Ask any parent and they'll probably agree that having a baby changes a person's entire life.
One second it's all about "me" and the next moment the world revolves around this teeny, tiny "bundle of joy."
But raising a child isn't always easy and no book can prepare an expecting parent for the joy, frustration, grief, love and desperation that comes with their precious package, aka baby. Babies get weird rashes and have explosive diapers multiple times a day. Toddlers act irrationally and throw temper tantrums when they, a) don't get their way, or b) can't communicate what they want. As they grow older, children learn to express themselves better but don't always do it in a way that pleases their parents.
If there were a master guide to raising happy, healthy and productive children, parenting would be a lot easier. But there isn't. And believe it or not, most parents - even the ones who appear to have it all under control - are just struggling, using trial and error to do the best they can.
Nobody, however, has to do it alone, insists Cynthia Martin, Parenting Matter Foundation executive director.
Helping families thrive from day one
Parenting Matters Foundation is a resource for parents of children all ages from birth to high school, a source of information on local programs, a means of increasing communication between parents and schools, and an opportunity to learn about child development.
First Teacher, the initial program of the Parenting Matters Foundation, began in 1990.
Today, the group's monthly newsletters and developmental cards - sent to families every three months during the child's first year of life and every six months thereafter until he or she enters school - reach more than 4,500 families.
As part of the program, volunteers conduct a yearly evaluation.
As a result of reading the First Teacher newsletter, parents are, according to the results, doing things differently:
• 87 percent read more to their child
• 56 percent have changed their discipline techniques
• 43 percent expect greater responsibility from their child
• 73 percent have changed things in their home to increase safety and decrease hazards
• 82 percent have learned ways to help prepare their child for kindergarten
• 79 percent would feel more comfortable going to their school with concerns about their child
• 83 percent say they have learned where to go if they have a problem with their child, and
• 99 percent indicated they would recommend the program to other parents.
An uncertain future
There's no doubt the Parenting Matters Foundation and First Teacher are successful programs creating positive change, Martin said, but despite all the statistics, the nonprofit organization is in grave danger.
With increased budget cuts, the Sequim School District decreased its contribution to the Parenting Matters Foundation from about $35,000 to $10,000 this year.
"We've got to come up with the funds to keep the program afloat ourselves," Martin emphasized. "If things stay in a bad place, I don't know what we'll do but we'll keep going as long as we can," she vowed.
The resource and play room, located in the Sequim Community School building, is open 9:30 a.m.-1 p.m. Monday and Friday.
If money weren't an issue, the room would be open at least four days a week, Martin said wistfully.
Annual fundraising auction
In addition to applying for grants, volunteers eagerly have been preparing for the group's annual fundraising auction Saturday, Oct. 9.
With more than $7,000 in donated items, the auction is expected to bring in about $12,000.
Auction item highlights include a "Mom's the best" basket with a book, towels and pot holders and a glass hanging sign that reads, "You are the best mother in the universe," an ornament of a Red Hat Society lady, and a decorative sign about how much one person can influence you; a local gourmet basket filled with tasty treats like truffles, brownies, lemon shortbread, scones, tea bags, honey, pancake mix, syrup, jam and kettle corn; a gift certificate for a special evening at Alder Wood Bistro; a lavender spa basket filled with items from Purple Haze Lavender; a punch card for 10 Zumba sessions at Aspire Academy; a cordless drill; a bed and breakfast package for a night in Seattle; dinner for a family of four at McDonald's; entrance for two adults and two children to the Woodland Park Zoo; a full service oil change at Ruddell Auto Mall and much more.
Vaughnetta Barton, from the Foundation for Early Learning, is the guest speaker.
Stephen Rosales, an avid community volunteer, will emcee the event, which is open to the entire community - no invitation necessary.
Onsite day care is available by request but must be arranged in advance.
The importance of early education
"For so long we've just let kids play during these early years but now we realize just how important it is to teach them," Martin said.
"When children start school and aren't ready because their parents didn't help them learn, those are the children who end up dropping out. A child that starts out behind, stays behind," she insisted.
According to parents, the First Teacher room is a "must-have" commodity.
"This is the only free place for children to play and learn that also has resources for parents," said Nicole Brewer, a Sequim mother of two young children.
"Even if you don't see the impact in your life, you'll see it in the community when these children grow up."
Helping local families succeed as their children's first teachers
Who: Parenting Matters Foundation
What: "Step up To the Plate for Kids" annual fundraiser
When: 4-7 p.m. Saturday, Oct. 9
Where: Sequim Boys & Girls Clubs, 400 W. Fir St.
Tickets: $25 per person
Contacts: For more information, to purchase tickets or to reserve onsite child care, call 681-2250