With three children ages one, six, and seven, Alyse Bookman and Isamar Alonso Gonzalez
have their hands full. Despite the challenges that are inevitable when raising children, as a family of five they are thriving. “Each of our kids has different interests,” explains Ms. Bookman. “For indoor fun Caleb [age 7] could play with his Legos all day long and Noah [age 6] could play his video game all day. Jonah [age one], he could eat and learn to run around the house as a baby should. When we go out, the boys love the arcade, bowling, arts and crafts, park, and they love the beach!” On top of their parenting duties, Isamar is in school to become an EMT and also works at Advance Auto Parts, while Alyse works as a Technical Engineer in the Cardiology Department at Mass General Hospital (MGH).
Positivity radiates from Ms. Bookman and Ms. Gonzalez. You’d never know they’d been through some truly significant challenges based on their uplifting spirits, infectious positivity, and the ease with which they communicate with each other. Ms. Bookman and her beloved wife are positive proof that people can change for the better when they choose to do so.
In 2016, the Department of Children and Family Services (DCF) intervened and took the children away from Ms. Bookman and Ms. Gonzalez. “It was a rough time in our lives,” says Alyse. “The good thing about it, we had each other and not everybody can say that, not everybody goes through this with a partner.” Alyse and Isamar were so dedicated to get their children back, they signed up for Parenting Journey before they were even required to attend a parenting program. “When DCF informed us that we would have to take certain classes, programs, and so forth, we jumped the gun,” explains Alyse. “We went out and Googled, and did the research ourselves and the reviews on Parenting Journey, in general, are amazing. So it wasn’t a hard decision for us. Like, you know, we signed up the second that we saw it online. There was a registration right there, and I was able to do it right from my phone, so I signed both of us up right away, and honestly, it was the right decision, you know.”
Taking all of the steps necessary and maintaining a positive relationship with their DCF case worker, Alyse and Isamar had their kids back at home before too long. “It was a really, really fast process,” Isamar recalls. “I mean, in a matter of four or five months, the kids were back home, and it usually doesn’t happen that way. We did everything that we had to do, to make ends meet and to get our children back. Going through a situation that we’ve never been through, and it was hard, but like I said, with the program we finished on top.”
Alyse and Isamar showed great perseverance and a will to grow as individuals and as parents. They invested in themselves at Parenting Journey, and as a result they progressed a great deal. “It helps you understand,” explains Ms. Gonzalez. “It helps you gain patience, it helps you as a person, and it helps you with your children.” She continues, “It’s not about, oh, I have to do what they say. It’s about keeping an open mind. It’s also about being surrounded by parents that go through similar situations, and even the same situation. It’s about coping with each other, helping each other out, and always keeping an open mind.” Alyse adds “I support that answer 100 percent. It was good. To have other people go through what you’re going through, I think that’s what the easiest part about this is. From every angle, everybody has something that they are going through. That’s pretty much why everybody is here, and we all grow from that together.”
Many parents acknowledge that the shared experience and support from the community of other parents is a huge asset in Parenting Journey. The success of the program is also largely attributed to the skills of the co-facilitators who foster a nurturing atmosphere where parents build upon their strengths. And it’s a program that is open to all parents and caregivers, because the model of helping one another to be our best selves is for everyone. Alyse echoes this sentiment. [The program is for] “all kinds of parents. Parents…you know, you don’t have to have any type of social services in your life. You know, new parents that don’t know what they’re getting themselves into or what to expect. Parents with one or two kids. Any type, any people, this is a program for you to grow and for you to learn, and it’s not because you don’t know how to be a parent, there’s just nothing wrong with expanding your experience. You know, expanding your horizons and accumulating more knowledge about what it’s like to be a parent, and familiarizing with other parents that go through similar or the same situations.”
The Parenting Journey team feels privileged to have guided and supported Alyse and Isamar along their journey. “We’re big believers that everything happens for a reason, so even if it’s something negative, there is something positive that comes out of it,” explains Ms. Bookman. “I mean, our kids are happy, we’re happy. It’s a good feeling.”
To learn more about Parenting Journey and our program offerings, click here.