Missed Phone Calls, Missed Moments

Growing Up With an Incarcerated Parent and the Void it Creates

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“It was an average day, I wasn’t expecting to get a phone call,” said Precious. “I never know when he will be able to contact me so it slips my mind.”

She missed that phone call. She knows that everyday when her dad wakes up in his cell that his first thought is about their family and how much he wishes he could be home.

A 2010 study found that at least 10 million children have dealt with a parent being incarcerated. At least one half of those children were ten or younger. The statistics affect each race differently. For African Americans, it is one in nine kids, for Hispanics, it is one in twenty-eight kids, and for whites it is one in fifty-seven kids.”

“Everyday feels like the last and nothing is significantly different, except the moments when it hits you,” said Precious. “It becomes a daily part of your life and you believe it is regular, until it is harshly pointed out to you that it is not. Having a parent in jail is like a taboo and people look at you differently when they find that out about you.”

Just like she missed the phone call, she had to miss the father daughter dance that her middle school hosted.

“They passed out the flyers for the father daughter dance in class,” said Precious. “My heart dropped and I threw away the flyer. I was upset that the school had just reminded me that my father is not in my life.”

Precious tried to pretend that the father daughter dance did not exist, but the school sent home a reminder. Now, it was her mother’s turn to feel hurt.

“I got home and my mother was crying,” said Precious. “I didn’t know why she was until I saw the flyer in her hand.”

Precious’s mother tried to offer many alternatives to Precious in hopes of making the situation better. Her mother felt bad that her daughter couldn’t participate in school activities because her father was imprisoned. She suggested to Precious that her uncles could take her or that they could have a girls day out, but Precious just wanted to ignore it.

“I took my anger out on my father,” said Precious. “It was his reason I couldn’t go to this dance. It is his fault that my mother was crying. He isn’t even here no more, yet he is still damaging this family.”

Precious saw the change in her mother. Everyday until the dance her mother desperately begged Precious to go to the dance with one of her uncles, but she couldn’t. Her uncles were not in her life, just like her father wasn’t. She didn’t want to go to the dance with a man who wasn’t her father. Deep down she just wanted the government to make an exception so that she could go with him, but she knew that that was impossible and just decided to ignore the dance as best as possible.

“Many girls at school were talking about the dance,” said Precious. “It was the topic of discussion for a while and grew as the dance drew closer. The girls were talking about what they were going to wear and how they were going to go out with father for dinner after the dance, but me, I was quiet.”

Precious wasn’t generally a quiet child, she was an extrovert, but ever since receiving the flyer, she was different. She didn’t know anyone else in her school that was in her shoes. She felt like an outcast.

“It had changed me,” Precious said. “I felt as if the school had called me out for not having a father at home. I had to see my home life and school life crash together when I so desperately wanted to keep them separate.”

It was the the day of the dance. Precious’s mother begged her one last time to go. It broke Precious’s heart when she had to tell her that she didn’t want to go to the dance. She felt as if it was no use to try and force herself to fit in when she knew that she didn’t. She felt as the school branded her fatherless. Precious did not go to the dance.

“I finally went on my phone after a long day of school and an after school nap, I had missed my dad’s phone call,” said Precious. “It hurt more than I expected. I was reminded once again that my father is not in my life.”