I always heard, “You’re going to be just like your mother! You’re going to fall right into her footsteps! The apple falls not far from the tree!” Something in a child’s nature makes him or her want to rebel against anything expected of him or her. I knew that I would not be like my mother, and that I would not fall right into her footsteps. I would not allow the apple to fall too close to the tree; I would prove everyone wrong.
I was put up for adoption at the age of three. Preceding this, I was a victim of neglect and abuse physically, emotionally, and sexually by both my biological mother and the men she would bring home. I was even rejected by my own father, a man in denial to the fact that I was his own flesh and blood. When I was three, my mother was so controlled by her desires, so caught up in satisfying her own fleshly lusts that she could no longer care for me or my two brothers. The eldest, Shawn, went to live with his father. My other brother, Christopher, and I were put up for adoption.
Brother and I were sent to a dull concrete building in Fort Worth, called The Center. It was huge and extremely daunting. This was our new home. It was not a home, however; it was just a place to stay. The Center held a certain sadness, an emptiness inside, consisting of hundreds of kids with psychological problems stemming from the awful memories that haunted them from their lives at home. No kid was truly happy; we just accepted the fact that The Center was better than where we would be. We waited for the day when we would be somewhere else. Having been sent here without our consent, The Center filled us with the destructive feeling that we were not wanted.
The building was separated into two sides, one for girls and one for boys. The boys did not cross the girls’ side, nor did the girls enter the boys’ territory. I remember Brother and I crying everyday because we so badly wanted to be together. We were the only people each other had left. Without him, I was in this alone.
It was not too long before people came to “look at” us. Older couples would come visit with us, playing Monopoly and talking. I was not sure what to think about this. However, Brother and I began to get invited home with these couples. I learned that this meant that we were “foster children.” We would go to a couple’s house day after day for weeks, maybe months. I was not sure how long. But then, the couple would usually just stop inviting us over, wishing us the best of luck, then sending us away with hugs. This happened five times, and I never could understand why. The void within me, the feeling that no one wanted me grew with every rejection.
Then one day, a couple came to see us. They were different; they could not keep their eyes off us. The four of us began talking, getting to know each other, and they invited Brother and me home. Unlike every other home we had visited, theirs was the first one in which we were the only children, meaning we received all the attention. We had fun with Ralph and Vickie; we went to the park, to the zoo, to our favorite restaurants to eat. We met their friends, and we traveled. It was always something new. This was the first time we had not just stayed at someone’s house, sitting on our hands and biting our tongues, doing the best we could to “behave.” The four of us grew closer over the course of a year. In November 1993, Ralph and Vickie told Brother and me that they wanted us to live with them; they wanted to keep us, to “adopt” us. When asked if we wanted to be “adopted,” we immediately answered yes. It was a long process, taking more than a year, but Ralph and Vickie finally adopted us and became our Mom and Dad. This was all so strange to me. At five years old, I was not sure how to react. For a few months, I was violent, kicking, biting, screaming, and hitting. But after a few months passed, I began to realize that this was the best thing that could happen to Brother and me. We were finally wanted. We no longer had to live in fear or despair; we had a whole new life. My new parents taught us how to read and write, and they took us to church. They started us in school, and they took us to the park to play baseball. I began to see what a normal life was like, and I loved it. I started kindergarten when I was five. I skipped first grade when I was six. I got saved and baptized when I was seven. Everything I needed was provided, as well as things I wanted. I had all these amazing, memorable moments that I did not realize until I was older that I never would have had if I had not been adopted.
I continued to be determined to beat the odds of me having a good future. I loved school; I always kept up with my studies. I stayed away from drugs and alcohol for so long because I realized how that could affect me in my life, much more than most people. I did not want to end up in prison where my mother did. I have always had so much to live up to; I never wanted to disappoint anyone. I wanted my parents to be proud. I never made a B in school; I had tons of friends and graduated with above a 4.0 GPA. I was very involved in my youth group and was a worship leader. My brother also has been determined to make good of his life. He was saved and baptized, and he did very well in school. He overcame severe ADHD and received the opportunity to attend Arkansas School for Mathematics and Sciences and the Arts in Hot Springs for his junior and senior years of high school. He, too, graduated at the top of his class and now attends Arkansas State University in Jonesboro. We could have chose to believe that we would just become who people told us we were destined to become and that that was just who we were, but we did not want to. We wanted to be able to look at our lives and be proud of what we made of them.
I have learned so much from my experiences. I have learned what a real family is and what is not. I have learned how to be selfless. I have learned that everyone has a need to feel wanted and loved. I have had so many experiences from my early childhood that I would never ever wish upon anyone, but I have become so strong. I have a perspective that most people in this world do not have. I could have reacted to all the events in my life in a very apathetic and violent way. I could have proved everyone right and got involved in drugs, alcohol, and sex like many people in my high school. However, I had a reason not to. I feel like my experiences and pains have made me who I am, and more so everyday. I have not and will not become like my mother. I have done my best to learn from her mistakes; she has helped me set standards for myself and appreciate what I have and where I am. I do not like all the things I have been through, nor am I proud of my past, but I can look back and realize how much knowledge and strength I have gained. I would not have the personality or the life I have today, and for these I am glad. I believe that in every situation, there is a solution, a way out or a way to improve, if one just seeks it. People make their lives what they want them to be. They are no better or worse than they are thought to be. I firmly believe that as Charles R. Swindoll said, “Life is 10% what happens to me and 90% how I react to it.”
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