The youth-written stories in Represent give inspiration and information to teens in foster care while offering staff insight into those teens’ struggles.

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Contest Winners #232: Letters to Parents
What's going on in your life that they should know about—and don't
Writing Contest Winners

Note: The cash prize winners for “Letters to Parents” are picked at random. To protect the identities of the writers, we aren’t publishing real names or listing the honorable mentions. Also, all names and some details in the letters may be changed.

Dear Mom and Dad,,
Over the past few years, I’ve been listening to you scream at each other at least once a week. I mean scream so the whole neighborhood can hear. Friends come get me because they don’t want me in that environment. My older brother comes into my room to make sure I’m not scared. Teachers worry about my well-being. I’ve been called down to the counselor’s office so they could make sure I’m not being abused because my friend told them what was happening. Other friends have threatened to call social services if I text them one more time about you two fighting.

I broke up with my boyfriend of seven months because he told me he wanted to marry me someday and I thought he was too attached to me. I didn’t want to end up like you. I don’t know what’s acceptable in a relationship because you’ve never set an example that I want to follow. I’m terrified to be attached to someone.

The only person I trust is my brother because he knows what goes on at home. He’s the foundation of my support system. When he moved out for a couple of months, I was miserable. I sat in a corner of my room every night staring at a wall, wondering what you two were going to fight about next, praying that it wasn’t about anything I had done.

Do you know how embarrassing it is for me to get calls from the neighbors to make sure that I’m not being hurt? Do you know how much I worry about being dragged into your fight to be yelled at for nothing? Do you know how much it hurts to see other kids smiling and laughing with their parents when I know that will never be normal for me? Do you know how much it affects my grades and depression? No. You don’t know. I wish I could tell you without starting another fight.

Your daughter

Dear Parents,
I have always been your star child. I have done my best in academics, sports, and anything else I could succeed in. It was a good run, but I have a secret that has been tearing us apart. I didn’t mean to lie to you about it, but it would kill you guys and I don’t want that. You have always done what was best for me and I appreciate it greatly. But this time I thought about myself and my happiness.

I swear I’m not doing anything illegal like you think, nor am I trying to get away from you guys. I love you both more than I could ever love myself. But now my heart is being split between three amazing beings.

I’m in love, and it’s not with Britney, like you thought. I fell in love with our neighborhood friend, Mathew.

Yes, I’m gay, or bisexual, or, I guess, just confused. I don’t even know how it happened. But as our friendship grew so did our feelings and one day we just clicked. He puts me on a level of
happiness I have not been on before. All those times when you thought I was going out and
partying I was actually with Mathew at his house watching movies. The times you thought I was spending my money on drugs and alcohol I was actually buying anniversary presents, and paying for the movies on our date nights.

Hiding this from you has been the most difficult thing I have ever done. Mathew’s parents know about us. They say I should tell you but I wouldn’t be able to make out the words.

I want to tell you guys, but I can’t face your judgment of me. I am still the star child you always wanted. I’m still that same honor roll, award-winning son. I’m sorry, Mom. I’m sorry, Dad. I love you both with all my heart. Please don’t be disappointed, I’m still your son. I’m still me.

From the bottom of my heart,
Your son

Dear Mom and Dad,
You both remind me often how proud you are of me. I know it’s the truth. Having two educated parents with respective passions for literature and the law has cultivated a love of learning within me since my earliest years. I can see the pride in both of your eyes when I want to discuss the latest reading for my class. You promise that I have a future of unlimited potential sprawling before me. And sometimes I believe it.

But sometimes, the same world that I marvel at through literature and art threatens to swallow me up. On a college visit you watched me cry in the library, laughing because you thought I was simply emotional over a school that I loved. But it was really because I am desperately scared, paralyzed at the thought of being a miniscule cog in a machine that keeps running even if it breaks me.

Here in the suburbs, it’s easy to feel safe and comfortable and necessary. This house, well-worn by my footsteps, offers a place that I fit into. This room, plastered with posters and cluttered with knickknacks that all mean something in a corner of my heart, looks how I have looked on the inside at every age, all at once.

Dad, you drove me to a park overlooking the high school when I was sobbing over a boy who danced with someone else at my 8th grade class party. You said that night wouldn’t matter in a year, but it still does. Not because of that boy, but because you carried my uncomfortable shoes and held me close in a way that I won’t forget.

Mom, you entertain my foolish ramblings with grace and never make me feel unimportant. You warmed muffins on the car dashboard on road trips, and showed me endless dog videos online, and saved me countless last pieces of cake. I have never felt as close to anyone as I have on the couch with you in comfortable silence, passing back and forth a shared bowl of cereal, and watching Saturday Night Live. The small things you do every day have amassed into this monumental fortress of a mother’s love, one I’m not sure how to step out of.

Everyone talks about Empty Nest Syndrome, but no one mentions the baby bird who flies away on only half-developed wings, terrified of the great, wide Earth stretching on infinitely ahead. What if I fall? What if I can’t find my way back to the nest? Worse, what if I find my way back and don’t fit in it anymore?

I want to be important to people, but I don’t want to leave home. I want to have a part of this planet that is mine alone, but I don’t know where to plant a flag. I want to be on my own, but I don’t ever want to be on my own.

Your daughter

Dear Mom and Dad,
You ask me about my grades, you ask me about my doctor’s appointments. You ask me about tuition, how I slept, and about my bank account. But you never ask the question I want you to.

Ask me how I am.

Ask me if I’m happy. Ask me how long it’s been since I’ve thought about giving up. Ask me why I sleep so much. It’s been over a year and nothing’s gotten better, but you just keep blaming each other. You’re so busy trying to decide who should pay the price that I’m the one paying. You let me slip through the cracks again.

Ask me how I was. You don’t know that when I lived five hours away from you, I would sit on my bed and gasp for air because the ache in my soul felt like a demon inside my chest trying to claw its way out. There were three other girls living in that apartment, but I felt alone.

You didn’t come to see me and you didn’t ask if I liked it there. I used to hold my nose and submerge myself in the bathtub to find some kind of silence, but my mind went under with me and it wouldn’t shut up.

Ask me how I’ll be. Ask me how I see the future. Because all I see is the same old thing, day in and day out. School, work, home, sleep. School, work, home, sleep—it never changes. The monotony is always breathing down my neck and the silence is so loud, but to my dismay, I can still hear myself think.

Ask me how I am. I admitted myself to the hospital because I didn’t feel safe with myself. I was there for four days and then I got in my car and drove away like nothing happened. I went to group therapy even though I hated it. I cried in front of strangers and told them more intimate details about the darkness inside of me than you’ll ever know. Because you don’t ask.

Why? Is it because you don’t want to face it? Because my monsters aren’t the kinds that go away when you close your eyes or hide under the blanket. My monsters are here and I’m fighting them alone.

So ask me how I am.

Ask me if I’m happy.

Help me be happy.

Your daughter

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