Parent Story: Surina Nash

EOCF Empowers a Family’s Dramatic Growth

Written by Surina Nash. 

 When I was encouraged to keep my son I was told that I would make a good mom and that my motherly skills would automatically “kick in” and I would know exactly what to do. Naively, I believed and hoped for that to be the case. Unfortunately, I became the mother that raised me, harsh and full of rage. Once I realized what kind of mother I was becoming, my son’s father, Paul, and I both feared for the well-being and safety of our 9 month-old son. My inability to think and act rationally became very apparent when I was arrested yet again. But, this time, instead of jail I was sent to a psych ward for a mental evaluation. I shared with the doctors what I only knew to be true about myself: I was unfit to mother my son and I couldn’t offer him the care he needed. I had no idea of how to be a mom.

After my release I was told that I would receive help. Within that week, an EOCF Family Advocate (FA) was at my door. She brought a lot of information and asked me about the kind of goals I wanted for myself and my son. She introduced me to programs like EHS, DSHS and WIC. She even helped us to sign up for welfare and other social programs we were eligible for. By the time she left I knew that I was being given a chance to be a mother worthy of my son.

A couple of weeks after meeting our FA, my son entered into EOCF’s Sandra J. Odren Family Center. His primary teacher Peggy became, unbeknownst to her, my mothering coach. I learned to mimic her in many ways when it came to caring and communicating with my son. When I had concerns about my son’s well-being the staff not only listened but provided me with ongoing support and a ton of information. I asked a lot of questions and always received the answer (or book) I needed.

EOCF also offered us parenting classes, sent home parenting advice, and gave us referrals to other community resources. I even took advantage of their finance and health classes. I eventually decided to go back to college to pursue a different career and Paul decided it was time to finally get his GED and a stable income to provide for his kids. We were all growing together.

What Paul and I appreciated most of all about the EOCF staff, was that when we were fighting and using our son as a weapon and playing tug-of-war, the staff never showed judgment or biases or took sides.

They always stayed out of our drama and CONTINUALLY reminded us that our son’s needs had to come first before our own feelings of selfishness if we wanted to reach our goal of being “good parents”. It was with that consistent reminder and goal setting in mind that kept us focused. They reminded us that if we failed our goal it was not because we lacked opportunity, but because we chose to be prideful and arrogant rather than seeing the other parent as our teammate. EOCF was a wealth of information, so we no longer could use ignorance as an excuse for bad parenting. With that in mind and all excuses aside, Paul and I built an alliance to no longer fight against each other. We now had to start fighting for each other if our son was to have any chance of having a happy childhood.

The transition to change was EXTREMELY painful and arduous for both of us because we had to relearn almost everything pertaining to parenting. Our parents failed us in so many ways, and we didn’t want to leave our son the same failed legacy. For our change to happen we both had to make a conscious effort to sift through our own individual childhoods and separate what was beneficial to pass on to our son, analyze what lessons needed a slight change before passing on, and then literally remove what was bad. There was a lot of bad baggage to remove.

During our season of learning Paul and I learned a lot about ourselves and each other. A few years later we welcomed our daughter.  All along our journey the staff at EOCF was our only consistent support until I finally decided to try going to church with my kids. A year later Paul decided to join us. With our renewed faith and the help of our growing support group we felt confident enough to walk away from almost all social services. For 10 years we fought to change the cycle of dysfunction and poverty we inherited from our parents and for 10 years EOCF was our main resource for knowledge when Paul and I chose to not allow our children to face that same fate. I don’t even want to think about where my family would be today if not for the help offered to us by EOCF!

Today we are a tight-knit family that is active in our church and our community. For Paul, this fight was a personal victory because he grew up on welfare in a single parent home and he really wanted better for his own children, and I believe he has succeeded in doing so. As for our two children, they are living a life that Paul and I could only have dreamed of. They have two parents that strive to give them a safe and balanced life. In return we have two children that are happy, healthy and excelling in school socially, emotionally and academically. As for me, I advocate for children as often as I am able, both local and national. I had the opportunity to share my story in Washington D.C. at a Birth-to-Three annual conference with over a thousand attendees. The experience left me wanting to reach out to even more parents. As a Community Representative for EOCF’s Policy Council this year, I take full advantage of getting parents involved in their child’s life. When I share my testimony now with other parents I no longer cry at the pain of knowing how EOCF came to be a part of my family. Now I rejoice in knowing that my family is able to help other families.”

Editor’s note: Surina Nash served on our Parent Policy Council for years, was a representative on our Board of Directors, has advocated for early learning and parenting programs in the legislature and school districts, and serves in many other ways in our community. She is currently attending college. We are grateful for her service and sharing.