“Life is a matter of choices, and every choice you make, makes you”
~ John C. Maxwell
Sometimes in life we are faced with difficult decisions, decisions that can change your life. Recently in my own life, I was faced with one of these life changing decisions; a decision to invite another person into my home, and my life. The adoption of my sister Breanna changed my life in a number ways, both good and bad. Through this process I have learned many lessons, including not to jump into situations just because it seems like the right thing at the time, and to be sensitive to others’ life changing experiences.
“As small as it may seem, a good deed is always worth the doing.”
My whole life I have always believed I was a good person. I often did small acts of kindness, such as picking up litter or complimenting strangers. Although these are good deeds, I never expected to be tested in a way that brought on many late nights of crying in the shower and even a few suicide attempts. My sophomore year I met a girl named Breanna through a mutual friend. We quickly became friends as we were both in band, meaning we spent quite a bit of time together. One night at a football game, in between stand tunes, I noticed that my new friend looked very upset. I walked over and asked if she was ok, she said she just wasn’t getting along with her dad. I assumed she meant just normal parent teenager disagreements that I had experienced many times before. Like the good friend I am, I asked if there was anything I could do. I didn’t know it at the time, but, that was the moment I had changed my life. Her response was “Actually I think things are only going to get worse, and well, if I need to a place to stay, can I move in with you?’ I assumed she was only being sarcastic, my mistake.
That next Monday, she called my mom. And, as I remember, she said “Hey Valarie? It’s Breanna Pate, Haley’s friend.”
“Oh, hi, Breanna what’s up?”
“Yeah I was just wondering if I could move in with you.”
Obviously this question shocked and confused my mother, as well as myself when she told me about it later. “Um what?” was my mother’s response.
“My father and I are having issues and I’m being removed by CPS, I need a place to stay.”
My mom then contacted Breanna’s case worker, Gibbs, who explained what the situation was. That night my mom and I had a very serious conversation about what we were going to do. I was the biggest advocate for Breanna to move in with us. After a few days, and many conversations with various family members, we decided to begin the paper work. In mid-December, Breanna came to live with us.
“The honeymoon phase always ends, for everyone.”
In the beginning, our new family was perfect. It was everything I had wished it would it be. Breanna was still a little afraid her dad would try and find her, so we shared a bed until she decided it was safe. It was just one big sleep over. This “honey moon phase” lasted about three months. After that, the sleep over was done, and she was living in my house, calling my mom, “mom”.
“One of the hardest things you will ever have to do, my dear, is grieve the loss of a person who is still alive”
Breanna had never really known her mother, as she passed away when Breanna was only seven, so the new found mom was one thing my new sister latched onto very hard. Breanna would spend all of her time with my mother. Any time I tried to spend time with her, big sis would swoop in and snatch her away. I began to feel like the red headed step child. Slowly I became more aware of how useless my attempts to spend time with my own mother were becoming, and stopped trying. I fell into a very deep depression and, I thought, nobody noticed.
“People do strange things sometimes, when they feel hopeless.”
My new sister was not only selfish, but she was very odd. Once she moved into her own room, she stapled and tacked down the sides of curtains. She also needed to sleep with a night light and had my mother install a hook-eye lock in her door. Her extreme need for privacy was all new and strange to me, as my family had no concept of “privacy”. Although the lack of privacy throughout my life was annoying, and sometimes made me uncomfortable, it was familiar. The weeks went by and it felt like Breanna was taking everything, from my family to my sense of reality.
“Being angry is human. Staying angry is foolish”
One day I came home to find she went through the cabinets and wrote her name on different items, one of which was a family sized box of welches fruit snacks. This incident alone would not be such a big deal, but to me it was the straw that broke the camel’s back. I told my mom about the fruit snacks and, as she always did when I complained about Breanna, she told me it wasn’t a big deal and to let it go. I said no because every time I was upset I had to “let it go”. My mom replied by saying “Fine Haley, throw a fit, get super pissed about the fruit snacks”. And I did.
I went through and wrote my name on everything in the cabinets and the refridgerator. I also texted my selfish sister and asked “Why did you write your name on the fruit snacks. My mom bought those for BOTH of us not just you” Breanna had a lot to say to me apparently.
“I went to the store and she asked me what I wanted and I put it in the buggy for me. I’m tired of you eating all of my stuff that I put on the list in the first place…” In this argument (over text) I pretty much spilled my feelings on how I believed her to be “selfish and ungrateful” and she informed me that I make her life horrible and how I’m the reason she “hates living here”. This argument (only one of many) ended in my moving out. I went to my cousins’ house and informed my mom “I would rather sleep in my car than live with Breanna anymore.” I was only gone for one night due to the fact that Breanna went to the hospital the next day. She had told my mother she wanted to kill herself. My mother and I both new she was only saying this because I had moved out, shifting the attention to myself, but she still had the obligation to take her to Red River hospital.
“I thought I was broken and needed fixing. Not true! I was hurt and needed healing.”
Following the return of Breanna, after I moved back in, Breanna texted me apologizing for hogging the fruit snacks, she also informed me of the fact she dumped out the bags of welches and threw away the box sporting her name in capital letters. My mother later explained that they had a conversation about how the fruit snack fight, was not about fruit snacks at all, but rather about my mother’s attention, and affection. She told me how she explained to Breanna that when I invited her into my life, I was “Attempting to share the “fruit snacks”, and she went and wrote her name on the damn box!” The symbolism of the fruit snacks was a major step in the right direction for me and my new sister. Over the next few months we didn’t speak. Breanna had deeply hurt me, and I was still recovering.
“You can live your life angry, bitter, mad at somebody or even guilty, not letting go of your own mistakes, but you won`t receive the good things God has in store.”
At the beginning of our rocky relationship, a major contributor to our clashing was in fact because I myself never stopped to consider that maybe all of the “weird” or immature behaviors were not Breanna’s fault. The fact that she didn’t know how to do what I considered basic tasks, like starting a dishwasher or opening a tube of hamburger meat, was due to years of neglect and abuse. Nobody ever taught her to share or even how to be a part of a family. Just as having a sister was new to me, having a family that loved and cared for her was new to Breanna. I have spent a lot of time being angry and I thought I was angry at Breanna for everything she put me through. Quiet recently, however, I have come to terms with the fact that I was never that angry with Breanna, but at myself. I had invited somebody I barely knew into my own life because I thought it was the right thing to do. I was also angry at myself because I knew I could have tried to make things better. But more so I was angry at myself because I knew that if I could go back, I would do it all again. Although our relationship is improving every day, my sister and I definitely don’t have an amazing relationship, but the bond is and always will be there.