Letting Go of Fear

Erika PictureMy 2 year old son, and my 11 month old daughter started school in September 2017. I got interested in taking my children to head start when someone told me about it during Steps. I decided to put my children at a head start close to where we live. I had to go through a process, and get them on a long wait list. I signed them up in July 2017. In that same month I got a phone call saying my son got into school, and was going to start school in September. I asked about my daughter, and they said there was no space for her, but a couple minutes later I got called back, and the same lady told me that my daughter was also accepted. That made my day. Although I was not working and my kids got into school, I was happy because I had goals for my children. Some that I could accomplish, some that I could not. My son needed other children his age to be with, and learn from, and they both needed a routine. I was so happy that I had no negative thoughts, and was ready for them to start school.

When September came along, we were ready for the first day of school. For first timers, parents had to attend two days of transition. The first day I went to the school two different times one for my son and one for my daughter; 2 hours each. It was hard because I had to do both while being pregnant, but I managed. I got to meet the teachers, and teacher assistants. There’s two teachers for every class. The next day which was a Thursday, it was also transition time but parents dropped off the kids stayed an hour then, went upstairs with the rest of the parents (to socialize, eat, and wait two hours until it was time to get the kids). On Friday was a full day and parents could not stay. From then on it got real.

My kids were not adjusting too well. I would drop them off, and they would both cry really bad. I learned the first day that I had to say bye, see you later, and that I was coming back to my children; I could not sneak away like I thought so they would not cry. The teacher let me know I had to let them know I was leaving, but that I would be back. My daughter’s teacher also advised me until they got use to school I should go pick them up early and that I did. Weeks went by and they still were not adjusting. They cried, no nap time, and no eating. I was really worried especially when my son told me he did not want to go to school over and over. Scary thoughts started coming to my head. I did not know what to do, and my mom’s opinions were not helping.

I was not trying to get them to attend school so that I can have the day to myself, but for a couple of reasons. I wanted them to grow, and be better. Get use to school, be able to go through a routine, socialize with kids their age, and learn different things I was not teaching them (because education does start at home but sometimes you as a parent do not know everything). As time went on my children were adjusting. My daughter adjusted faster than my son in less than a month. My son was still getting use to school, and having a routine. He was worrying me the most because during nap time he would cry really loud for hours. While crying he would yell my first name, so every adult that came around knew my name just didn’t know who I was. I was told by a couple of people “You’re the famous Erika”. That’s when I knew that the crying was bad.

So I took what I’ve been learning at a parenting class I go to called Raising with Love, and used it on my son. I decided to sit my 2 year old down, and have a conversation with him about school (my concerns and his teacher’s concerns). I took about 10 minutes to explain to him in a way he could understand. I told him that he should sleep in school, and behave because that was going to be beneficial for him. I told him he had to be a good boy because he was one. I told him that he had to sleep in school so that when I went to go pick him up he would be able to come home eat and play. I also told him that he had to behave with the other children at school, and he had to be gentle with the other kids and his little sister. I guess my little talk with him worked because he changed. Now he naps sometimes, and sometimes he does not but lays in the bed (without crying). He’s eating some things, and is being more gentle. His teacher has been telling me that the talk worked, and that he has been having excellent days. I feel so much better now, and am very happy with my children. I love that they are doing good in school, and are behaving because that was driving me crazy, and all I want is for them to do good (that is also why I’m taking parenting classes so it can help me too). Now I will be getting more involved in my children’s school because I know they can handle me being there because they are doing good in school. I do anything for them.

The Love That I Needed

My name is Lauren. I am 26 years old. I am a mother of two beautiful children; a student and I have 2 part-time jobs. I was adopted when I was 3 years old from Guatemala. I never realized the ups and downs of emotions I would have nor do I think my parents really knew the ups and downs we would have.

My parents loved and love me unconditionally. They never kept it a secret that I was adopted. My mom often asked me if I would like to find my birth parents and when I was younger I often thought it could potentially be nice to find them one day.  My immediate family or my friends never treated me differently. My parents loved me as if I was their flesh and blood and I loved them the same way too. But, a part of me always felt like something was missing and I sometimes felt guilty for feeling that way. I had unconditional love, clothes on my back, food in my belly, a roof over my head- what else could I want?

When I was a senior in high school, for our yearbook, the yearbook committee had asked that all senior students submit a baby photo of themselves. They were going to put the baby pictures on a page and people would have to guess which student it was. Sounds fun, right? It would be if you actually had a baby picture- I did not. I submitted a picture of myself when I was 2 and in the orphanage. This may sound like it is no big deal, but to someone who does not even know why she was put up for adoption, it was huge a deal. I had nobody who was a blood relative or even looked like me. I would go to my friend’s homes and I would see their parents and siblings and see how they all looked liked each other and thought that was what I wanted. I wanted to have people in my life that looked like me.

I found out I was pregnant when I was 19 years old and had my son when I was 20. My whole life had changed. He was everything that I needed. My blood relative and a somewhat mirror image of myself. I am 26 and just had my daughter who is a spitting image of me. I told my mom that when I look at her, I get a chance to see what I probably looked like as a baby. I am complete. That void that I had in my life has been filled. These little angels are my life-line.          lauren picture

Work and Single-Parenting: A Tough Balance

Working as a single parent can be very difficult, especially if you do not have childcare throughout the week. I am a single mother working part time at a grocery store, I would love to work a full time job somewhere, but that is currently impossible for me. My son is 2 years old and he is not in daycare yet ((we’ve been on the wait list since he was 1).

mieya

I receive no help from the government, so I rely on my mom and his dad to watch him. Now it may seem like the problem is solved, but it is not. Some days when my mom has to watch my child, she is scheduled to work, so I have no choice but to call out from my job. At times, my son’s father is unreliable when it comes to taking our son. He may tell me 3 hours before I’m supposed to be at work that he will not watch him because he has “things” to do. This leads to me calling out of work more than I should, or showing up 30 minutes late just because I am looking for a babysitter. I wish I did not have to rely on them to watch him just so I can go to work to provide for my child. I believe that when my child gets reliable childcare (daycare/school), it will make my life a lot easier because if he is in school Monday-Friday, with the exclusion of holidays, I know that I will be able to have the exact same schedule as him. Part time employment is not enough for me right now. All of the money I receive goes to my bills, and I barely have leftover money to save and spend. Right now, I am trying to work at a daycare full time so that I can get my son enrolled for half price, be able to work full time and not rely on others to watch him.

*Mieya Neely is one of Stronger Generations’ 2017-2018 Young Parent Ambassadors. TO learn more about Mieya and our Young Parent Ambassador Program please visit our young parent ambassador page!

 

 

 

 

My English Journey and the Journey to Motherhood

Like many in the United States, I am also an immigrant. I know what it to miss where you came from, struggle to learn a new language, fit in, and be discriminated against.

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My parents decided that the family (I came when I was 10 years old); was coming to the US in order to provide us opportunity for a better life and future; however, that’s very hard to understand when you’re being laughed at because you barely speak English and your struggles have just begun. As a parent now, I now understand that my parents only wanted the best for us and that life is about taking chances and making the decisions that at the beginning might not seem right but the end result is better than expected.

Learning English was not easy; I was in school from 6:30 am to 7:45 pm; I had six classes and a 7th period for enrichment which other kids got to use it to play,I however, had to stay in a room with a tutor learning how to pronounce my vowels and stay after school to practice my pronunciation. I would get home, eat, and begin to do homework with five translating dictionaries and both of my parents until two, three in the morning and wake up again to go to school. There was not a day I didn’t cry; I wanted to go back home and never come back. It took a year and half for me to perfect my English but I did it with the help of my parents that stayed all night long helping me do my work and to my tutors and my teachers that dedicated the time to also guide me and help me perfect my English. It wasn’t easy but today I am grateful and very proud of myself for over coming what I thought was my biggest challenge. I made friends and soon enough became known to everyone because I began to get good grades, always in honor roll and I became involved in extra curricular activities like soccer, word wizard, and the math club. However, all of that came after working very hard to get there. Life will always have challenges that you’ll have to overcome in order to gain new abilities, hone skills, and become a better you. It’s easy to get discouraged but always remember that it’s in you to work hard and reach goals, no one will do it for you and always remember to do what’s best for your child. That experience shaped me into the person, daughter, mother, and learning student I am today.

As a parent, I make decisions all of the time for the well being of my daughter. I want to offer her all that I didn’t have and more and provide her with the tools and guidance that my parents gave to me while growing up facing these challenges. They are my support system and that’s what I want to be for my daughter, her support system, her best friend, and the person she can always count on. The challenge I faced while learning English is nothing compared to that of becoming a parent and now having to look after a little human being that needs my help to survive. Making decisions for myself have always been hard, imagine making a decision for someone other than yourself. Just trust and believe that your judgment and your desire to be the best parent your child can have is the right one and no one will tell you otherwise. It’s okay to be wrong, parents not always make the right choices but acknowledgment goes a long way and your child will be appreciative of that. I am forever grateful of the education and guidance my parents gave to me and because of them and my struggles, when I held my daughter in my arms for the first time, I knew I was ready to face the world with her.

*Marinel Fuentes is a 2017-2018 Stronger Generations Young Parent Ambassador. To learn more about Marinel and our Young Parent Ambassador program visit our young parent ambassador page!

 

 

What does it mean to be a parent?

I have always been ambitious in life, filled with hopes, dreams, goals, and desires. However, I have also always been indecisive about how I was going to manifest that ambition. I have gone from wanting to be a pediatrician, to a lawyer, to an actuary, to a psychiatrist, to a psychologist, to now working in Human Resources and am still trying to figure out and focus in on my purpose in life. Although most things in my life seemed uncertain and ambiguous, the one thing I knew for sure that I wanted to be was a MOM. I loved caring for children since I was young. When I was little I used to help my mom at her daycare, help look after my younger God brothers and sisters, help care for my God children, and so forth. Most people would be happy to give a child back to their parents after a long, playful, energetic weekend. But returning the children always broke my heart and I could not wait to have a child of my own that I did not have to return. I have always admired the bond between a parent and a child, for to me it is the ultimate, purest, and most fulfilling experience that someone could be blessed with. Therefore, being a Parent was the most important job that I could have.

I feel like most would agree that being a parent is about providing financially for your children, making sure they are healthy, well feed, clean, and have all their basic needs. However, for me being a parent goes beyond that. I break parenting down in 5 categories which are basic needs, protection, preparation, love, and leading. Basic needs has to do with the task already mention, such as making sure that your child has food, clothing, shelter, healthcare, and etc. This is where most parents focus their time, and some parents feel as though as long as they are supplying the basic needs that they are doing their job as parents. For me, this is just the minimum requirements of parenting, the foundation to the reset of the house that needs to be built. Next would be protecting your child, and this is the metal and wood framing of the house in which if you broken the whole house comes tumbling down. Childhood is the most vulnerable state in the life cycle because not only are most children defenseless against dangerous people, environments, or experiences, but they usually cannot recognize danger. Therefore, it is a parent’s job to identify, avoid, and stand up for their child when it comes to harmful situations. This is especially important with bullying and suicide on the rise amongst children.

The third aspect of parenting is the preparing position in which you prepare your child to go out and maneuver through the world on their own. You prepare them by providing them with analytical skills and the education needed to critically think about life and make smart decisions that will allow them to prosper rather than perish. Most of the time preparing and protecting can combat each other because you cannot prepare your child from what you are trying to protect them from. They also conflict because when you are preparing your child most times it involves allowing them to start doing things either on their own or with supervision. For example, when is the right time to protect your child from strangers and preparing your child by allowing them to walk to stores themselves? When is the right time to protect your child’s innocence and hide sex and when is the right time to prepare them by educating them on the topic to avoid them learning about it through unhealthy, misguided sources, or without you even knowing that they have learned about it. As parents we will always struggle on when is it time to start letting go, stop protecting, and start preparing a child.

The last two aspects are my favorite and to me the most important. It is a parent’s job to love their child. I believe that the love that a child receives from their parents is a huge determinant in how they seek and express love in their friendships, life/intimate partners, and other relationships. It can also influence how a child learns to love themselves. My child is a part of me, my creation, flesh of my flesh, for me not to love her is me not loving myself and I cannot love myself without loving her. Therefore, I will always love her and she will always love me, and in me loving her unconditionally I hope I show her how to love herself unconditionally. If you do not love your child, and your child does not love themselves, they may be more susceptible to or even perpetuate false love and mistreatment. I think that most people hurt others and cannot sustain relationships because they were never taught how to love, did not receive love, and thus, do not know how to react to nor give love. Love is important as “Faith goes up the stairs that love has built and looks out the windows which hope has opened”. Therefore, if I want my child to be a part of the solution to healing the madness and hatred in their world, I have to do my part as her parent and love her.

Lastly, you should be a leader and an example to your child. You child or children will hear what you say and see what you do and we as parents cannot choice what the child will follow. Thus, it is important that your actions are aligned with your words. I feel like this is the aspect of parenting that many parents forget or think can be override. Children are sponges and even when we think they are not watching, learning, observing, and absorbing, they actually are. Children are a reflection of you and you cannot create change by changing the reflection but rather by changing what is being reflected….you. This was important for me to write because I cannot measure, monitor, analyze, or promote what I cannot define. Thus, I wanted to outline what it means to me to be a parent to make sure that I am always checking to see if my actions are aligned with my beliefs. And by expressing my beliefs they can be challenged, expanded, reinforced, or even changed. Therefore, I challenge those that read this to use my definition or create your own definition of what it means to be a parent and ask your three question: Am I living up to this definition, how am I doing to live up to this definition, what can I do to better fit this definition. Stay woke, stay blessed.

*Daquana Geneva Harper is one of our 2017-2018 Young Parent Ambassadors. To learn more about Daquan, check out her bio on our young parent ambassador page!

 

Finding Out About Baby #3

I am a mom of two children who are younger than the age of three. My first is two years old while, my second is ten months old. I am currently expecting baby number three. I had issues conceiving my first, and did not ever think I would have kids. When I found out about him, I was happy, and in shock. I felt ready. Then, a year later during the spring I also find out that I was pregnant again with another child. To me, it was a big surprise because I thought that my first was a miracle. At the time I found out I was pregnant, I was having issues with the father of my children, and my sons medical issues. It was a very tough time for me. It got even tougher when the father of my children left us.

My dreams, goals, and world was crushed when he left us. I never thought that life would get to a point where I would have to be alone, and my children would be without their father; that was never the plan. So now I had to figure out how we were all going to fit in a little room, how I was going to pay for everything, and how my children and I were going to survive. Things became harder as time passed, but I kept pushing forward. I worked and was there for my children. After my daughter was born things got better. The father of my children and I were talking more, and we also decided to reconcile. When February of 2016 came around, we conceived again, but things got worse again. The situation did not get worse because of the baby because we found out about baby number three in May 2016. It was just a lot of issues were going on, and things got really out of control.

So now I’m on baby number three, and really do not know what to do. I kept it a secret. I found out in May when one of my cousins found me sleeping on the couch, and asked me if I was pregnant because usually I do not take naps during the day. Because of that I went to Walgreens weeks later to take a test. I told the father of my three children to take me to buy something I needed because I did not want to let anyone know. I had a feeling that I was pregnant. I went into Walgreens, and he waited for me outside. I did the test in the bathroom at Walgreens, and cried like a baby when the test confirmed a positive. I thought it was not possible. It was really tough for me since I never expected to be a mother of three in so little time, and by myself. The dad would only be available sometimes but, was not any help. When I told him he was also surprised, but he told me he would help me. We had even more issues after that, and I felt like I had no way to help myself or my children.

I was really worried because I did not know what to do with my life. I decided to ask someone who knew my situation from the beginning, and had had more experiences than myself. She was my supervisor, but treats me like she’s my mom. She explained to me that my children were a blessing, and that God put my baby number three there for a reason. There was nothing that I had to be worried about because little by little things were going to get better. I believe in her so I decided to take her advice. She told me to get myself together, get checked out, and to do what I had to do for myself and my children. So that I did. I got out of my room because I was really depressed, and did not want to leave. Started eating normally, and did what I had to do for my children. Little by little my situation started to get better. It’s still complicated, but better. I have since got a lot done, and still things are falling into place. My children are now in school, baby number three is healthy so far, and growing, and I feel that my family goals are getting accomplished little by little. I have learned that in order to do better you have to work hard for what you want, be positive, do not give up, but most importantly have faith. I also learned to be even more grateful than I already am. I give thanks that I noticed that I had so many people that were not even part of my blood help me, and support me. I thank my ex-supervisor Ms. Priscilla, Stronger Generations, my friends that I met there, friends that I met at Centering, Dr. Meadows, my mom and aunt, and my children for helping me grow. If it was not because of them I would not have grown or became stronger.

**Erika Rodriguez is one of Stronger Generations’ Young Parent Ambassadors. To learn more about Erika and her story, check out her bio at https://beproudtoparent.org/2017-2018-young-parent-ambassadors/ **

 

 

 

Dear Busybody on the Bus

Dear Busybody on the Bus who has Something Mean to Say,

Yes. I am a “young” parent, but I do it better than many people twice my age.

No one asked for your opinion.

Because of people like you—people who hold back and put down young parents—I have to be a super hero just to get ahead.

Don’t assume that my life is over. It is just beginning! I will live up to my own expectations and define my own successes. Let me be great on my own.

Don’t pretend to be to be concerned. Don’t worry about me, or my child, or his dad. Don’t ask me personal questions. In the words of comedian Kevin Hart, “Mind your damn business.” This is my body and my choice.

My child will always be my #1 fan.

And my child is watching the way that you speak to me. Think about how this affects him/her.  What you’re doing is disrespectful and I will use this moment to teach my child what not to do.

Sincerely,

The Young Parents of STEPS 2016*

*At this year’s Summit for Teen Empowerment and Parenting Success (STEPS), which took place at Simmons College in Boston, 20 young parents participated in a workshop titled “‘Aren’t You Too Young to be a Parent?’: Dealing with Confrontational Strangers and the Myths of Teenage Pregnancy” facilitated by Jenna Vinson—a young parent who had her first child at 17 and is now a professor at UMass Lowell.  Together, the participants shared stories of times when people they did not know interrupted them—in public transit areas, grocery stores, hospitals, and streets—to ask too-personal questions, make disparaging comments, or just stare in a judgmental way. Amidst the discussion of strangers also came stories of caseworkers, medical staff, school administrators, and even friends and family members who saw it as their role to say things to bring young parents down. After venting about these exhausting and infuriating moments, the participants collaboratively generated the open letter above.

STEPS Registration Open!!

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#StudentParentSuccess – Know Your Rights As A Pregnant Or Parenting Student

When I discovered I was pregnant during my spring semester and that my due date would fall in the tail end of my fall semester, I didn’t know what to do. Do I sit out a semester and just take care of the baby? Do I attend classes anyway and just cross my fingers that, […]

Source: #StudentParentSuccess – Know Your Rights As A Pregnant Or Parenting Student

Join our Young Parent Success Video Campaign!

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We want to know how you define young parent success! Send us a short video of you (and your kids too) letting us know how you define success and we’ll enter you into a raffle to win a gift card! Plus your video may be featured at our 2015 STEPS event!

Post your video on instagram or twitter (but be sure to tag us @proudtoparent) or send it in to alchilds@partners.org. All video entries are due by May 10th at 5:00 PM.