Here’s how I remember it, my mom and stepfather started working at a grocery store. First my mom began working and prior to this my mom has never worked a day in her life in the United States. However, she met someone and found a job which we really needed at the time. With my mom working for a few years and my stepfather staying home it was difficult because my brother and I didn’t have our mom. I started going through puberty and had to get advice from my stepfather which was awkward and not my first choice.
When both of my parents started working, I had to babysit my younger brother. I was 11 years old at the time and my brother was 5 years old. My stepfather started working with my mother because he didn’t like the way she was treated. My mom had to do a lot of heavy lifting. She worked in the produce section. It wasn’t a great job, but it paid bills. So, my brother and I would go around town taking the city bus going to stores and restaurants, and hang out while our parents were working. We also went to our parent’s workplace where we would “help.” We basically worked in the store and helped our mom here and there so we could be close to them. If “we got in the way” my stepfather would drive us home and go back to work. We did that for about 5-7 years until my mom got a new job where hours seemed better and my brother and I got older.
Anyways our parents started going out on their days off. Then they started going out more often leaving me to care for my brother. My brother would not listen and our parents simply didn’t care. We would spend time at our “friend’s houses.” If I wanted to spend the night at my friend’s house, my parents made me take my brother along. They said, they needed a break. Other times, my parents would go out with their friends and we would sleep at their house with their children who were older teenagers. Those teenagers would basically watch us. It was very awkward and I started catching on the more it happened. I knew it was wrong, but it became our normal.
My brother never really caught on and I tried to protect him. He would love to play outside and ride his bike everywhere. I didn’t really have anything to do so I would watch tv, and that was my escape. Sometimes our neighbors would inform my parents that I was not watching my brother. However, I would tell my brother to stay close and he refused. When I would tell my brother to come home, he also refused. In the end, I was always the blame for everything never my brother. My mom would sometimes call from the casino and to prevent my brother from seeing that I would take control over the phone. I didn’t want him to call the police and get us in trouble. Nor did I want to corrupt his innocence. He just thought our parents went out doing errands or whatever. After a while, I changed the name of the casino’s phone number to “Mom.” Whenever, my brother saw that it said, “Mom” he would get so excited to talk to her. After a few years he caught on. It wasn’t that bad during the day because my brother and I did bond half the time, but it definitely wasn’t ideal. We wanted to spend time with our parents especially our mom. She never seemed to want to be with us, and that’s still true even today.
Our parents would leave us at home from 8pm to 1am or as late as 2pm the next day. It was a good day if they were home by 2am. It was worrisome as an 11 year old to think my parents might not come home. I would often think what should I do if they don’t come back? Or if someone finds out? Sometimes I would have to walk my brother to school, which was right across the street. Even though it was across the street, I shouldn’t have had to care for my brother at such a young age. When I would lecture my parents and tell them to come home earlier, I would get told, “you are so annoying SHUT UP DEANNA”
I never learned what caused my mom to start going to the casino quite often, and I never learned why my stepfather did either. I was always embarrassed of this growing up since many of my parent’s friends knew this and so did their children (my “friends”) It never really ended. It started to get bad when bills weren’t paid on time and they would pawn a gold necklace to make rent. Or they would borrow money from friends to make rent and buy groceries. My stepfather often told us we would live in the streets. It was a scary thought growing up. Before my mom started working, we were on food stamps and walked to grocery stores. We would also take the bus often because our car was never in good shape.
On the other hand, I carried a lot of weight on my shoulders as an 11 year old. I was always told by my parents not to tell anyone they went to the casino. Believing this for most of my life, I passed it on to my brother. I thought I was doing the right thing by telling him to do the same. I now know I wasn’t and I should have let it come out in the past. My friends and teachers back then in middle school and high school could tell I was distressed at times, but I didn’t start confiding with my friends until the very end of high school. Even now I feel like a burden for talking about it, but I have no other outlet. My brother has his own perspective on what happened and still happens today with our youngest brother.
Thank you for reading.