Gary Shirley: I Can’t Tell Leah “Mommy’s In Jail”

It’s been four months since former Teen Mom star Amber Portwood began serving her five-year prison sentence, but 4-year-old daughter Leah still doesn’t know why her mom left.

“I haven’t been able to say to her, ‘Mommy’s in jail,’” her dad, Gary Shirley tells In Touch, on newsstands now. “When I tried to tell her Mommy’s in trouble, she got upset, so I’ve said, ‘Mommy’s at work,’ or ‘Mommy’s on vacation.’”

During phone conversations with her mother, Leah will say, “‘I miss you. When can I see you?’” reveals Amber during her upcoming MTV special which airs October 9. “She actually said, ‘Can I come over to your house?’ I don’t really think Leah understands at all.”

Gary is responsible for Leah while Amber serves 5-years behind bars for a drug arrest.

“I’m doing the best I can,” Gary says. Still, he often feels so overwhelmed with being a single dad. “The last time I cried was two weeks ago. It’s so important to have help with Leah, and people aren’t always there. It’s very frustrating.”


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  1. He should definitely sit down with her and talk to her about this.
    She is 4 years old.. she is going to eventually figure out that Mommy is NOT at work or on vacation because that is just wayy too long to be away.
    He certainly doesn’t have to say she is in Jail since she is such a young age. But by telling her that mommy did something wrong and now she has to fix it before she can come back would be a little bit better.
    I hope little Leah or Gary has talked to a councelor to maybe help Leah with this transition of being without her mother for so long.
    Bless her little heart! Happy to know she at least has her daddy and grandma in her life taking great care of her!

  2. I feel so sad for Leah, her mommy having so many issues at a young age, she won’t grow up with Amber in her life. But then again, as seen in the show, she was not the best mommy out there, she would yell like crazy and swear in front of her daughter so maybe this way Leah will have a normal childhood.

    Besides that, I think Gary should start working out to give his daughter a good example. Both him and Amber are on the plus size side, so genetics is not on Leah’s side.

  3. I think by avoiding the topic, he’s only going to make things more complicated and confusing for his daughter in the long run. It’s not like he has to go in to the major details, which A) wouldn’t make sense to her at her young age and B) probably wouldn’t be appropriate, but just saying that her mummy made a mistake and that she has gone somewhere for a while to fix it really wouldn’t hurt, would it? I agree with you completely, Stephanie.

    It’s a good thing to teach your child – that if you do something wrong, sometimes there will be a consequence and you can’t get away with everything in life and that’s just the way things are.

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