I grew up knowing my mother, but I had no idea who my father was.

I remember being 5 years old and asking my Aunt what my dad's name was. As I got older, I never really wondered who or where he was. I mean I grew up with my grandparents and I called them mom and dad. They were all I really knew. They raised me.

When I turned 11, my mom got the bright idea that it was time to get her daughter back. So she did. She went and got temporary custody. She literally tore me away from my home, my friends, my school.

I saw a lot more than an 11-year-old should have. I had to grow up fast.

One day, about 2 months after moving in with my mom, I overheard her on the phone with someone. "Some guy. I wondered, who would she be talking to?" Then, she saw me from around the corner and told me to come in there and say hi to this strange man on the phone. So, me being the outgoing person I am, I said hi and had a whole conversation with the man that I would later find out was my father.

I found out more and more about my father. I wanted to know everything. I found out he had a girlfriend (who would later be my awesome stepmom) and she had 2 kids. The biggest and most shocking part though was that he had been in prison my whole life.

We ended up meeting. I was nervous, scared out of my mind, and just freaking out. Not because I was meeting him, though, but because I had to meet him in prison. It was scary for an 11-year-old. When he walked in though I couldn't bear to look at him. I was so excited, but I had this feeling like I was going to hurl if I did. I am glad I finally did, though. We hit it off. Of course, we did, he was my dad. I was just glad I got it over with. I deserved to know who he was.

He got out 2 years later and we stopped talking. He and my mom had their differences and he wanted nothing to do with me. I thought he hated me and that hurt, A LOT. To the point where life didn't feel worth living.

My 9th-grade year, my mom had hit rock bottom, her husband had died, her new husband wanted nothing to do with her, so she couldn't handle me and my 2 siblings anymore. Of course, I put up a fight to leave anyway, I hated it there and if you were there you would have hated it too.

She started hanging out with the wrong people and putting herself in the wrong places and making the wrong choices. She eventually got arrested. She stayed in jail for 3 months.

Meanwhile, my dad and I started talking again. I forgave him and he forgave me. He wanted to "make up the 17 years he lost". We got really close. So close that I started introducing him to my boyfriend and my best friend (which is a really big deal). We did almost everything together. A few months later though I got some shocking news:

My dad had been arrested again.

It completely ripped me apart.

When I found out I was sitting in Math Class, you know just scrolling through the good old Facebook post and I saw one in particular news post that caught my eye and I clicked on it. My dad's big and bright mug shot was at the very top of the post and as I read on I started to forget how to breathe. I ran out of Math Class without saying a word and ran all the way to my car.

I feel so bad for my car, I can't tell you how many times I kicked, punched, and slammed into my car that day.

It was unbearable, to think of how awesome my life was going then and how close we actually got and how he would tell me everything was going good and he was staying away from all that mess, and then to find out that he was lying to me all this time??? I couldn't help but think of my baby sister. She is only 3. She is going to have to grow up just like I did. Wondering where her dad is, why isn't he around, why did he do this to himself knowing good and well he has 4 kids that need him more than ever?

He didn't get to see me go to my last prom, he didn't get to see me graduate, and now he won't be able to see me do more amazing things because he chose the wrong path. I started to wonder if it was my fault, maybe if I would've paid more attention I could have stopped him.

My mom got to see me graduate, but the week after she got arrested again. It didn't bother me that much, my mom and I weren't close. My little sister on my mom's side called me and started saying, "It's not fair," "It's my fault," "She won't see me go to prom," "She isn't going to see me graduate." I almost said, "shouldn't we be used to it?" I didn't though.

You see, what all of this has taught me growing up is to learn from their mistakes. You could look at their mistakes, make the same ones, and say "Well, I watched my parents do it so I did it," or you could look at their mistakes, make better choices, and say "Well, I watched my parents mistakes and I learned from them," I explained to my sister that people make their own choices and choices are what define you. They made the wrong ones and it put them behind bars and it's not our fault.

Looking in from the other side all I can do is wonder if they are thinking about their mistakes or embracing them. I have no control over what they do with their lives, but I'm not going to let their mistakes drag me down with them. I will do whatever I can to help them make the right choices, but once it comes to the bad ones, that's where the line will be drawn.

I pray a lot for my parents. I pray that they are thinking about what they did and how terrible it actually was. I pray that they think about how many lives they have actually affected. I pray that someone on the other side shows them respect and compassion and tells them about God. I pray that they realize they need him.

I miss them both and wish that I could redo all this mess and maybe step in and help them realize what is right and what is wrong. No matter how many things they have done wrong, I still forgive them.

One day, I do hope and pray they can get out and figure out the right path to take in life.

If not for me, then for my siblings.

Much love,

JS