Coming in last

In the middle of the night I’d break down crying for no obvious reason. I wouldn’t want to leave my room.

Editor’s note: The writer asked to remain anonymous in order to protect her privacy and her family’s.

My troubles began when I seven and moved with my dad and little brother to a country town in Minnesota. My mom and dad had separated, and my brother and I went back and forth between homes a lot. When they finally divorced, the papers said that I would live with my mom while my brother went with my dad.

Ten years later, as a high school senior, I still feel like a kid caught between parents who mostly put their needs ahead of mine.

I stayed with my mom and things got hard as I got older. She moved to America by herself from another country when she was only 17, and I think fear and unhappiness lead her to be too strict. Living with her, all I did was watch TV, eat, read and write because I wasn’t allowed to use the phone or hang out with friends.

She did not get out of the house much and feared what would happen to me if she let me go out with friends or walking alone. I couldn’t even call my dad and brother, so I felt stripped of the other side of my family. I can’t explain how alone I felt.

I wanted to live with my little brother and my father but my step mom said there wasn’t room with a new baby and her son from a different relationship living there. I believe she had an image of how she wanted her family to look, and I didn’t fit.

When I started high school, my older brother asked me if I would want to move in with him in his apartment in the suburbs. I had to choose between the two most important things to me: Living a freer life, or staying at the city high school I loved. In the end I chose a more liberated lifestyle.

I moved into a small two-bedroom apartment with my brother about a month after the school year started. Going from a huge high school with grades 9-12 to a junior high with grades 7-9 was a huge transition, but I made it OK.

I was finally able to hang out with friends and use the phone and computer all I wanted. So why didn’t I feel happy? In the middle of the night I’d break down crying for no obvious reason. I wouldn’t want to leave my room.

Finally, I figured out what was wrong: I was lonely. I was only 15, and I was coming home every day to an empty apartment because my brother worked late at his job.
At 15, most teenagers come home to a family. But in many ways, I was my own mom and dad. I cooked for myself, did my own laundry, and made sure I did my homework.

At the end of my freshman year, my brother moved in with his girlfriend. Living with him was no longer an option. I could not go back to my mom’s because she would still try to control me. Since I no longer had anywhere to live, my father talked his wife into letting me live with them.

My father lived in another suburb, so that would be my next hometown. And of course, I was switching to yet another school.

Things at my dad’s weren’t good. My step mom was unhappy I was there. She often woke up my little brother and me in the middle of the night to pick up something like our shoes or the cups we accidentally left on the kitchen table.

She never let our friends come to the house. One time when we got into an argument, she took out my custody papers and told me I didn’t belong there.

My father hates conflict of any sort. I suppose that’s why he did not want to argue with my step mom about me living there. I love my father, but not sticking up for me made me not trust him.

After I had been living with my dad for a year, he finally told my step mom to leave because he could no longer allow her to mistreat us. But he still visits her very often. That hurts me.

As a teen, sometimes there is no way out of a situation. I am mainly focusing on doing well on school and I am very excited for college next year. I still love my mom, and I’m not as angry with my dad since my step mom is gone. But I often wish they had paid more attention to me.

When I become older, I will have children of my own. When they come into my life, I will never put anything before them.