BriAnn H. Clark-Larson – Daytona Beach, Fl
Ms. Larson wrote a winning essay for the 2015 Ayo and Iken Scholarship. The purpose of our scholarship is to recognize families that overcame the difficulties presented by a divided household. As custody and divorce attorneys we routinely see parents acting in destructive ways to their children. We applaud examples such as this and sincerely hope it can provide a positive example to other families. We also express appreciation to Ms. Larson for sharing her story and wish her success in college
My parents were together for about twelve years before they separated, and it was a quick separation. I was eleven, my sister was seven, my brother was three, and the baby was a few months old. My dad had to leave the condo, in which he paid for, and then eventually we kids and my mother had to leave because we could no longer afford the luxurious home. After the move, we moved to about half a dozen hotels once a week. My parents, like many long time lovers, had their “makeup and breakups”, because they were together for so long they tried again. After their last child in 2012, my siblings and I realized their relationship wasn’t over, even though they tried to keep it confidential so it wouldn’t confuse us. While my mother was pregnant with the last child, we had to live in my father’s one bedroom apartment, keep in mind there was a total of six of us, because we had been evicted from our apartment when my mom lost her job. During this time at my father’s house, it didn’t go so well being together all the time. None of us were used to it, being three years since we all lived together. We constantly fought, argued, I cried, he got upset, I fought with my mother about having another baby. After about several months living with my dad, we got help and found a nice three bedroom two bath apartment where we kids and my mother lived. After we moved out, everyone’s relationship with my father and mother improved. Even though my father and mother do love each other, they know deep down it could never work out again just because they were never meant to be, and since then they haven’t tried again, trying to accept it and for the kids’ sake, so that there would be no more arguing and fighting to witness between my parents, and my parents and I. They realized this wasn’t an image they wanted to pass on to the younger faces in their lives, and did it for the best. I thank them for that, for putting aside their desires and wants for us. Even though their relationship couldn’t work, we could still have a relationship with each parent, one at a time instead of at the same time. We eventually accepted that.
My parents tried to give us the best they could. Both had not the greatest childhood and tried to give us better. My father grew up with his parents both alcoholics until he was an adult, his sister an alcoholic, and he being an adopted child. Sometimes he felt envious of being the only different child in his family, not being able to share the similar traits as his family. “You have mommy’s eyes,” he never shared. His family grew up not the richest. He grew up finishing all his food, being grateful of everything he got, wearing clothes until they couldn’t be worn anymore, and earning his own money to buy his own things.
My mother had it worse. Her mother had been remarried three times, and each very abusive toward her and the children. When my mother was born, her mother was never around. She was a drug addict, alcoholic, and depressed. My mother when she was a young girl had to go to a foster home when her mother chose not to care for her. She had to go live with her grandmother for a while and when her mother finally cleaned up and got well again, she took my mother back. Even though her body was clean, she was a careless and heartless woman toward her. Never listened to her needs or her feelings. When my mother was nine she had gone to the neighbor’s house where the father would watch her. One day he had molested her and when my mother went home and told her mother, her mother casually said, “Don’t go back over there”. She had done nothing. My mother and her mother didn’t get along very well growing up, so my mother moved out at sixteen.
Both different situations, both try to give us the same thing: a better lifestyle than what they had. They feed us, care for us, protect us, and listen to us. We’ve never been to a foster care, never on the streets, and never abandoned. We get a great education, vacations, things we want (occasionally), and a friendship with both of them. There have been times where I’ve had to tolerate my parents, but most of the time I’ve gotten along with them. They are only human, so humans fight and have their differences and they do the best they can for us.
I believe none of us were planned babies. I was the first one born in 1997 in Iowa, where they are from, a year after they met. They decided to move down here when I was three and my sister was born a year later, unexpected. Then three more years later, my brother was born. Then five years later, my next brother was born. Then four years later, my last brother was born, the most unexpected baby, but the most gracious and beautiful. My parents are very proud and blessed to have all of us. They tell us that we are the great thing that ever happened to them and they live for us, and would be bored and have no one to bicker with and play around with if it wasn’t for us. But then they wouldn’t have any heavy bills if it wasn’t for us, they would say playfully!
Currently, we all live with my mother. When they separated that’s how it’s been. All five children had always lived with my mother. I go over to my dad’s sometimes, because I go to school on the weekdays and work on the weekends. My toddler brother and seven year old brother go over the most, because they just love my dad. My dad never got to go on many vacations or go much anywhere, so he gives us the ultimate children’s’ dream: Disney World. He takes and has taken all of us to Disney World more than once, we go to Orlando often, and my seven year old brother has gone on a cruise to the Bahamas with my father. My father let him have all the ice cream he wanted and swim and play everywhere. What a time! My sister got to go to Miami to see a foot ball game with my father, sitting on the field goal, a once in a lifetime opportunity. She and my father love football so they bond great with that. My little brother, Mason, who is two, now, travels more than I do! He loves Disney World and my father always takes him there. He got to go on Park rides, meet Disney movie characters, and go on boat tours. I’m not much of a sports fan, but I do love going to Disney. My dad has taken my siblings and I to all four of the Orlando Disney Parks more than once, and he always takes me to Little France in Epcot because he knows I love France. Once I had wanted a souvenir and they were closing and I got really upset and we were going home the next day so he talked to the manager before we left and he had them send me the souvenir, exactly what I wanted, to our home. My dad has always been good at appealing t others and getting what he wants, especially if it’s for us because he loves to see us happy. And whenever he goes on vacations by himself, he lets us feel a part of it by sending many pictures and getting us trinkets and souvenirs from where ever he goes, and he always comes back home with stories to share. He always loves to take us with, because he likes to share the memoires and wonderful times with us, his greatest life investment and treasure.
My mom can’t afford fancy and fun vacations, but she’s always been the friend. She shares all her thoughts, secrets, opinions, and is the one who gives us advice and listens to our emotional questions and thoughts. She’s that friend who you can cry on her shoulder. I’ve made many mistakes in my little lifetime, but my biggest one she forgave me for and reacted, thankfully, the way most parents don’t. She was upset and disappointed but she never held it over me and she let me fix the problem. It was a boyfriend situation and eventually she accepted it and let me see him and met him, because I fought so hard for her approval. She’s the one who taught me what to do if I’m ever in trouble, how to stand up to bullies, do my homework, how to get a job, how to take care of the children when they were babies, and how to file my taxes. I became a very independent woman because of what she taught me, and how to be fearless in this world.
Both of my parents now are sadly still separated, but they have always tried to stay friends despite their problems, mostly for us. Even though they can’t get along as a couple, when ever we go over to my father’s or mother’s house, they’ll come over too. Especially for holidays to keep and share what they both have: us. Keeping and maintaining a relationship for something this important, in this case children, is a necessary and my parents make it work. They get along better now than they have in the past, because over time things can heal and they let it heal all on its own with just time.
Whenever one of us are having something important such as a concert, a soccer game, or call family meetings, they both attend giving us their full attention just as they did when they were together. “Just because we aren’t together, doesn’t mean we shouldn’t be with you children”, Is what they would always say. They still have a relationship with us.
Through my parents’ situations and obstacles they had at hand, their positive influence they had came through to us kids, and mostly me, for I am the eldest. I’m eighteen now and I was their first baby, when they were so young, almost as young as I am now, still making mistakes as they nurtured me. Regardless of their age and the way they grew up, my parents got their ultimate wish: A child that turned out the way they dreamt. I’m a strong, independent, intellectual, funny, beautiful, creative, and responsible young lady. I’m not addicted to drugs, I didn’t drop out of high school and get my GED, didn’t get pregnant, didn’t run off with strangers, and I didn’t lie my way through my childhood keeping precious things from my parents. I have always tried to be truthful and share my thoughts with my parents, because I don’t like to hide things. Because of them, I do believe I became an honest individual. With the great parents that work together in separate households, they comfort me knowing that I am who I am through their greatness, and that I always have someone to talk to if I am lost.
They are my guidance. If I became a stray puppy in the rain, their door would always be open. Both of them, and which ever parent it was neither would be envious, which I know in my heart. Never have they said “You are on your mother’s/father’s side”, as if to make me choose. How could a parent ever make their child choose? That’s like asking which person you want to die.
Throughout everything they shared, split, fought, loved, and worked for, all they have done in their lifetime had, that I know, created five beautiful children who all will one face the world fearless, but if there ever was a time of fear, would always be welcoming, both at the same time, despite their differences because life goes on, and a life of nurturing and love is endless. So here I am, fully awake and alive, looking at a childhood, thanking God that I had these parents as my parents, and I will always remember and cherish everything they’ve done for me and my brothers and sisters. I love you, Mom and Dad.