Published on MilwaukeeMoms.com – Coach Bx’s Candid Corner
February 5, 2010
The controversial subject of teen pregnancy became the focus of a conversation a friend and I had months ago over dinner.
Now, I’m not a strong proponent of many TV shows because I honestly think that even reality shows often times do not reflect reality after all the editing. Though I no longer have cable TV and have never been able to watch ‘MTV’s 16 and Pregnant’ documentary series, I will say that it is about time we have TV shows that give transparency to real life issues we are facing in our nation (but have been kept hush hush for so long).
To some, this exposure may seem like a kiss of death for our nation’s youth. To me, I believe it can be a form of education for those with curious minds to understand the challenges and sacrifices made as a consequence of teenage pregnancy. My true (un)Hollywood story is that I was sixteen and pregnant in 1993.
Our culture accepted it.
That doesn’t mean jack to me that young marriages have been accepted in my Hmong culture for a long time. I was still only sixteen. What business did I have being married and pregnant at sixteen? My parents raised me to place education as a high priority in life. I maintained a GPA of 3.1 and lived a very normal American life before eloping. I didn’t understand the permanency of marriage. I didn’t know how difficult things would end up being as a teen wife and mother. I was just enjoying the thrill of the freedom I perceived I would receive with a marriage and being in love (or so I thought).
I almost got stabbed at Lady Pitts.
I dropped out of school after one semester at Rufus King because I was overwhelmed. I was ashamed and embarrassed to attend school knowing I was married and living in a new city with a new family having left behind all my friends, memories, and parents. In our culture, a girl must let go of her single life and start anew, leaving trinkets and photos behind of life before marriage. I grew up in Green Bay where there were only about two Black families in our school. In MPS, I had seen more Black folks in one class room than I had in my whole life. I spoke with Valley girl vernacular and was teased for it. I didn’t have the street slang accent, but made a conscious effort to acquire it with good practice. After feeling as though I’ve failed my family and myself, I decided to attend Lady Pitts, a school for pregnant teenagers, where one day I ended up being five feet away from a butter knife altercation two girls had while fighting over the fact that they shared the same baby Daddy (I wish I was kidding about this). So I waited anxiously hoping Project S.T.A.Y. High School would accept me into their alternative education program.
When you fall, pick yourself up again and learn.
I graduated from Project S.T.A.Y. only one semester behind my original class with a high school diploma and final 3.5 GPA. I used my life story in an essay that awarded me a full scholarship to attend UW-Milwaukee. I graduated from UWM with my Bachelors degree in Business Administration. I recently graduated with high distinction from Cardinal Stritch University with my Masters degree in Business Administration. I am a happily divorced co-parent of an amazing almost sixteen-year-old son who is just the apple of my eye.
Children learn from you more than they do from TV.
So when you tell me that it’s the media’s responsibility for exposing the right shows or censoring things to protect our kids, I say that I disagree with you. It is our responsibility as parents to keep our children informed, educated, and aware of the people and world around them. Shame on us if we are relying on MTV to babysit our kids when we’re at work or too busy tweeting. If you are communicating with your kids on a regular basis and a bond or trust exists, you are more likely to be a strong influence on them than TV. My son saw the struggles in our life and does not take his existence for granted. Being exposed to the fact that his parents were teen parents, father was in a gang, and mother was a drop out at 16, he has greater clarity about real life issues because it came directly from a reliable source: his loving parents. No TV show can compete with the words that come out of your parents’ mouths. That is why it is so important to be impeccable with your words and actions.
When you have gratitude, you find the silver lining in all experiences good and bad.
I’ve been very fortunate to have been raised by such a loving and caring family, both my biological family and my exes-in-law. Yes, getting married young was my choice. Yes, getting pregnant as a teenager was my choice. Yes, dropping out of school was my choice. I don’t pass blame on any one, nor am I regretful or resentful for the events that occurred in my life. I wouldn’t be where I am today had I not made the choices I did. I’m not touting teenage marriage or pregnancy and I’m not going to sugar coat anything either. It was freakin’ difficult. Yes, all of it! However, I wouldn’t change any of it for the world.
Enjoy being a teenager because you only have one opportunity to be sixteen in your life time.
Learn to understand others and not be so quick to judge; for each of us have a unique story to tell.
Character cannot be developed in ease and quiet. Only through experience of trial and suffering can the soul be strengthened, ambition inspired, and success achieved. ~ Helen Keller
Though I still maintain and say with the strongest conviction that I had no business being married and pregnant at sixteen, I definitely learned an invaluable lesson and I hope, from reading my story, you have too.