Tatianna George is the founder of Daisy's Doll House and the child of an incarcerated parent.
When Tatianna George founded Daisy's Doll House, a mentoring program for youth with incarcerated parents, she understood the need for support and encouragement.
Her mom is in prison, too.
"I'm a people person," Tatianna explains. "Having friends wasn't an issue. Keeping them was. I had mood swings. I would cry about my mama and people didn't know how to handle it."
Today the 19-year-old Florida native lives in Tallahassee, earning her associate degree and planning to complete her bachelor's in social work. These are the sunnier parts of a life she compares to a Sour Patch Kid, both bitter and sweet.
'I JUST WANT MY MAMA HERE'
One of Tatianna’s earliest memories is from her mother’s second sentencing. Mom had already spent one year behind bars for a previous conviction. Tatianna sat wide-eyed and confused in the courtroom as she heard the verdict.
"When the judge said a hundred and something months, I knew that was a lot of years," says Tatianna. "I'm still traumatized by that day."
Left in her grandmother's care, Tatianna would pray at Christmas and New Year's, I just want my mama here. Still she turned down every chance to go to her mom.
"I didn't want to visit my mom in prison because it felt like going to a funeral home," Tatianna admits. "I knew I couldn't take her back with me."
Every missed birthday, holiday, and graduation was another dent in their mother-daughter relationship. One Christmas, Tatianna stayed in her bedroom all day because she knew she couldn't celebrate with gifts like other kids. Year after year, hurt turned into resentment, and bitterness grew roots in her heart.
Tatianna began to question her self-worth and identity. As a teen, she battled thoughts of suicide. Twice she tried to take her own life.
"The second time, something stopped the knife," she says. "I was hit with a voice that said, Your life will get better. This is not your ending. This is your beginning. And right then I knew my life was going to change."
In the midst of this darkness, Mom had called. She asked Tatianna and her brother to write down their Christmas wishes and mail them to her in prison. Tatianna still remembers the sense of disbelief. Later she learned that her mom was signing up for Angel Tree®.
Angel Tree, a program of Prison Fellowship®, provides Christmas gifts and the Gospel to children on behalf of their incarcerated parents and serves prisoners' families throughout the year.
If it hadn't been for Angel Tree, 15-year-old Tatianna may not have received anything that Christmas—let alone from her mom. A smile spread across her face the moment she saw her mother's Angel Tree gift tucked under the Christmas tree. The gift itself was better than she expected. For once, feelings of abandonment melted away.
"[My mom] used to tell us that she didn't even know how we looked. It hurt my feelings," Tatianna explains. "She didn’t know how beautiful I was. Pictures are OK, but she hadn't seen me in real life, and I was like, 'Really, you don't even know what your two kids look like.' She didn't know how big I'd gotten and how beautiful I was."
But, she adds, "Angel Tree helped mend our relationship because every time she signed us up, she made me know she wasn't just thinking about herself that holiday. She was thinking about us, too. It made me feel loved and cared for."
A NEW BEGINNING
In November 2015, Tatianna chose to visit her mom for the first time since her incarceration. They had so much to catch up on and so little time. Since then, Tatianna and her mom have grown closer to God and to each other. Although they barely saw each other for years, they now pray together and see each other regularly. Tatianna even moved to Tallahassee to be closer to the prison.
And when Tatianna founded the mentoring organization for prisoners' children, she named it Daisy's Doll House—after her mom. Daisy is set to be released by 2025 and plans to obtain her real estate license. And Tatianna is proud of her.
Until then, the mother and daughter will continue making up for lost time.
"My mom and I have an outstanding relationship today," says Tatianna. "Angel Tree brought us closer to God."
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