My son told me I was old today.
I’m 27 so you can imagine my horror that the word “old” is already being uttered in my direction. I responded by immediately making it a point to tell my child that I’m only 18 years older than he is. Not one of my brightest moments, I’ll admit. As soon as these words left my lips he stopped, got this confused cocker spaniel look on his face and said “that’s right…..you were 18 when you had me.”
I could just see the wheels turning in his head, springing forward to puberty and I had the horrific vision of Mr. Thoughtful sitting in the living room of his girlfriend’s house holding an ultrasound with one hand and protecting his throat with the other as he tried to talk his way out of the imminent death about to be delivered by the newly pregnant girlfriend’s father.
“My mom got pregnant at 17 & my dad encouraged me to get my first phone number when I was three…I thought that was completely normal!”
So I had to head that off with a quick and decisive “…but that’s much too young for anyone to have a baby!”
Somehow I managed to get from “you’re old” to “please don’t give me grandchildren until you’re 25” in 1.6 seconds. This is the thought process of a mother who is desperate to keep her children from repeating her past. Notice I said “past” and not “mistakes” because my children are most certainly not mistakes. Most would consider it a mistake to have children so young, and generally I would agree, but with everything I think there are exceptions.
I believe everything is about what you make it. You can turn any situation into a positive learning experience and if you let it, these things have the potential to not only make you stronger, but enrich your life.
I don’t want to hide the fact that I was too young to be a parent from my children. I want them to know how hard and ugly a time it can be so that they’ll think twice before they do the same things I did. I want them to have a plan and think about the decisions they make and how they fit into the ultimate goals they’ve set for their lives.
But I also want them to understand that things don’t always go as planned and that’s okay. Life is full of happy accidents! Sometimes, mistakes have to occur in order for you to get everything out of your life that God meant for you to have. You just have to embrace it when it happens & work hard to make it through all the cloudy areas & see how bright the future is on the other side. Nothing worth having was ever easy, right?
I was 17 & a senior in high school when I got pregnant. I missed out on parties that all my friends were going to. I didn’t get my license when all my peers were getting theirs because I didn’t have a car to drive anyway. None of my clothes fit and I had no job and no money to buy new ones. I went to prom 7 months pregnant – ALONE – in a borrowed dress that would have normally been about 8 sizes too big for me. I broke out with horrible acne and retained way too much water. One girl actually said, upon finding out I was pregnant, “Oh, you pregnant?! Girl, I thought you was just fat.”
A teenage girl is very conscious of her appearance anyway. Imagine what a teenage girl who is steadily gaining weight and plumping up in all the wrong places feels like. They’re also notoriously self conscious. Just think about that for a second.
I had to run out of homeroom to vomit on three different occasions before I finally just started going to the bathroom every morning before class to get the morning sickness out of the way. Then I found out that it’s not really “morning” sickness because I got sick every time I got the tiniest whiff of a boy in my math class who always smelled like cat pee. I endured whispers in the halls and in all of my classes, pitiful looks from my teachers & rumors about how I didn’t know who the father of my child was, I was having an abortion, giving him up for adoption &/or letting my parents raise him. None of which ever occurred to me by the way. I can’t count how many times I heard the saying “babies having babies” which infuriated me more than anything. Not very many boys ever paid me much attention, but once I got pregnant, suddenly the pick-up lines just started coming out of nowhere. I was pregnant so I had to be “easy,” right?
I was overly emotional & depressed on top of trying to finish school & dealing with my family steadily pressuring me in all different directions:
What are you thinking? What are you doing with your life?! Leave the boyfriend, say he raped you (yes, someone actually told me that), marry the boyfriend after you have the baby, marry the boyfriend before you have the baby, move there, don’t move here, go to this college, you can’t go to college because you’re pregnant – get a job, I’m disowning you, Just kidding – I’m owning you again! Go to this doctor, make sure you do this when you have the baby, make sure you don’t do that when you have the baby, it’s too hot for you to be here, you’re too big to do that, you don’t have enough money for anything, it’s not safe to do this, it’s not safe to eat that, you sure are gaining a lot of weight – you should walk more, drink more water! Don’t hang out with these people, go to church….Etc. etc….
They were just trying to help (mostly), but when you’re emotions are already all over the place simply because you’re a teenager and then they get scattered and frazzled from the hormones that come with pregnancy, any extra, unnecessary stress is enough to make you want to find a deep dark hole, crawl in and pray for a strong wind to fill it up with dirt and leave you buried in it forever. The hardest part was getting out of bed every day and knowing I had to endure it all over again. (And that was just the pregnancy itself; I haven’t even gotten to the actual motherhood part yet!)
But that was how I felt about it at 17. Now I have three beautiful children (all by the same man, thank you very much), the best husband I could ever ask for, my own home and my own business. My circumstances & my thought processes are a little different now.
Sure, I missed a lot of parties. But I prefer to think of it like all I “missed out” on was under-age drinking & drug use that got a lot of my peers into trouble which they’re still struggling with or paying for to this day. Oh, how will I ever go on!?
I missed out on dating a lot of boys. So what. I married the only one I wanted and he’s still the only one I want. (Besides Ian Somerhalder, but hubby and I have agreed that I get a pass for him if an opportunity ever presents itself… :D) All I missed was a broken heart & a lot of drama & if you’ll go back to the above you’ll see that my life already had enough drama in it so I can’t say I’m upset in the slightest.
I didn’t get my license when everyone else was. Big deal. I got my license after I became a more confident, responsible driver which kept me, my family and everyone else on the road a tiny bit safer. Plus, I figure I’ve got about 20+ years of chauffeuring to look forward to; I’ll be doing enough driving to make myself sick of driving by the time I’m 50, at which point I’ll have earned enough gas money from all these people I’m carting around to afford a nice, young, hot chauffeur for myself 😉
And all the other experiences I had with looking and feeling like a big ‘ol beached whale in men’s clothing? Well, that’s just character building. And it sure has a way of making me feel thankful. On days when I’m missing my size 7 jeans, I just think about pregnancy and wearing man-pants and weighing over 200 pounds… then I’m as happy as I can be to see my current size-10 tag!
I was told I couldn’t go to college because a baby and a family holds you back from those things. WRONG. The only person who holds you back from doing anything is YOU. I managed to get a 3 year degree in photography amidst a few moves, a husband in the military and 3 kids. I almost lost my mind, but I did it 🙂 And all the things that were the hardest for me to achieve are the ones I’m most proud of.
“Babies having babies…” <—-there’s that dreaded saying I HATE. You know what I say to that? I have plenty of energy to enjoy my babies while they’re little, but I’ll only be 43 when my youngest child turns 18 so I’ll still (hopefully) have plenty of time left to enjoy the rest of my life. Cruise anyone? Traveling the world?? The possibilities are endless. 😀
All of our experiences help to make us who we are, but it’s how we handle those experiences that determines whether the changes we make are positive or negative. Despite being made to feel (by some) like I was a shameful, despicable person, I tried to keep my head up and do what I knew was best for me and my soon-to-be family.
Without the love and support of those closest to me, I never would have been able to do that so think about that if you’re ever in a situation like this or know someone who is. Don’t belittle them or make them feel insignificant. Think about the impact your words and actions can have on another person. And there’s a ripple effect to that, too. The way you treat someone can affect the way they treat others.
If my mom hadn’t been there for me the way she was (taking me to the doctor, helping me learn how to bathe my son, staying with me in the hospital and walking me through a lot of very new and unfamiliar territory) I may not have been able to love and appreciate my children the way they needed & deserved. In the same way that kindness begets kindness and lies beget lies, I think having a good mother or having a good friend gives you better chances of being a good mother or friend yourself.
You have the potential to help someone make it through a really difficult time, make them strive to be better and be a much-needed light in the midst of a whole lot of darkness, but you also have the potential to be one more thing/person that they want to hide from, one of the many variables that makes an already overwhelming situation seem even more unbearable. If you think things are hard for you, just try and put yourself in the other person’s shoes before you react. You can help tear them down or you can help them achieve success.
Not everything my parents, family and friends said and did was right, but just because it wasn’t necessarily right for me and my situation doesn’t mean that it wouldn’t be appropriate for someone else’s. (Except the rape suggestion – that’s just ignorant beyond belief and would never be appropriate for anyone to falsely accuse.) Sometimes people need to hear and deal with tough words and consequences in order to grow up so no matter how much you’re struggling, no matter how bleak things seem, just remember that you’re in control of your own future and things WILL get better. Just keep doing your best.
Note to parents who are currently taking care of your grandchildren because your teenage parent is too immature and selfish to do it themselves – stop being an enabler. You’re not helping your child. You can help them by stopping the cycle of enabling, making them do all the hard work themselves and just sticking by them for advice and support when they need it.
And I guess I’ll end with this because I know some people that need to hear it:
This is not MTV, you are not on 16 & Pregnant & you’re not getting paid to exploit yourself or your kid – get your head out of your ass and start being an adult. Other lives are depending on you and they deserve the very best that you can give them because they didn’t ask to be born – you made that decision for them. There are enough kids in the world with dead-beat parents. There are enough teen moms with no more sense than God gave a door knob and dads who don’t give a crap. There are enough kids in the system. There are more than enough abandoned and abused children. Don’t contribute to that diseased portion of society. Be responsible and proud, show some self-respect and raise a better, more educated, responsible, respectful generation. Raise your child to be an adult that you can be proud of. Raise a child that will be proud to call you “Mom” or “Dad.”
It’s simple; be someone your children can look up to.
Soapbox over 🙂