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My Daughter's Children

My Daughter's Children

For the past five years, Mary Harris raised her two grandchildren, Kyle, 14, and Nevaeh, 5.  Their mother Nichole, 38, has been incarcerated for auto theft and drug-related offenses. As a mother to her grandchildren, Mary has encountered new financial and emotional challenges that she did not face the first time she was a mother.  With Nichole’s forthcoming release, Mary hopes her life will return back to normal as she relinquishes her duties as a stand-in mother.

Mary wipes her eyes in frustration and exhaustion after Nevaeh, 5, climbed into the front seat of Mary’s moving car.  Nevaeh refused to put her seatbelt on after Mary picked her up from school in Tampa, Fla. on Oct. 8, 2013.  Mary has found it hard to discipline Nevaeh over the five years she has raised her.

"It is not my place to bring up my daughter's children," Mary said.  "This is her life. Those children are her children.  I'm always going to be there for them, but my daughter needs to be the head of her household.  It is not my place anymore.  I want to go out and live some more."

This story and accompanying video ran in the Tampa Bay Time's Floridian Magazine February 2014 issue.  

 Nevaeh jumps on her bed as Kyle, a reclusive 14-year-old, texts his girlfriend in their Tampa, Fla. home.  Kyle and Nevaeh share a bedroom split in half by a large cork board.  Kyle complains about not having privacy or quiet.  Mary cannot afford to rent a larger house, however, because she relies on monthly social security and disability checks to pay the bills. 

Nevaeh jumps on her bed as Kyle, a reclusive 14-year-old, texts his girlfriend in their Tampa, Fla. home.  Kyle and Nevaeh share a bedroom split in half by a large cork board.  Kyle complains about not having privacy or quiet.  Mary cannot afford to rent a larger house, however, because she relies on monthly social security and disability checks to pay the bills. 

 Nevaeh tries to tickle Mary by climbing underneath her shirt in Mary's kitchen.  Despite the years of personal and financial struggle that raising her two grandchildren has put on her, she said,  "My life without Nevaeh and Kyle would be a sentence to me.  It would be like somebody would put me in prison and take the only thing I loved away."

Nevaeh tries to tickle Mary by climbing underneath her shirt in Mary's kitchen.  Despite the years of personal and financial struggle that raising her two grandchildren has put on her, she said,  "My life without Nevaeh and Kyle would be a sentence to me.  It would be like somebody would put me in prison and take the only thing I loved away."

 Nevaeh frequently experiences night terrors so every night Mary rubs Nevaeh's head and stomach to help her fall asleep. Mary believes that the night terrors are a result of the drugs her daughter Nichole took throughout her pregnancy.  When Nevaeh was born, she received small doses of the drugs that her mother took to help with her withdrawal symptoms.   

Nevaeh frequently experiences night terrors so every night Mary rubs Nevaeh's head and stomach to help her fall asleep. Mary believes that the night terrors are a result of the drugs her daughter Nichole took throughout her pregnancy.  When Nevaeh was born, she received small doses of the drugs that her mother took to help with her withdrawal symptoms.

 

 Mary holds Nevaeh's hand while they wait in a secure holding room at Lowell Annex prison in Ocala, Fla.  Nichole and Nevaeh hardly know each other, since almost all of their interactions have been during prison visitation hours and through video conference calls. Though she can’t see her mother, Nevaeh looks in Nichole’s direction.

Mary holds Nevaeh's hand while they wait in a secure holding room at Lowell Annex prison in Ocala, Fla.  Nichole and Nevaeh hardly know each other, since almost all of their interactions have been during prison visitation hours and through video conference calls. Though she can’t see her mother, Nevaeh looks in Nichole’s direction.

 During Nevaeh and Mary’s visit to see Nichole in prison, Nevaeh calls Mary "mommy.”  Recalling that moment later, Mary said, "Nichole heard it and thought it was Nevaeh calling her.  It wasn't.  It was Nevaeh calling me.  I got that very mad look.  As soon as I got that look, I was thinking in my head 'God I hope she doesn't think I'm trying to steal her children away and making them call me mommy.'  I hope I can make her understand that these children needed a mommy while she was gone."

During Nevaeh and Mary’s visit to see Nichole in prison, Nevaeh calls Mary "mommy.”  Recalling that moment later, Mary said, "Nichole heard it and thought it was Nevaeh calling her.  It wasn't.  It was Nevaeh calling me.  I got that very mad look.  As soon as I got that look, I was thinking in my head 'God I hope she doesn't think I'm trying to steal her children away and making them call me mommy.'  I hope I can make her understand that these children needed a mommy while she was gone."

 Nevaeh asks her mom to color with her during visitation hours.  Frustrated with Nevaeh's incessant pleading for affection and unsure of how to react, Nichole scolds Nevaeh.  "I'm just letting mom surface," Mary said.  "When we go to visit, Nichole does the discipline, so if the children want to know something or ask to do something, I tell them that mom is right there. Go ask her."

Nevaeh asks her mom to color with her during visitation hours.  Frustrated with Nevaeh's incessant pleading for affection and unsure of how to react, Nichole scolds Nevaeh.

"I'm just letting mom surface," Mary said.  "When we go to visit, Nichole does the discipline, so if the children want to know something or ask to do something, I tell them that mom is right there. Go ask her."

 Nevaeh has deeply emotional attachment issues that stem from her mother and father both abandoning her shortly after she was born, according to Mary.  Whenever Mary is late picking Nevaeh up from school, as Mary was on this day, Nevaeh gets extremely upset, thinking that Mary, too, has abandoned her.     

Nevaeh has deeply emotional attachment issues that stem from her mother and father both abandoning her shortly after she was born, according to Mary.  Whenever Mary is late picking Nevaeh up from school, as Mary was on this day, Nevaeh gets extremely upset, thinking that Mary, too, has abandoned her.  

 

 Mary trails after Nevaeh as Nevaeh runs from house to house trick-or-treating on Halloween.  They only visited one section of their neighborhood closest to their home--about ten buildings--because Mary was too exhausted to walk any farther.    Of raising children for a second time, Mary said, "I don't know how I did it the first time around.  The second time around, oh boy is it tough!"

Mary trails after Nevaeh as Nevaeh runs from house to house trick-or-treating on Halloween.  They only visited one section of their neighborhood closest to their home--about ten buildings--because Mary was too exhausted to walk any farther.  

Of raising children for a second time, Mary said, "I don't know how I did it the first time around.  The second time around, oh boy is it tough!"

 Just before 1 a.m. on December 17, 2013, Nichole was released from Lowell Annex prison in Ocala, Fla.  Mary took out a loan to pay for the gas needed to drive to the prison.  "My mind is going in so many directions about Nichole getting out and taking over the role of mom, because Nichole is bipolar so it is like a double worry.  She has never gone down this road before of handling two children, bringing them up and handling the stress of everyday living."

Just before 1 a.m. on December 17, 2013, Nichole was released from Lowell Annex prison in Ocala, Fla.  Mary took out a loan to pay for the gas needed to drive to the prison.  "My mind is going in so many directions about Nichole getting out and taking over the role of mom, because Nichole is bipolar so it is like a double worry.  She has never gone down this road before of handling two children, bringing them up and handling the stress of everyday living."

 Mary sits quietly on her bed after a long day with the children.  Because they were out of school for the holidays, Mary's work had suddenly become a daily twenty-four hour struggle.  "I'm just exhausted, I'm totally drained," she said.  "Thats why I'm counting the days until Nichole gets out, because it's me, it's not the children.  I'm old.  I'm getting old before my time and I have to get some of that youth back before it's too late."

Mary sits quietly on her bed after a long day with the children.  Because they were out of school for the holidays, Mary's work had suddenly become a daily twenty-four hour struggle.  "I'm just exhausted, I'm totally drained," she said.  "Thats why I'm counting the days until Nichole gets out, because it's me, it's not the children.  I'm old.  I'm getting old before my time and I have to get some of that youth back before it's too late."

 Nichole sits on the couch watching the movie "Grown Ups" with Kyle.  Having given up on playing after countless rejections from her mother, Nevaeh sits, dejected, on the floor.    "I've got so much riding on her to pull through and I don't want her to know it," Mary said.  "I don't want her to know how much it means to me for her to really make a success out of this."   Later that night, Mary said, "Sometimes I think the only way out of this situation is for me to die, but then what would happen to those kids?"

Nichole sits on the couch watching the movie "Grown Ups" with Kyle.  Having given up on playing after countless rejections from her mother, Nevaeh sits, dejected, on the floor.  

"I've got so much riding on her to pull through and I don't want her to know it," Mary said.  "I don't want her to know how much it means to me for her to really make a success out of this." 

Later that night, Mary said, "Sometimes I think the only way out of this situation is for me to die, but then what would happen to those kids?"

My Daughter's Children

For the past five years, Mary Harris raised her two grandchildren, Kyle, 14, and Nevaeh, 5.  Their mother Nichole, 38, has been incarcerated for auto theft and drug-related offenses. As a mother to her grandchildren, Mary has encountered new financial and emotional challenges that she did not face the first time she was a mother.  With Nichole’s forthcoming release, Mary hopes her life will return back to normal as she relinquishes her duties as a stand-in mother.

Mary wipes her eyes in frustration and exhaustion after Nevaeh, 5, climbed into the front seat of Mary’s moving car.  Nevaeh refused to put her seatbelt on after Mary picked her up from school in Tampa, Fla. on Oct. 8, 2013.  Mary has found it hard to discipline Nevaeh over the five years she has raised her.

"It is not my place to bring up my daughter's children," Mary said.  "This is her life. Those children are her children.  I'm always going to be there for them, but my daughter needs to be the head of her household.  It is not my place anymore.  I want to go out and live some more."

This story and accompanying video ran in the Tampa Bay Time's Floridian Magazine February 2014 issue.  

Nevaeh jumps on her bed as Kyle, a reclusive 14-year-old, texts his girlfriend in their Tampa, Fla. home.  Kyle and Nevaeh share a bedroom split in half by a large cork board.  Kyle complains about not having privacy or quiet.  Mary cannot afford to rent a larger house, however, because she relies on monthly social security and disability checks to pay the bills. 

Nevaeh tries to tickle Mary by climbing underneath her shirt in Mary's kitchen.  Despite the years of personal and financial struggle that raising her two grandchildren has put on her, she said,  "My life without Nevaeh and Kyle would be a sentence to me.  It would be like somebody would put me in prison and take the only thing I loved away."

Nevaeh frequently experiences night terrors so every night Mary rubs Nevaeh's head and stomach to help her fall asleep. Mary believes that the night terrors are a result of the drugs her daughter Nichole took throughout her pregnancy.  When Nevaeh was born, she received small doses of the drugs that her mother took to help with her withdrawal symptoms.

 

Mary holds Nevaeh's hand while they wait in a secure holding room at Lowell Annex prison in Ocala, Fla.  Nichole and Nevaeh hardly know each other, since almost all of their interactions have been during prison visitation hours and through video conference calls. Though she can’t see her mother, Nevaeh looks in Nichole’s direction.

During Nevaeh and Mary’s visit to see Nichole in prison, Nevaeh calls Mary "mommy.”  Recalling that moment later, Mary said, "Nichole heard it and thought it was Nevaeh calling her.  It wasn't.  It was Nevaeh calling me.  I got that very mad look.  As soon as I got that look, I was thinking in my head 'God I hope she doesn't think I'm trying to steal her children away and making them call me mommy.'  I hope I can make her understand that these children needed a mommy while she was gone."

Nevaeh asks her mom to color with her during visitation hours.  Frustrated with Nevaeh's incessant pleading for affection and unsure of how to react, Nichole scolds Nevaeh.

"I'm just letting mom surface," Mary said.  "When we go to visit, Nichole does the discipline, so if the children want to know something or ask to do something, I tell them that mom is right there. Go ask her."

Nevaeh has deeply emotional attachment issues that stem from her mother and father both abandoning her shortly after she was born, according to Mary.  Whenever Mary is late picking Nevaeh up from school, as Mary was on this day, Nevaeh gets extremely upset, thinking that Mary, too, has abandoned her.  

 

Mary trails after Nevaeh as Nevaeh runs from house to house trick-or-treating on Halloween.  They only visited one section of their neighborhood closest to their home--about ten buildings--because Mary was too exhausted to walk any farther.  

Of raising children for a second time, Mary said, "I don't know how I did it the first time around.  The second time around, oh boy is it tough!"

Just before 1 a.m. on December 17, 2013, Nichole was released from Lowell Annex prison in Ocala, Fla.  Mary took out a loan to pay for the gas needed to drive to the prison.  "My mind is going in so many directions about Nichole getting out and taking over the role of mom, because Nichole is bipolar so it is like a double worry.  She has never gone down this road before of handling two children, bringing them up and handling the stress of everyday living."

Mary sits quietly on her bed after a long day with the children.  Because they were out of school for the holidays, Mary's work had suddenly become a daily twenty-four hour struggle.  "I'm just exhausted, I'm totally drained," she said.  "Thats why I'm counting the days until Nichole gets out, because it's me, it's not the children.  I'm old.  I'm getting old before my time and I have to get some of that youth back before it's too late."

Nichole sits on the couch watching the movie "Grown Ups" with Kyle.  Having given up on playing after countless rejections from her mother, Nevaeh sits, dejected, on the floor.  

"I've got so much riding on her to pull through and I don't want her to know it," Mary said.  "I don't want her to know how much it means to me for her to really make a success out of this." 

Later that night, Mary said, "Sometimes I think the only way out of this situation is for me to die, but then what would happen to those kids?"

My Daughter's Children
 Nevaeh jumps on her bed as Kyle, a reclusive 14-year-old, texts his girlfriend in their Tampa, Fla. home.  Kyle and Nevaeh share a bedroom split in half by a large cork board.  Kyle complains about not having privacy or quiet.  Mary cannot afford to rent a larger house, however, because she relies on monthly social security and disability checks to pay the bills. 
 Nevaeh tries to tickle Mary by climbing underneath her shirt in Mary's kitchen.  Despite the years of personal and financial struggle that raising her two grandchildren has put on her, she said,  "My life without Nevaeh and Kyle would be a sentence to me.  It would be like somebody would put me in prison and take the only thing I loved away."
 Nevaeh frequently experiences night terrors so every night Mary rubs Nevaeh's head and stomach to help her fall asleep. Mary believes that the night terrors are a result of the drugs her daughter Nichole took throughout her pregnancy.  When Nevaeh was born, she received small doses of the drugs that her mother took to help with her withdrawal symptoms.   
 Mary holds Nevaeh's hand while they wait in a secure holding room at Lowell Annex prison in Ocala, Fla.  Nichole and Nevaeh hardly know each other, since almost all of their interactions have been during prison visitation hours and through video conference calls. Though she can’t see her mother, Nevaeh looks in Nichole’s direction.
 During Nevaeh and Mary’s visit to see Nichole in prison, Nevaeh calls Mary "mommy.”  Recalling that moment later, Mary said, "Nichole heard it and thought it was Nevaeh calling her.  It wasn't.  It was Nevaeh calling me.  I got that very mad look.  As soon as I got that look, I was thinking in my head 'God I hope she doesn't think I'm trying to steal her children away and making them call me mommy.'  I hope I can make her understand that these children needed a mommy while she was gone."
 Nevaeh asks her mom to color with her during visitation hours.  Frustrated with Nevaeh's incessant pleading for affection and unsure of how to react, Nichole scolds Nevaeh.  "I'm just letting mom surface," Mary said.  "When we go to visit, Nichole does the discipline, so if the children want to know something or ask to do something, I tell them that mom is right there. Go ask her."
 Nevaeh has deeply emotional attachment issues that stem from her mother and father both abandoning her shortly after she was born, according to Mary.  Whenever Mary is late picking Nevaeh up from school, as Mary was on this day, Nevaeh gets extremely upset, thinking that Mary, too, has abandoned her.     
 Mary trails after Nevaeh as Nevaeh runs from house to house trick-or-treating on Halloween.  They only visited one section of their neighborhood closest to their home--about ten buildings--because Mary was too exhausted to walk any farther.    Of raising children for a second time, Mary said, "I don't know how I did it the first time around.  The second time around, oh boy is it tough!"
 Just before 1 a.m. on December 17, 2013, Nichole was released from Lowell Annex prison in Ocala, Fla.  Mary took out a loan to pay for the gas needed to drive to the prison.  "My mind is going in so many directions about Nichole getting out and taking over the role of mom, because Nichole is bipolar so it is like a double worry.  She has never gone down this road before of handling two children, bringing them up and handling the stress of everyday living."
 Mary sits quietly on her bed after a long day with the children.  Because they were out of school for the holidays, Mary's work had suddenly become a daily twenty-four hour struggle.  "I'm just exhausted, I'm totally drained," she said.  "Thats why I'm counting the days until Nichole gets out, because it's me, it's not the children.  I'm old.  I'm getting old before my time and I have to get some of that youth back before it's too late."
 Nichole sits on the couch watching the movie "Grown Ups" with Kyle.  Having given up on playing after countless rejections from her mother, Nevaeh sits, dejected, on the floor.    "I've got so much riding on her to pull through and I don't want her to know it," Mary said.  "I don't want her to know how much it means to me for her to really make a success out of this."   Later that night, Mary said, "Sometimes I think the only way out of this situation is for me to die, but then what would happen to those kids?"