and if they find before the timer stops, they can have it. If not, they can try again another time. Not only do they love these games but I love it because it also exercises their brains.

**

I have actually found myself over the past several months.

Telling people about my past has given me so much relief and peace of mind. I’ve learned that I can be my own person and not let my parents’ decisions paint a picture for my future. Now I am saying to myself, “I am not my mom or my dad. I am Mariya. And I can and did work to break that cycle.”

Accepting the challenges I’ve faced in my life and facing all of who I am has played the main part in becoming the strong-willed mom I knew I had the potential to be.

I know now that where I come from doesn’t determine where I will go. I can love myself and my family. I can accept where I came from and push myself to where I want to be.