Pongo Project Journal

Sharing stories of our work with teens
Feb 26
Dear Mom

When I first starting working with distressed teens, and they wrote about disappointments with their parents -- like having a dad who cared more about alcohol than his children, like having a mom who stayed with a boyfriend who beat her -- I was surprised when the teens dedicated their poems to the parents. I actually thought, at first, that the teens were being ironic.

Of course, this was absolutely not true. There was nothing about the youth that was calculating or adult when it came to expressing a child's love. The teens loved their parents deeply, very deeply, maybe even more deeply than others love, because of their disappointment.

I started to think about all the good reasons for this. Children understand their parents' brokenness, and they want to take care of their parents -- to be a parent to the parent. Also, it's natural for us as children to love deeply in order to earn the love we desire. And when our lives feel flawed, it's natural for us as children to raise our determination to love -- to circumscribe with love a safer and better world.

The two poems below are by young women who are writing to their moms. The first was written in juvenile detention by Davina (a pseudonym). The second was written on Pongo's web site by a young woman on the East Coast, and is the latest winner of our web site's Pongo Poetry Prize, for the period ending January 1st. The Pongo Prize winner is followed by links to three wonderful poems that earned Honorable Mention. Please enjoy!

Dear Mom 
by a Davina, age 16 

I just thought you should know that life is hard -- I've seen a lot: 
murders, love like grandma's peanut butter pancakes, hate like my parents' addiction and absence, my siblings tormenting me because I have a different dad
(theirs sent money, mine disappeared)

I'm loud, but it's a mask
On the inside I'm quiet
But I'm making sure I'm seen and heard

I just thought you should know that your actions make me hate you, everything you made me see -- It made me think you didn't care:
taking me to drug houses, letting people do what they wanted to me so you could score

I'm going to be more than you were
I'm going to make you proud of me

I just thought you should know that I love you and that the pain that you caused taught me a lesson -- about how to treat my children:
I'll never do to them what you did to me

I'm going to help them succeed

I Will Always Love You
by a young woman, age 16 

Dear Mom,

I just thought you should know what I'm doing now.
I am a strong, happy, Young Lady,
who spends a lot of time thinking about you and how you are doing.

I just thought you should know that I'm feeling a little disappointed in you.
I am just a little upset that you're not understanding how much you affect me,
because I'm always wondering when I'll have my mom back.

I just thought you should know what I've been through.
Since the last time I saw you, I have grown and changed so much.
The time that I had with you was especially important to me. 

I just thought you should know what I wish for the future.
I hope that you can get yourself together so my judge will accept you back into my life.
I am glad I don't have to worry about you and all those men, anymore.

I just thought you should know what I miss a lot.
I miss the way we used to have fun and spend time with X.

I just thought you should know that I will ALWAYS LOVE YOU, MOM.

Honorable Mention, January 2012 
She Stalks Every Movement