Living in what therapists call a dysfunctional family affects the mental health of teenagers and adults in profound ways while adults can walk out of a toxic relationship. Many teenagers find themselves simply stuck.
My name is Deshanay, but everybody calls me Desha. I am an introvert. I'm a photographer, and I draw portraits on the side of my free time. I really like peace and quiet and being by myself. I live with my mom, my nanna, and my great granny. My dad passed away when I was five from cancer so he's not in the picture anymore.
There's also my older brother Jayceon and my six month old sister Jayah. My mom works the night shift for days straight so it's kind of difficult to have two babies in the house when she leaves. Babysitting is a lot of work with just my brother because he messes with everything and he throws tantrums. So having my sister with me makes it worse, and keeping them asleep if you can get them to sleep in the first place is a hard task. It's a struggle.
I'm 16, and there's a reason why we were told to not have children: we're too young, we don't have enough money, and we can't handle it. But if I can't handle it, I shouldn't be doing it.
There have been a few times where I had to stay up till like 6:00 in the morning babysitting, babysitting days in a row at a time, or putting my day on hold to help when I feel like I have things to do. Sometimes when I get sick with a cold or flu I still have to babysit. If it's a break or a weekend, I shouldn't have to be staying up all night to take care of kids, I should be able to have that break. It's a sad cycle, and I feel like I need time for me.
My mom and my nana say I'm selfish and that family is supposed to help family. My nana was born around the 60s, and maybe she thinks family is the most important because her mom was around like she should have been due to alcohol. My Nana told me she had to help take care of her sister's kids as early as nine, and that it was okay because that's what family does. She didn't have a normal childhood; she took care of kids. She says it as though she is proud of it, but when you listen to it, it's kind of sad; what nine year old should have kids thrown onto them as a responsibility?
They tend to say what typical Black parents say, I need to watch my mouth and how I act. And at what point can I defend myself from that?
Yes, I'm young, but I am also human.
In the eyes of parents, they are the adults which gives them power so it doesn't matter how you feel. It should though. I tried to explain it to my mom, and she shuts me down, raises her voice, tells me to shut up. It hurts.
At the end of the day I love my family and I always will no matter what. But if I feel as though I'm not getting the respect I deserve, I will distance myself. I might do that. It's not hard to see people how you want to be treated, and I feel like all parents need to listen to this and they need to hear it. Don't let family tradition, or how you grew up, or your personality affect the relationship you have with your kids. If they don't take you seriously or benefit you, bring positivity to your life, make sure your mental health is okay, make sure you're okay physically as a human being. But if you need to leave....leave.
Deshanay Roberson is a student at the Dayton Early College Academy. To learn more about DECA, visit the school's website: http://daytonearlycollege.org/ Special thanks to Anne Rasmussen, Director of Community Involvement at DECA. Dayton Youth Radio is supported by the Virginia W. Kettering Foundation and the Ohio Arts Council.