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.

marinel photo

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!

 

Then vs. Now

Today I walked in my moms office to talk to her about some stuff. As soon as I opened the door I was hit with heavy air and cigarette smoke. Now this is not to speak badly about my mom shes an amazing person. The thing is I hate the smell of cigarettes and the way they make an enclosed room feel even smaller. However, If I had opened that door a year, year and a half ago, I wouldn’t of minded. Honestly I would have been happy because that means my mom wouldn’t smell the smoke off of me. I use to smoke almost two packs of Newport’s a day. How much I smoked really just depended on what was going on that day. If I was drinking I would smoke a lot, if I was at a club I would smoke a lot, if I was around people that smoked I would have one when they did. What I’m trying to say is that I wasn’t healthy. Ya I was a vegetarian and didn’t drink soda or anything; but I drank jager like it was water, I smoked cigarettes like they were healthy for you. I would eat out a lot, mostly pizza. I guess I was just being 21 in some ways. Then I got pregnant and that’s when everything changed. Not only did I stop smoking but I stopped being anywhere that there was smoke. I started walking 2 miles a day. My eating habits became way better, mostly veggies, and spinach and fruit smoothies. I removed myself from anything that was dysfunctional or negative. I found some coping mechanisms that not only entertained me but kept me going. It was difficult; mainly because I would miss certain things or feel chained down. The thing is I knew I wanted to be healthy so that my son could be healthy. I was his vessel; I was the only one that could make it healthy and safe for him. My biggest motivator to do all this was not wanting to repeat a cycle. Was not wanting to do to my son what my biological mother did to me. At the age of 21 I was just living life day to day, took it as it came. I was in school and working. I was just always up for the unexpected. Sometimes I felt like I was stuck though. Ya I was working, ya I was in school, but what else? Well when I got pregnant with my son Liam I saw what the “what else” was and I am not sure I would have ever of saw that if it was not for him. So from 21 to 22 I went from being the unhealthiest me to the healthiest me. Getting pregnant young definitely has its cons. However, for me it was life changing in a beautiful way. So I ask the next time you see a young parent please do not assume that their life is over and they have no future. Do not see what was taken from them, but rather what was given.

Trapped?

This one is a touchy subject for me.  It took me a while to even share it within a small, trusted group, and it’s taken me quite some time to come to terms with it.

Sometimes you can feel trapped when parenting, especially when you’re a young parent.

Now, I’ve heard some people say it before, or ask me if I feel trapped or stuck, and I usually try and steer clear of the subject.  The fact is, parents can feel a little trapped, and I don’t think it’s something to be ashamed of.  If you’re a parent, or have ever read any parenting blog or magazine, talked to parents at all…you know what I mean.  The conversation goes something like this:

“Hey, wanna do something this weekend?”

“Yeah sure!  What were you-oh wait I can’t actually, I have the little guy!”

“Oh..uhh ok well can’t you find a babysitter or something?”

“I mean I guess I could, but I kind of want to hang out with my kiddo…you wanna come to the park with us or something?”

“Umm no that’s ok, I’ll hit you up later.”

Unless you have a lot of great friends that also happen to be parents of young kids, you know how hard it is to find time to hang out with your friends.  I think this goes for all parents.  You might be more likely to have friends that have kids later on in life, but you’re still bound to have some peers without kids, and they just don’t really understand how valuable your time is now.

It can be tough to make all of your decisions around a new person.  I’m not talking about being selfish, but on the other hand, being completely selfless isn’t a walk in the park.  A parent’s life revolves around their child, but that doesn’t mean it’s easy.  Parenting is a long, difficult journey.  It’s extremely rewarding, but you also don’t really know what you’re signing up for when you start.

I think the hardest part of parenting for me, is the lack of freedom.  And, until recently, I thought I was alone.  I thought that maybe I just didn’t get it, or maybe I just wasn’t a great parent if I was thinking about myself too much, or even at all.

I had a conversation last week about this with some friends.  I joked that someday I’m going to live out of a backpack and travel the world, it might just be when I’m 55 instead of when I’m 25.  So maybe I wait until he’s on his own, or maybe I pick a closer destination, or a shorter trip, or maybe I even bring him with me!  Don’t worry, I’ve already picked out a kid’s backpack and size 4 hiking boots if the little one wants to come along, I kind of hope he does!  To my surprise, I found out I wasn’t crazy, and that many parents cope with similar feelings.  It’s important to know that you’re not the only one out there.

I guess what I’m saying, is:  never stop dreaming.

Parents lose sight of themselves sometimes.  Parenting is a selfless act.  If you’ve given your child a life full of love and support, what else do they need?

Well, I think they need parents that will be with them, spend time with them, and be present.  A kid needs someone that can dream with them and then help them achieve their own dreams.  A child needs a role model, not only in parenting, but also a role model when dealing with life’s challenges, staying positive, and sometimes reaching for the stars.

I still plan on living life fully, maybe just not in the traditional sequence.  For now, I have to realize that the little guy comes first, and show him a life of fulfillment.

And how exactly do you expect to give your child a life full of love, if you’ve lost your love of life?

Let me parent!

imagesOne of the obstacles I am trying to overcome while parenting is learning how to accept advice and learning how to speak up when it comes to disciplining my child. It is easy for me to get defensive and assume that people are criticizing my parenting. I am always open to advice, but finding the balance between advice and someone trying to tell me what to do with my daughter has been a challenge.

I love my 2 year old daughter Genesis to death but she can be a handful sometimes.  At home she is always cooperative but once we go out she just wants to show off for the world to see. I get embarrassed a lot of times when she has her tantrums in public and people look at me like I don’t know how to deal with my child. I feel that people are staring but a lot of the times I think I am just hard on myself. It is difficult to discipline her in public when she is screaming her lungs out and causing a scene. So many times I wonder what people are thinking. Do they stare at me because I am young and they think I am doing something wrong?

Other times, the way I discipline her becomes a conflict is when we are around family. Genesis wants to show off, I understand that she is a child, but I feel I have to correct her now when she is doing something wrong to prevent future bad habits. Let’s say she goes to an aunt’s house and begins to open the refrigerator, I pull Genesis to the side and tell her that she should not do that. Here comes my aunt saying don’t worry about it it’s okay-but this is not okay. I don’t want people to go against what I say to her. I feel like they cause confusion and then my way of teaching and disciplining
 her goes down the drain.

I want people to respect my judgment and that as long as I am not abusing my child, let me parent her the way I want to. I am constantly hearing put her jacket on, zip up her coat, put a hat on her, use this diaper cream, let her run around, don’t put the car seat on floor, don’t be so hard on her she’s just a kid! I am new at parenting and I am not going to be perfect but I think I am doing a pretty good job with my girls. I just want to feel more confident and not have people questioning my ability or my way of parenting her.

10 Steps Forward 5 Back

I recently went to the RMV to take my permit test. After waiting 3 hours I was told that I could not take the test because I had my son with me, who they do not allow in the testing room. They told me they assumed I had someone with me to watch him. They told me that if I was taking a test in school I would not be allowed to bring my son in with me.

If this had happened to me a few years ago I would have reacted a lot differently then I did. I kindly let them know it would be a courtesy to the customers to either put up a sign, put it on your website, or tell us at customer service. I kindly told them that if I had to take a test a school I could bring him. I kindly told them that I do not have someone I can just leave my son with.

When I was first told I could not take the test I was so angry and discouraged. After failing the test 6 years ago I was so afraid to go in and take it. I got past that fear and went and studied and was ready. I never needed my permit/license until I had my son; it would make life easier for both us. It would also free up space on the bus and train; my carriage is pretty big. I was embarrassed; I was ashamed, and so upset. Honestly, I just felt like I was being shut down; like a door was being shut in my face.

A part of me gets it. They do not want anyone to fail the test because they were disturbed. However, I feel like they need to accommodate their customers if they have children. Why are you turning down someone who is trying to better their life for themselves and child? I have a 4 month old son who breastfeeds every 2-3 hours so he needs to be with me. I should not be turned away because of this.

A big part of me does not even want to go and take the test now. I am more nervous then I was before. I am going to stress about how long it has been since I last breastfed him. I am going to worry about if I can get someone to watch him or come with me; will I have to pay them to watch him? All of these factors are going to affect me while I am taking the test. So what are my chances of passing now?

I guess the only thing I am positive about is that I will go back and take the permit test, I have to. I need this for me and my son. If I fail, then I fail and will be better prepared for next time. I will not let the way certain things are shut me down like they have before. After all it is no longer just about me. Hopefully society can learn to support young parents, learn to help us, and learn to not shut us down.

My Breastfeeding Journey

breastfeedingFrom the moment I found I was pregnant, I knew I was going to breastfeed. Formula is fine and all, but I wanted the absolute best for my baby. When it was time to start preparing for his arrival, people would ask me what kind of formula I planned on giving him. When I said that I planned on strictly breastfeeding, everyone had an opinion. I heard everything from your breast are going to sag to its not gonna be enough for him because he needs formula. I did not care because it was important to me. When my son was finally born his sugars were low, so he had to stay in the NICU. The nurses told me that he needed my milk to get his sugars up. I pumped my heart out and barely got a tablespoon of milk. She told me that if I did not produce enough, it would be best to give him some formula. I cried and cried when I finally decided to give him formula. It was so important to me that I breastfed and gave him the best and created that bond, so I did not give up. I fed him and pumped for a week before my milk finally came in and I could take him off of formula. There was no better feeling in the world than knowing that I was the only person in the world that could give him this one thing. I was the sole provided of his nutrients, and I took pride in that. When he was 3 months old, it was time for me to go back to school and again I had to face the heart wrenching decision of giving him formula. I felt like I was letting him down. I WAS DEDICATED. In the end, I decided it was best for both of us that I gave him both. He is now 7 months old and I am still at it. He has 4 teeth and he is a biter. I thought it was time to call it quits, but I can’t. It’s a special bond that we share and I am not ready to give it up.

Breast is Best!

Louisha