Why Moms Matter

Why Moms Matter

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Above: The author with her mother. 

There are almost 100,000 people living in Vacaville, but it feels like a small town. I'm 18 and I've been living here almost my entire life. Any other 18-year-old who just finished high school in Vacaville is probably thinking of leaving, but for me that's not the case. I've realized how much I can do to be part of life here, and maybe inspire other young people to do the same.

When I was in elementary school, I hardly spent any time on the playground, or even had any friends. The friends I did have included Bobbie, the secretary from the front office, and some of the lunch ladies. I was in third grade when I started helping out around the front office. I liked staying there during recess. There was one teacher who didn't like that I didn't go to recess, but I didn't let that stop me. I would just hide under a desk when I saw her. At parent-teacher conferences she would tell my mom that I shouldn't be hanging around the office -- that I should be out on the playground "with my friends." My mom, being the mother she is, told the teacher that she'd rather I be in the office doing something good, instead of out on the playground "getting into fights."

I think my mom was worried about my following in the footsteps of other young people in Vacaville who have gotten on the wrong path. She wasn't wrong. By the time I was in sixth grade, half the people I knew were either skipping school almost every day or were constantly getting into fights. My mom, and other parents, were worried that their kids would "change." I would hear other parents ask my mom, "How's your daughter? Has she changed in any way?" My mom would hear things from other parents about what kids were up to, and then she would assume negative things about me. Every parent is worried, but my mom had good reason to, because of what kids got into at my school. There were kids who cared about school, and kids who ended up dropping out or getting pregnant. Vacaville is a small community, and everyone knows everything about each other -- and I mean everything. One small rumor about you and everyone will hear it.

When my mom stood up for me it meant a lot, because she knew I liked helping out around the office and spending time with the adults, and no one was going to stop me. Now I'm trying to do more work in the Vacaville community, and she's still encouraging me and telling me to keep up the good work. The support I get from my mom means so much to me. When I feel like I'm making her proud, it makes me proud of myself. I try to be a role model for my younger siblings and other kids.

I think the most important thing in a place like Vacaville is for parents to be involved in their children's lives. When kids see that their parents care about how they're doing in school and who they spend time with, they sense that their parents care about their future, and that makes them care about their own future as well. It's also important for parents to encourage their kids to get involved in groups where they can give back.

My mom has never given up on me. When I was younger, I could be tough to deal with. But through my ups and downs, my mom always showed me that she cared. In continuing my education, I'd like to study both criminal justice and child development. I'm interested in becoming a resource officer at a school, one who helps kids and gets them involved in their community. I may leave Vacaville for my studies, but I want to come back and make meaningful change.

This is part of a special series, Youth Voices Beyond the Bay, exploring the stories of young people growing up on the far reaches of the Bay Area. Click here to read more stories from the series.