School counselor Tiffany Sayles generously gave her story to Extended Family to be included in the 2nd ed. Extended Family for Kids Curriculum Guide. Tiffany's story will help children of the incarcerated for years to come!
TIFFANY'S STORY, by Tiffany Sayles
My beginning was beautiful. I was born into a loving family – mom, dad, and big sister. My dad had a special place in my heart.
I remember waiting for my kiss anytime he would kiss mom; cuddling with him as we all watched TV; trips to Six Flags; dad teaching me to whistle. Those memories soon faded and shattered into broken pieces.
Due to a series of events, my hardworking, amazing dad turned to drugs. His life spiraled out of control and took us along with it. His poor choices led him to jail often. His absence was so loud I could hardly sleep at times.
My mom struggled to make things work on her own. The stress became too much, and she chose to divorce.That was the final blow and my lowest point. For years my only contact with my dad was through letters to and from jail. That became our new normal.
Over time I learned that my dad’s story was not mine. I learned that it was not my fault. I had no control over his story and could no longer play victim to it. I had to learn to write my own.
Eventually I was able to use those challenges, emotions and experiences to relate to the students that I serve. When I am holding a student’s hand as they cry because they haven’t seen their father, or hold a student who is shaking in anger due to rejection, I can feel every emotion. I stand solid and assure that student that he or she is not alone. In those moments, I realize that every pain of my past has knitted together into a purposeful present hope.
My healing came when I made a choice to stop focusing on the why’s and when’s of my dad and to focus on healing and helping others. I have learned so much from my dad’s choices, and I hope to one day rebuild the years we have lost.
In the meantime, I am grateful for the wonderful and beautiful family that I have been blessed to build with my husband, Willie. He, along with our daughters Willow, Willany, and Willay (My 4 Wills) keep me moving.
I am so grateful that the “messes” of my life now serve as “messages”.
It’s not about how your story begins. The focus is on the finish. Let’s finish well…