Jessica and her youngest child, Yadiel, at Early Head Start
I had my first child when I was 18 years old. I was living with my parents. It was a bad situation from the start, but it was after the birth of my second son, Anthony, that my parents really gave me their back. I took my kids and moved out of the house.
I got married and had two more kids — my daughter Marie and my son Yadiel — but my husband left me soon after Yadiel’s birth. He was born at 25 weeks and needed surgery when he was just a year old, and it turned out Marie needed early intervention services for physical therapy.
I contacted The Child Center because I was trying to get a little bit of help. I was thinking I needed help getting to appointments and things like that. But the kind of help I ended up getting was very different — and very good for all of us.
I met with a woman named Maria and was surprised to be meeting at a school. Only my oldest was in school, in kindergarten. I never thought to put my kids in school earlier than that. Maria told me that I could send my three-year-old, Anthony, to Early Head Start, but I didn’t want to. So Maria said they could send a teacher to my home. I started to like it. I saw that Anthony was learning more and more. I decided to send him to the center to learn with the other children, and I started my daughter there when she was two and a half. It made such a difference! With my oldest, who never went to preschool, it was hard for him in kindergarten. He had trouble learning, counting, being with other kids. He wouldn’t talk to the other children.
I thought at first that two and a half was young to start school, but when I saw my daughter in the classroom, I knew I made the right decision. I saw her talking a lot, sharing, and getting along with other kids. She was learning so much. I know she will not have a problem when she gets to kindergarten. Now my son Anthony is at The Child Center’s Head Start/EarlyLearn in Corona, and he had a rougher start, but he is doing great now, too.
Being a part of The Child Center was good not only for my kids, but also for me. I don’t like to talk about myself, but the teachers at Corona give me so much support. They ask what’s going on and help me with parenting. When Anthony was tantrumming a lot, they showed me how to give him a time-out so he can calm himself down and we can work it out.
At Early Head Start, the family service manager, Stephanie, runs a group called Personal Best to help with parenting and building a social network for the parents. I got to hear other moms’ stories, and I was surprised when some moms said my story gave them motivation. We talked about how we were raised, and how we can do differently. In my house growing up, there was a lot of slapping. Through the group, I learned even though I did not have the ideal childhood, my mother still loves me; and I have the power to break any parenting cycles that I do not want to continue. I learned how to be patient and work out conflicts. I know I was able to become a better parent and person because of this group. I feel happy — like I learned how to be a mom.