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Teen pregnancy: an unexpected call to emotional maturityPosted Tuesday, August 4, 2009, at 11:05 AM
Sixteen and pregnant. It's bad enough it happens, but now you get to watch it on television.
The TV season may be over, but the angst lives on. Thanks to my two daughters, my DVR is filled with back episodes of the MTV reality show "16 and Pregnant."
Each week the show tracks a different teen girl as she navigates the emotional drama of an unplanned pregnancy. From dysfunctional parents to unsupportive friends who dump her the minute she starts to show, it's heartbreaking. My own 16 year-old daughter said, "Part of you is disgusted, and part of you can't look away."
One of the most gut-wrenching scenes was watching a teen couple pore through photographs and profiles of prospective adoptive parents as they tried to choose the best possible life for their soon-to-be-born baby.
"Oh look, she water skis," said a seven-months-pregnant, braces-wearing girl as she peered at a photo of an attractive 30-something woman cutting through the water on one ski, smiling into the camera like she belonged in a ChapStick commercial.
"And he's a financial planner," said the teenage boy as he pondered the image of a button-down-shirted man who somehow managed to look friendly and responsible at the same time.
"I wonder what that is?" asked the girl. "It sure sounds like a good job."
It was the photo of the house that sealed the deal. An all-brick, two-story, white trim, black shuttered home, that just oozed of stability and security.
"Wow, look at their house." As the two teens stared at the suburban dwelling, their eyes were filled with hope and longing.
The girl fought back tears as she said, "A kid could sure have a nice life in that house."
Her own life had been anything but idyllic. She'd moved 13 times, her dad wasn't in the picture, and her mom's excessive partying had prompted her to move out several times during her childhood.
Her boyfriend hadn't had it much better. His dad had been in and out of jail a few times, and he'd also been bounced from place to place.
However, neither the boy's father nor the girl's mother were supportive of the teens' decision to put the baby up for adoption.
The boy's father, the man who had spent the better part of his son's childhood in jail, told his son that if he gave his baby to strangers it would mean he "didn't man up," telling him, "I guess you're not the cowboy I thought you were."
I guess the parents figured their own parenting had been good enough, so why not repeat the cycle. The teens felt otherwise. So there they were, two high school kids holding hands and crying as they looked longingly at the photo of the good-looking couple in front of the red brick house.
Were they crying for what they were giving up? Or what they never had?
A stable home, a dad who showed up for dinner every night, a swing set, the chance to water ski, and parents who, at least on paper, seemed grown-up enough to be there for their child.
It's a hard thing to rise above your own emotions and do the right thing for someone else. And sometimes the most mature decision you can make is to realize that you're not ready.
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I can't take any more. The economy is tanking, the election is endless, and now it looks like I might have to sell my blood if I want to keep my kids in mac 'n cheese. Oh, and did I mention that, thanks to falling house prices, I probably owe more on my home than it's actually worth? I want to go back to bed, pull the covers over my head and have somebody wake me up when my 401(k) bounces back. I don't know about you, but I'm finding myself so jittery about, well everything, that it's all I can do to surf the net. Kind of ironic, isn't it? I should be working more, but I'm so anxious about my finances that I'm actually working less. Alas, such is the world of grown-ups - stress, anxiety, depression. And to think that I wasted much of my childhood wishing I could be in charge of my own life. Why in the heck did I ever think that was a good idea? Give me a few cookies, a blankey and a nice place to lie down and I swear I'll never complain about an early bedtime again. These are tough times indeed. Even if you're still OK, you'd have to be one cold, hard, rich person to stay immune to all the angst in the air. So how do you cope? How do you get through today when you're so worried about tomorrow that you can't see straight? I overheard a news commentator say that people are thinking twice before they go out to eat or buy new clothes. I'm guessing that those are the people who still have jobs. Because the people without jobs aren't spending a nickel on anything except cheap carbs and keeping a roof over their heads. Yet as depressing as our collective and individual situations may be, the last thing we need to do is let our fear get the best of us. If you spend all day quaking and anxious, guess who wins? The fear. Yes, I know FDR had a roof over his head when he said "we have nothing to fear but fear itself," but he was right. Every moment you waste paralyzed with fear is a moment you could be doing something, or resting up so that you can do something tomorrow. It's been said that there are only two emotions, love and fear, and all the other emotions are derivatives of those. So I'd like to make a suggestion. Let's chose love. Let's decide to love each other and to love ourselves, no matter what happens. And if you're really a Pollyanna, perhaps you'll join me in deciding to love the fact that this crisis is serving as a call for us to become our better selves; a call for us to look within and rid ourselves of consumerism, greed and the need to keep up with the Jones; and a call for us to have more empathy for those who are struggling. Maybe this is a chance for all of us - and I include myself - to decide that we love our country and we love our fellow human beings more than we love our stuff. Yeah, I know it sounds hokey. But you don't change your circumstances until you change the thoughts that created them. Cowering under the covers in fear may feel safer. But in a crisis, the truly powerful response is love. (c) Copyright 2008, by Lisa Earle McLeod. All rights reserved. Lisa Earle McLeod is a keynote speaker, author and nationally syndicated columnist. Her books include "Forget Perfect" and "Finding Grace When You Can't Even Find Clean Underwear." Contact her at www.ForgetPerfect.com.
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