I read a lot of essays on sites like this about what it’s like to be a teen mom. But I don’t identify with many of those teen moms because I’m not white or privileged.
I wasn’t shunned from mommy groups — because there weren’t any mommy groups for brown girls from the hood.
I wasn’t shunned at all, actually. My experience involved a lot of looks and stares from 1996 society, but my family and friends were very supportive. Mainly because getting pregnant at 16 in a brown urban neighborhood was not uncommon and therefore not something that was seen as a complete life-ruining experience.
After all, my grandmother had my mother when she was 16 and my then-boyfriend’s mother had him when she was 19. It wasn’t until my son was much older that I felt the social stigma I often read about and by then I really didn’t care. My kid was better than the college-educated mothers who turned their noses up at me because I was 21 with a 4-year-old and no dirty look or comment would change that. It still doesn’t. Yes, it’s annoying, but they’re the ones who have to reflect on what they did or didn’t do to get on my level, not the other way around.
So while most pieces I read are sob stories about being a teen mom who never quite fit in, I realize how truly grateful I am that I had my son when I did. If given the chance to do it all over again, I wouldn’t change a thing.
My 20-year-old son — who is studying biochemical engineering on a full-ride scholarship, incidentally — is supposed to be here. No doubt about it.
I would not take back putting my life and dreams on hold.
I would not takes back ruining my perfect body.
I would not take back the mental and emotional abuse from people who felt they were better than me because they had more to offer their children.
I would not take back the struggles we experienced and the mistakes we made along the way.
I would do it all over again because I know it was being 17 that allowed my son and I to bond in a way that women having children later in their lives struggle with all the time. When I’d walk him home from school in the winter, we could stop and play for hours in snow banks under train tracks, not worried that I had some work deadline or that my body couldn’t handle it. I was (and still am) Player 2 on co-op first-person-shooter games. Women who had their kids later in life now come to me for advice about what to do with their kids. Women with these great houses and careers, degrees and husbands. Women with the means to send their children to camps, Gymboree and My Gyms all ask me what I did to raise such an intelligent, thoughtful, caring and amazing human being.
In a world where there are books and blogs and experts telling you the right and wrong ways to raise children, from 1996 to 2014, all I relied on was what I knew about being a child/teenager myself. I used truth and love to raise my son. I accepted the fact that my life as I knew it was over and that I’d be making sacrifices in my attempt to raise a productive and positive member of society, which I know is what every parent comes to realize, but unlike most parents (my own included), I also made sure my son knew that.
When people ask me how I raised a child that is so incredible, I tell them that a) it was a group effort. We couldn’t have done so without the help of the “village” (parents, friends, faculty and community). And b) I was a child forced to take on a very adult task, and I shared that experience with my son along the way. He saw the struggles and the tears that came with them and when he asked what was wrong, I told him. Whenever I was scared, he knew what was scaring me. Whenever I wanted to give up, he knew why. We grew up together, the three of us, kicking and screaming and laughing and loving the entire way. That’s why we made it, because we did it together and didn’t care if it was perfect.