By Tanya L., 15,
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Tanya likes spending time with her mom now that she’s living at home again
Photo by Luisa Mendoza, 16, Lynwood HS

Every night I called my mom because I missed her. I told her what I did that day. She told me that she loves me. I told her I love her too. Sometimes I hung up the phone and wished I was living with my mom. You may wonder why I didn’t.

When I was 12 years old I was sent to live in a group home to get help with my problems. I was sad and angry because I was being teased at school so I did things that were unsafe, like cutting myself and running into the street. The school thought I needed more help than what my family could give me. At a group home there are adult staff members who are trained to talk to the kids who live there and give us advice. I think it’s been for the best. I’ve gotten help expressing myself so I don’t keep my feelings inside and try to hurt myself. But it was hard because I missed my family. I saw them only on weekends.

When I came to the group home, it was hard getting used to a new routine so I acted up, hitting the staff and other kids. I had to wait a few weeks and once I was behaving better they let me see my family at the group home. When I saw my mom I cried because I missed her. She gave me a big hug. We sat on a couch and talked. She told me to do good so I could go home. I told her, “I will Mom.”

My birthday was better with my family there

I’d been there five months when it was my 13th birthday. I wanted to celebrate my birthday at home but I wasn’t allowed to go home yet because I was still sometimes cutting myself when I was upset. My mom said my family would bring a cake. The day of my birthday, a Saturday, I got up early and got dressed so cute in a dress. I was eating breakfast when I saw my mom, stepdad, my brother and his girlfriend. I was surprised because I thought my mom wouldn’t actually come because she had to work. They had a cake and balloons, and a sweater for my present. It was so fun. We were laughing and my mom was telling jokes. They stayed for an hour or two. I wished it was longer but I knew my mom and stepdad had to go to work. It meant a lot that they were there because I knew they cared.

After a year or so I was doing good and not hurting myself or others, which meant I was ready to leave. I went to another group home that was less strict. They wanted to see if I could keep improving before I could go home.

At my new group home I couldn’t wait to spend weekends at home. We cooked and hung out. My mom sometimes made me Nesquik. At my group home they didn’t do those kinds of small things. I missed my mom’s food. She made salad and put shrimp or and crab meat in it. They had shrimp salad at my group home but it wasn’t that good. My mom’s cooking is delicious. Every time I went home I asked her to go to the supermarket and we made our meals.

My family did special things when I went home because they missed me. One Sunday we went to Malibu Creek. We swam in the lake and ate sandwiches. My favorite part was when my stepdad’s cousin, Victor, helped me ride a bike. I was scared because it was the first time I’d been on a bike since I was a kid. My mom was running behind me to catch me if I fell. (I didn’t fall!) When we got home I told them it was fun. I said, “Thank you for taking me.” I got a hug from everybody.

I can be myself at home. Sometimes if I’m drinking soda and my stepdad is drinking coffee, I put soda in his drink. He says playfully, “What’s wrong with this?” He doesn’t get angry. He knows I play around like that. I couldn’t do that at my group home. I’d get in trouble.

I couldn’t want to move back home

When I came back to the group home on Sunday nights I laid down in my bed and thought about going home. I hugged pictures of my family that I brought back so I didn’t feel alone and cried myself to sleep.

Being in group homes was worth it because I learned things I can do when I’m upset or frustrated to calm myself down. Like if I was having a bad day I asked to call my mom. I’d tell her how I felt and she told me to behave so I could go home on weekends. That helped. Sometimes I went to the staff. We talked about why I was sad. Letting it out made me feel better. One of the staff helped me make a beanie for my niece Allison by using yarn and a hook. When I make beanies I have to concentrate and I don’t think about sad stuff.

I was doing good so I moved back home in December. I’m happy because I get to see my family every day. I got to see my niece walk for the first time.

Being away from my family made me appreciate them more. I realized how much I missed the small things, like how my mom takes me shopping for clothes. I feel loved every day. Be glad you have your family. No one can replace them.

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Other stories by this writer …

I no longer feel worthless. After years of being teased, the support Tanya, 14, got at a new school helped her become confident and happy. (September 2009)