I am Eric, a YOUNG DAD, this is my story.
Eric, 25, lives in Robeson County, NC with his partner Gabrielle and their sons Braylen (6 years old) and Cameron (8 years old)
As told to Jasmine Getrouw-Moore, Young Families Connect Media Outreach Coordinator (January 2017).
Eric is from Prospect, North Carolina, a self proclaimed “country boy” who has had lifelong aspirations to be a fireman. Eric is currently, living out his dreams serving as a volunteer fireman and exercising his carpentry skills when and where he can! Currently, Eric is preparing to graduate from barber school. Eric says that “Young Families Connect has helped me to open more, talk more, be less shy and the program has helped me financially. It has been a long-term support for myself and my family.”
Meeting Gabrielle: Friend and Partner
Gabrielle and I met online and after some time of chatting online, we decided to go on a date. We started to get serious about three or four months into the relationship. Gabrielle had her own place while I was still with my parents, just finishing high school. I eventually moved in with her after our relationship became more and more serious. We have grown to know one another’s likes and dislikes.
I grew up as an only child, so having this friendship with her has really been important to me. She and I have relied on each other quite a bit, from the loss of loved ones to surviving bad work days. We have truly been partners through sickness and in health, offering mutual comfort during our bad days and good days. I feel rest assured that I can talk to her about anything.
When Gabrielle found out she was pregnant, she was excited and nervous. I was nervous until she gave birth to our eldest son, Cameron. I was working at a local plant doing construction like I had been since high school. It was hard at first. I never thought I would have a kid this young, but I knew I had to tighten up. As a new, teen parent, I knew that I couldn’t do some of the things that my peers were doing. I was responsible for another person, my son, Cameron. Becoming a father taught me how to grow up and be a man.
An Unlikely Referral
I began attending the night program for barber school in January 2015. During registration, the manager at the time asked me a few questions about my life, my family and my goals with barber school. I shared that I needed financial assistance and understood that I could not get financial aid for barber school. He then shared the benefit of local programs that could help me with the cost of attending school. One of the programs mentioned that stuck out to me the most was the Young Families Connect program because (according to him) it would truly help me financially with school and childcare. He shared Mrs. Virginia’s number (the Young Family’s Connect Coordinator) with me and I called her, made an appointment to come by the office and signed up. I started participating in all of the classes for Young Families Connect; attending monthly appointments with her. I am happy that the barber school manager helped me out by sharing this program, giving me an unlikely referral. Gabrielle has also benefited from the Young Families Connect program. She has finished all of the required classes in areas such as parenting and other meetings that participants attend. She too has attended school thanks to the help of this program (although she has her work schedule has recently prevented her from attending). I really feel like Young Families Connect has helped us to meet our goals and help us to see our lives come together.
Young Families Connect and Beyond
The Young Families Connect program has helped me grow in so many ways. I feel that the program has helped me feel more comfortable and confident with talking to people more confidently. I have also learned how to live a healthier lifestyle as an example to my boys. My healthier lifestyle includes modeling healthy relationships and healthy nutrition.
In the Young Families Connect program, I was able to be apart of the parenting series with other parents. I got a chance to see how other parents act with their kids. This group series has helped me think about how I act with my boys. I have finished the parenting series understanding that whooping my kids (like I used to when they were acting up) is not how I want to discipline them. From this series, I learned that kids think that whoopings are scary. Kids do not behave well because of the whooping but out of fear. I don’t want my kids to feel like I am being mean to them by whooping them. I also don’t want to whoop the kids and then they treat other people in a mean way because of how I discipline them at home. Those two boys- they are my heart. Now, I ask questions to understand how they are feeling. Asking questions also helps them to understand their own feelings. Now, they are listening better and I am not having to constantly talk to them to correct their behavior. It’s not always easy but parenting is a growing process. I am learning something new all the time!
The nutrition series of the program has helped me to make some changes to what we eat in our household. I have cut down on eating sweets in our household, teaching the boys that the sugar in drinks and candy isn’t good for our health. I explain to them that sugar messes up our teeth and causes cavities. I try to cook healthier meals instead of eating fast food all the time. Now, I bake my food and make sure we are exercising together as a family. We do pushups, run and play when we can. I like to get those boys nice and tired but I personally feel much healthier since I have been in this program.
Now, I am graduating from Young Families Connect and the barber school program at Robeson Community College. Gabrielle and I plan to move from our current home which is the same home she had when we met. We are repairing a home we just bought for our family. I have been going there everyday after school to work on this new home. We are excited! I am focused on continuing to build a healthy relationship with my family and take care of my health. I want to reach the new goals I have made for myself and family. My next steps are to move into this home Gabrielle and I just bought; work as a barber full time; and in five years, open my own shop. My life-long plan is to support my community by investing in programs like the barber school program at Robeson Community College and Young Families Connect. I want to be a role model to newcomers to each of these programs, showing that success comes from hard work, dedication, and with support from folks like Ms. Virginia, Ms. Cicely and all the other workers (in YFC). This program truly cares about the families in this community.