Father of the teen

I am so grateful for my late night bouts with insomnia. There is this world that has yet to be discovered that only reaches the light of day in the most deepest and darkest of nights. During the day I am a myriad of thoughts and emotions, which are rarely expressed in their totality. We are too busy to reflect and feel so as a result I find myself in darkness facing the ceiling with my back against the mattress sifting through years of thought through dark passages at night. I get paid to work & have to be super mom. . .it is in those moments that I forget the small stuff.
But here I am, sweating the small stuff because I realize in just a moments notice they can all be gone. These small wonderful things that we take for granted are not promised.
I am a mother. . .a single mother by technicality because I have never been wed, however I am also the other half of a parental duo. My life would be so different if I had not met the one other person responsible for me becoming a mother; my son’s father.
I look at my son and he is the age I was when I met his dad and it’s crazy. I wonder if Jonathan has met someone at this young age who will eventually change his life completely? I guess I will not know until I know. 
Father’s Day is here and while I pride myself in being an excellent mother, I wouldn’t be that if not because of the shared responsibility of my son’s father. There have been moments where being an ok mom had to be good enough. There are times when we are so clouded with responsibility that we can’t realize we can do better, and that is where no one has failed me. Jon’s dad is one of those parents that rolls with the punches, he’s taken a couple of south paws from me and I of him. We keep each other on our toes. Somewhere from inception to present day we have devised a friendship that is unbreakable. We are not perfect people, but we are perfectly constructed parents for Jonathan. We are human but most importantly we are friends. Father’s Day is so important to me. Jon’s dad and I did not come from a nuclear family. We had mom, kid(s), and grandpa(ma). The dad in our family portrait was not present and yet I sit in awe because of how we turned out. I admire him for who he is because of his journey and I am forever thankful for his presence in Jonathan’s life. 
I hear horror stories, child support stories, jealousy stories and every other story in between. There is no jealousy. The only child support we require is the emotional support of one another to our son. The horror in the story for me is when people ask the monetary questions and the divisive questions that quite frankly are none of their business. “How much does he give you?” Well to be clear. . .My sons relationship with his father is not dictated by monetary compensation. It is strictly determined by my sons need to be with his incredibly involved and loving father, and vice versa. We share a child, not own him. I realize that our life and arrangements are unrealistic however I wish more people were like us. I don’t mean that in an arrogant way, as to suggest that we have it all figured out, however the proof is in our son’s eyes.
My son does not see his parents fight and rip each other to shreds. Instead when in the same room he sees his parents joke and get along. He sees us sitting side by side in conference night agreeing on how we should discipline him, teach him and guide him as he turns into the young man we wish he’d be. We do not have to be in a relationship to have a normal friendship or relationship after our couple life collapsed. We collaborate and sincerely wish the best for one another because if as individuals we attain the best then as parents the sky is the limit. Happy parents happy kid. . .it. Is. That. Simple.
If you’ve gotten this far you’re probably wondering why. . .why am I dwelling on this?
Today I had the privilege of helping out in the community. It’s been a little over two years since I left social work and because of that I do not have the opportunity to reflect as much as I used to about the things that go on in the world. There are so many negative things happening lately and they all circle around race and indifference. I’m not blind to realize it but I do refuse to look directly at the sun because it’s going to burn. However today reminded me of how much I have. I wish I could do more, sincerely, but the truth of the matter is that I struggle to make a difference in my own circle. It’s hard to find the time or to spare the money it takes to help others, so I pay with my greatest contribution, which is in raising my son properly and giving society another wonderful human being. 
I wish him to be kind and understanding, to never look down on others and to always see the bright side in everything. I hope that no matter how dark the path may be that he is guided by the light and love his father and I have shed upon him. I want nothing more than for him to reflect in his darkest hours about how life can be bright so long as you continue to shed light on the world. I do not raise him to believe any profession, sexual orientation, gender, or race is any worse than the other but I do raise him to believe he is better than that. . .”that” in which people assume he will become. He is no statistic. He is not a Latino kid from a broken home. He is not this socially deemed underdog with the odds stacked against him. He is a person.
Every day I see the fruits of our labor. This little person who now has a heart of gold and who makes our lives so full. I am so thankful for the opportunity to be this little persons mom but most importantly I am thankful for his dad. Thanks for checking in even when it is not your week, for never disappearing, for always returning calls, for cleaning up messy diapers, for teasing him, for making him smile, for making him laugh, for teaching him how to own up to his mistakes and for showing him how to do the things I can’t. Thank you for having many jobs but making sure this one is your best! Thank you for being his father. 

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Hazel

I remember it clear
The moment in life
When fear & anticipation aligned
It’s when I found out
You’d be mine

Minor details failed to matter
Criticism, backstabbing
Crowd fodder and chatter

Feelings consumed
My every choice
Tear stained pillows
Instead of rejoice

An inclined challenge
Though I wasn’t prepared
I suddenly found courage
Because of those who didn’t care

Their judgmental glances
Above holy scriptures
Took place of guidance
With negative lectures

A minor, a child
They sold me quite short
I let them be, I didn’t retort

Years went on and here I am
No longer sixteen and pregnant
A grown woman raising a man

Now he is a boy
Not yet full grown
I would risk it again
To become the woman I know

Forever in debt I will be to my son
He is my biggest cheerleader
I’m his number one

Little does he know
I’m a fan too
Of this little boy
Who is more than the color blue

He taught me how selfless and helpless we are
When the world has a bigger plan
To create who we are

I love you my Jonathan
For I see in your eyes
A speck of hazel
And dreams that will never demise

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It’s never too late

I think that there are times when we underestimate ourselves. I don’t mean this in the sense that we could try harder, or do better but in the fact that some of us make light of what we’ve been through.

We are so often afraid of being weak or perceived as less than. More often than not we make a mention that other people have been through worse. All the while we dismiss the opportunity to realize we too have been through some hard times.

I was watching a video on Upworthy a few weeks back about a woman talking about coming out of the closet. She said that we all come out of the closet at some point in our lives. I couldn’t agree with her more! She said, hard is hard, there is no clear distinction and definition of what life events are harder than the other. . .the bottom line is that we all go through hard stuff, we all have hard conversations to have, we all have to come out of our comfort zoned ie closets and face those hards topics.

For many years there have been things I’ve battled with internally. However I found that because I was resilient that I was not allowed to classify them as hard. I told myself all the time, “others have been through worse!” I was okay with that until one day a few years ago, and again today after a motivational speaker came and spoke at a training/meeting I was attending.

Growing up I was raised by my mother and grandfather. My father went to jail when I was approximately five years old and after that, my mothers foundation and backbone went missing. I can’t say that I remember my mom before, I don’t know my mom in any other capacity than the woman who was emotionally fragile.

I was a vivacious child, always seeking attention and always hoping to finally shine the spotlight on me in the chance that my mom might once take a glance at me. My mother was preoccupied putting hot meals on the table and clothing us. I am absolutely grateful for that but while she spent hours upon hours providing for me and my siblings, she rarely spent a moment consoling my heart that eroded over time.

I took a liking to my grandfather. I ran to him every time I hurt myself. I sat on his lap as he played guitar. I danced and played in his room while he watched his tv shows. I was very much present in his life, while I was barely a glimmer of light in my mothers.

When my grandfather passed away, any semblance of love was gone. My one parent, support system and symbol of love was gone. I can count the few times in my life that my mother even mumbled the words I love you. I make allowances for her because she was raised by my grandmother, whom in my experience was frigid and cold. I felt bad for mom and for some reason made it okay for her to not have loved me enough. It was hard to feel invisible but because I knew it was hard for my mother, I let her slide again and again.

All I ever wanted was effort. I was an excellent student and I wanted her to come and hear it from my teachers but it never happened. I needed hugs and warm embraces and instead I was treated with snacks and cakes to comfort me instead of the one thing I truly desired.

My mother was institutionalized several times in my life. My mother was at times suicidal and even once tried to kill herself and us all while trying to drive against traffic in one of the busiest intersections in Tampa. Fortunately my sister was there to yank the steering wheel.

I went to 8 different elementary schools and somehow I kept up. I don’t have true childhood friends because it was impossible to keep up. I never went to one school more than a year before we moved on to the next apartment lease.

I thank my mother because I was raised to face adversity but I don’t appreciate the fact that she raised me emotionally incapacitated. I was so broken for years.

I’m sorry comes so easy to me, I hate being wrong, especially on my own. I love to clear the air and I try my best to make my love for people known.

This afternoon while the speaker gave her message I began to tear up. She confirmed something that I thought was silly because my hard situation may not be as bad as someone else’s.

A few years ago I got into an argument with my mother. I was angry like never before. The dynamic had changed and I no longer was the only one she disappointed. My son had been playing soccer for five seasons in what is quite literally her back yard. Not once did she show up. He had practices and games and on more than one occasion he had championships. My son began to ask me, why his grandmother didn’t love him. I had no real explanation other than, this is just the way grandma is.

I finally had enough!

The last time I’d seen my father was when I was 11 years old. My father is a criminal, a registered sex offender, and as such could not have contact with us. I was not his victim but I was related to the victim. On this particular day after I argued with my mother, I was devastated. I had never even raise my voice at my mother but I was so angry because after years of making excuses for her, nothing had changed. So I looked up my father. Unfortunately and fortunately there is a website for people like him, so I obtained his address. (This is clearly complicated and understandable if people don’t comprehend but I know where my intentions were.)

I mapped his address, which was barely 15 minutes from me and I went to see him. I don’t know what I wanted. I could take care of myself, and I didn’t want answers. I think parts of me wanted to see him before it was too late. He wasn’t home when I arrived so I started to leave. Just as I was leaving he pulled in. I have to admit that I was initially relieved when he wasn’t home and now that he was, I began to wonder what I was actually there for. I got nervous.

For years I resented him for the life I lived because of his poor choices. This man was the former illicit drug user, alcoholic and sexual offender, but somewhere in the trenches of that lost soul was the few and only memories I had of whom I affectionately called, “Papi.” There was the man who called me Junji, the man who took me to get vanilla icecream cones with rainbow sprinkles every day to the Carvel in our backyard. To this very day, that is my favorite treat. I love the ocean because he loved fishing and I can play dominoes just like he did. I also happen to share his face and a birthmark over the side of my nose that he also has.

This man with the good and bad memories was now standing before me wondering who I was. I recognized him immediately because he wore a thick gold chain around his neck, just as he did when I was a child. I stepped in closer and I said, “hi, I’m your daughter Johanna.” He hugged me and immediately my emotions got the best of me. I stood there a 26 year old woman but in his arms I was a sobbing child. I didn’t speak a word and he hugged me and said repeatedly, “I’m so sorry, it’s not your fault!”

I felt a weight lift off my shoulders. I heard something foreign and felt parented in the first time in ages. There it was, finally, an apology. Admittance that everything I went through as a child wasn’t handed to me because I’d earned it. It. Was. Not. My. Fault.

In the 29 years I’ve been living, that was the first and last time any one of my parents have ever apologized for anything. That is what I needed more than anything. I needed permission to say my life was hard, but it wasn’t my fault! I needed someone to say, it sucked but it’s going to get better. My dad stood there and apologized until the words could no longer catch up to his tears.

I haven’t seen my dad since, and I don’t know that I ever will, but on that day in his arms I was able to let go, forgive and fix a little part of my broken heart.

Why

When I was a little girl, my father made decisions that would alter my life forever. His choices ultimately left me a fatherless daughter. That was a void that almost no one could fill. I don’t remember it all but I remember minor details prior to his departure. I was a daddy’s girl. I resembled him in spirit and in my appearance. There is no denying I am my fathers daughter if you’d have looked at us but he was up and away before he could leave a lasting impression. At 14 months of age my grandfather Felix became an integral part of my life. As the time went on I became a grandpa’s girl and the semblance of my father in my smile was all that remained of my father.

Over the years I convinced myself that I did not need my father because my grandfather Felix was the only man I felt I needed. Grandpa raised a good girl, a tough girl and helped heal a very broken little girl. I wish I could repay grandpa for everything he has done for me but I know all too well that if he were around he wouldn’t take as much as a moment away from me.

There are so many things that I didn’t learn from my father Jose that I was able to learn from grandpa Felix however there are so many things that shall remain unlearned and undone.

Last week I went to a wedding, it was beautiful and filled me with so much joy. I witnessed two wonderful people joining their lives and I felt honored to be in their presence. Yet, not everything was happy tears. There are those moments when you realize you are not as okay as you’d like to be with the hand you’ve been dealt. I am in the habit of recognizing the positives but once in a while I do think about the things I will never have, by no doing of my own of course. . .those very things stripped of me because of other peoples decisions.

I have always thought of the day I will get married, who will give me away, what my dress will look like, how my hair will be, the list goes on and on. As a little girl I always imagined that my grandfather would give me away, not realizing that he was going to leave me before he’d be given the opportunity. He passed away when I was 13 and after that my idea of a wedding changed a bit. I have some wonderful brothers whom I know would be elated to give me away and I actually look forward to that.

I take everything as it comes and while I made adjustments in my mind about what I picture for my perfect day, there is a moment I over looked. I sat at my friends wedding and soon after being introduced as Mr. and Mrs. for the first time, they began to dance as a newly married couple. I stood there with tears in my eyes as they sang to one another. It was incredibly sweet and then the groom passed the bride to his father for the father daughter dance. See, I do not know why her dad wasn’t there but at that moment I realized I wasn’t alone.

I didn’t sign up for a fatherless life but still on my wedding day I will be at a loss; I will not dance with my father and it crushed me that night when I realized it. The whole wedding is supposed to be special and the thought of not having my father dance with me at my wedding (whenever that may be) brought me to more than tears that night.

I cannot control everything that happens but I can try to make sure that history does not repeat itself. I have a responsibility to raised a good man. Everyday I instill morals and values into my son. I teach him to never lie, cheat or steal and to always be a boy of his word, until he grows up and becomes a man of his word. He is kind, he is compassionate and even though I know he cannot be perfect I am doing my best to make sure that he knows how wonderful it feels to be his mother. I do everything I do, all in the hopes that one day no one in his care will have to alter their life because of his deliberate absence.

I know how much it hurt to self sooth, I know what it is like to raise yourself and I feel I am a stronger person for it, but honestly sometimes I wish I had a parent to turn to. After all we are always going to be someone’s child and what child doesn’t need guidance from their parent?

No Better Than You!

Read me, I dare you!

It’s not about being single, it’s not about having a man or needing one. It’s not about being stubborn or unwilling to let people in.

I’m a single mother to a charming 12 year old boy. His smile lights up any room he enters. He is funny and makes me happy. But then there are those moments when I fail him, I fail myself and drop the ball. We aren’t perfect but we try.

I’ve been working since I was 14. I had him when I was sixteen and since then I’ve been a mother, a fighter a god damn warrior. I hold my head high even when I’m drowning. I look all put together when I’m shattered and torn to pieces.

When I say no, I feel bad. When I simply am stretched too thin and I can’t I feel bad for being unable. I make it to every conference, wipe every tear and comfort every concern or fear.

I’m shaping the heart of a future man. I’m setting the pace for who he should become. I don’t have testosterone, I lack manhood but still I try to instill the morals and conduct of a man to a little boy who is being raised by a mother who lacked a mother and father.

I stand head high, shoulders erect but the truth is some days I want to crawl into my own little hole because I’m my own army of one. I self soothe and tell myself every little thing is going to be alright but it’s not the same as having someone else tell you what you know to be true.

It’s not fair to tell a boy he’s the man of the house. It’s not fair to expect him to step up in more ways that he should. He shouldn’t be deprived of a simple childhood that simply requires him to be happy. So I brave the cold and put out fires on my own because he should never know of my struggles.

I’m not team single, I’m not team baby momma or daddy drama, I’m team mommy. I do everything in my power to keep my sons father involved and will no matter how tough it can be.

My son is a great kid but he is anxious and worries about everything that is going on, if he’s cornered he feels the need to fight back. He’s emotional and strong but he’s no Goliath. He’s not a straight A student but he’s the best student he can be. He’s facing a major block with attention but I always do my best to rear him in the right direction. He is not medicated but diversion and planning with a child like him is complicated. It’s tough, it requires effort and constant diligence.

I work, I study, but above all else, I parent. I don’t want pity and I’m not complaining I’m just stating facts. The facts about the walk of my life that most others will never know.

Simple facts that people who pass judgement may overlook for others who have their own stories to tell. I very rarely make comments or statements about arguments I know I’d lose to an idiot but enough is enough!

Welfare, drug screening and government assistance are hard topics but everyone is a critic and everyone has an opinion about a matter that they may have never experienced. Or perhaps they may have experienced but because they are no longer in dire straights they feel the self imposed right to give advice to families benefiting from their hard earned tax dollars. Suddenly because people have their best foot forward they forget the shit they had to step in to get there. People become insensitive and unkind all because, “if I did it you can too!”

Well here is something you all do not know. I lost my job in February of 2012, I spent almost a year unemployed before I found a job. I had a brand new 2012 Kia Soul and prior to I was doing pretty good for a simple girl from Tampa who wore hand me downs as a child and got her first kid sister doll from a garage sale. I had a good reputation and long run in the child and maternal health field. I was Johanna Arroyo, a member of my community, a link to families and resources. I trained peers and worked with families from all walks of life and adversities. People let me into their homes and allowed me to touch their lives without judgement or superiority. I did it all because I loved it and suddenly after a decade of working in non-profits and social services I became the under served.

Was it unfair, sure but I wasn’t dying. I had my health and I had my boy. Things were different and I suddenly could not just rely on myself. You all are my friends, you know me, you encourage me and see the kind of person I am. I’m not lazy, I don’t mooch off the system, I don’t live off of others. In the year I spent unemployed I never missed a meal, the power remained on in my home but my dignity fell at the seams at times because of people much like all of you and me.

I went grocery shopping and as I pulled out my EBT card from my purse I saw the smirks of strangers because I clearly was living off of “their” hard earned money. I was a vagrant who was pulling my government assistance card from my Juicy Couture satchel. They didn’t know I spent $65 dollars on it at the outlet store as a simple gift to myself while I was still employed. They didn’t know I was putting my groceries into my brand new 2012 car that I had purchased again when I was employed. They didn’t know this because they were so concerned about how hard they’ve worked in their lives they couldn’t lower their noses to realize that I too had busted my ass. They were simply focused on the negative stigmas of the needy. If I had wandered in looking torn and dirty I would probably have been more deserving. But no, I’m a proud woman in my character and appearance. I painted my nails with the polish I purchased, again, when I was employed and when I didn’t have enough money I washed the cute name brand clothes I owned by hand in my bathtub at night along with my sons school uniforms while he was sleeping. Clearly I wasn’t deserving of wearing some of the things I wore because I should be too poor to live off of them, those people who didn’t know me. See you all read my life, my posts and everything through your own eyes, you know of m footprints in the sand but they didn’t. The same is said for every other person out there trying to find their way back into self sufficiency, there exists someone out there who knows her story too. While we all try to figure out how and when they could afford it. They had to explain their expenses and have their life scrutinized down to every detail just to get a handful of assistance for their children.

The government should cut public assistance, the homeless need to find jobs because handing them a little bit of chump change is above us, I guess that is what everyone says but guess what, your hard earned money will be taken from one and will be redistributed and given to another. Instead your money, your tax dollars can build roads and construct buildings that the poor and less than privileged will ever be able to afford. That all somehow makes sense and keeping food on the table of families doesn’t because they didn’t earn it or work for it?! You all have mothers and father, if there is no struggle in your present or immediate history look above your parents and get to know your roots and figure out if you’re still willing to turn the other cheek. — feeling no better than anyone.