It is never too late to learn to be a better parent. It doesn’t matter how old your kids are, or how many you have, or what you did in the past. I know because it happened with my fourth child. And learning with her made me a better mother to my other three.
My oldest daughter lives with me. She is 21 and has schizophrenia, and that can be hard. My middle kids are 10 and 13, and they live with their dad. I used to scream at them and they would throw a fit, and then I would self-medicate with alcohol. I didn’t know how to deal with them at all.
I realize now that I was repeating the patterns of how I grew up. My dad was an alcoholic and he was always angry. My siblings and I would eat dinner really fast and run and hide from him. When he was around we had to follow the rules and not talk, or he would yell. Once I had my own kids, I became my dad without even trying.
I took parenting classes when my middle kids were younger, but I never applied the lessons to my life. Last year, when I was pregnant with my daughter Mariana, I learned I could have someone come to my house through First 5 Fresno’s Help Me Grow program. Once I started doing that, things really started to change for me.
My home visitor Sally showed me all kinds of things I didn’t know — how to make a schedule, how to make time for things like reading and talking to my baby. She taught me that when your baby stops using so many diapers, it means they are ready to potty train. I have this big connection to my baby now. I never had this much of a connection with my other kids when they were little.
The amazing thing is that my relationship with my other kids also changed when Sally started coming. I used to have such a hard time talking to my 21-year-old. I applied some of the things I was learning from home visiting to how I talk to her, and she’s calmer now. It’s the same with my other two kids; I don’t scream at them or get angry at them anymore. I talk to them, and let them say what they feel.
Sally taught me how to love my kids, how to show my love to them, because I didn’t know how to do that. I grew up with an abusive dad, and had abusive relationships with men after that. I learned to open my eyes and see the love that I have, that my family was giving me.
My family and I just moved from a one-bedroom apartment on a dangerous street to a three-bedroom home in a trailer park, a really peaceful place with a little yard and a playground and a pool nearby. I’m trying to get more time with my middle kids. My hope is really at its fullest right now. My friends tell me I look peaceful and calm, like another person.
I’m not ashamed to say I was an alcoholic, and a methamphetamine addict at one time, because I turned it around. I learned my lesson, and I can talk about it. Now I’m trying to help other people who were like me. Everyone can learn to be a great parent, and help build their kids up so they can be happy adults. If I can do it, you can, too.
Lucila Porras is a stay-at-home mother in Fresno.