I would like to take this time to thank my parents for my survival as a female. Let me explain. I watched Abducted in Plain Sight on Netflix the other day and that movie really got me thinking about my own childhood and about all the different people I was exposed to as a female child to teen parents. Let me just say wowza! So many thoughts were racing through my head while watching that documentary. I cannot compare my childhood to that of the star of the documentary because we had 100% different upbringings, but to a certain extent it isn’t that far off that I could have been abducted or abused by someone my parents were friends with. I wonder often how I made it out alive as a child of teen parents because I was exposed to so many different people, with whom my parents probably trusted completely. I was often placed in the care of friends of the family when my parents had no one to watch me. The 1980’s were a different time and much like the 1970’s, parents let their children play in strange homes and invited strangers in. My parents are pretty good judges of character, and that is one of the attributes that contributes to me never being abducted or abused, but even those who are keen and have an incredible sense of judgement can mess up, but holy cow, the parents in Abducted in Plain Sight couldn’t have been more naive and were TERRIBLE at reading people. I obviously don’t know them and don’t know what they went through, but the magic of movie making did a fantastic job at making them look like they had never met a single soul in their entire life. I feel awful about what they went through, but it only makes me that much more thankful that I was never sexually abused or abducted.
I have so many thoughts about why I am the way I am today because I had teenage parents, but it is difficult to put your own life in words. One of the most prominent thoughts that I have about myself is that I am well rounded because of the people I was exposed to as a child. I was always around adults and had no little kids to play with so I had plenty of time to observe those who were around me. Because I observed so much as a child, one of my skills as an adult is that I am really good at reading people and I am good at spotting a bullshitter or creep from a mile away. One of the things the documentary kept saying was that the predator was a master manipulator. Maybe I have never met one, or maybe I have and they were so good at it that I didn’t realize it, but I think I would know the difference between a good person and a predator and I am sure my parents knew the difference also, hence the reason I was never abused or abducted. I am sorry if that is repetitive, but I cannot stress the fact that some people are super questionable and if you can’t see that then you might be the questionable. Natural Selection is real people. I would like to clarify that I am human and I know that I am not perfect and have definitely done some pretty questionable things in my life, but you should always have your creep sensors up and running. It doesn’t matter what your sex is, there are creeps all around us and we should all be aware of our surroundings. Abductions and sexual abuse doesn’t only happen to females. I know we were all taught the term “Stranger Danger”, but maybe instead we should teach “Tricky People” because predators could be anyone, not just scary looking people. “Tricky People” was introduced as an alternative to “Stranger Danger” by Safely Ever After, Inc. and for my parent friends out there, you should go take a look at their website, it could be helpful once the time comes to teach your children about unfamiliar people.
When I was 16, I barely had my first kiss and even that was almost too much for me to handle. My eyebrows were a mess and I couldn’t even call to order pizza on the phone because I was afraid I was going to mess up. At 16 years young, I was afraid to speak up for myself and was too embarrassed to break up with a boyfriend because I was afraid to hurt his feelings. My parents were only 16 when they had me. I know there are thousands of more people out there who were also teen parents and who had parents that were teenagers so I hope this reaches some of them.
At 16 years young, my parents did the deed and produced life without meaning to. At 16 years young, my parents became parents themselves. They had to grow up faster than anyone they knew. As teenagers, my parents successfully kept an infant alive and that infant prospered. They made selfless sacrifices everyday. My teenage parents taught me how to be independent. My teenage parents taught me how to be a decent human being. My teenage parents taught me the importance of recycling and throwing my trash away in order keep this earth clean and not be a trashy person in general. My teenage parents taught me to open doors for everyone because as humans, we should be chivalrous even if we aren’t men. My teenage parents taught me to give without expectations of receiving anything back. My teenage parents taught me that it is ok to fail. My teenage parents taught me respect and how to be respectful. My teenage parents taught me that it is ok to talk to strangers, but it is not ok for a stranger to be inappropriate. My mom created a code word so that if someone other than her or my dad would pick me from school, I would know it was safe to leave with that person if they knew the code word. My mom told me to stay close to her at all times when we were out in public. My teenage parents taught me so much more than I could probably ever teach my children, but I will try my best when that time comes. My teenage parents had a better sense of being than some of my friends parents who were at normal child bearing age and it reflects in who I am as a person today. Not to toot my own horn, but toot toot. I make better choices because of how I was raised. It is so difficult to put into words about how I think of who I am as a person because of the way I grew up. Maybe to some people it doesn’t matter and they expect me to fail or to be naive because I was a product of teenage pregnancy or because of who my parents are, but that is ok. My parents are important to me because they gave me life, which is the greatest gift of all. However, my parents aren’t without flaw, and they had their fair share of questionable times, but we learn from our mistakes and that is how we grow.
P.S. If you are a teen parent, I just want you to know that you are doing a fantastic job and you matter and your child will know it when they are older. It might not seem like it now, but it will all be worth it! And if you are a product of teen pregnancy, then know that your parent/s are doing their best!
Joe The Rabbit was my childhood pet. While rabbits are normal pets, Joe was anything but normal. Joe was trained to go potty in a litter box. He also wasn’t who we thought he was. More on that later. I always wondered why we want pets as children. Is it because we see other kids with pets? Because it’s a right of passage? Or maybe because pets are fun, furry companions? I honestly don’t know, but I do know that I both loved and hated Joe.
Joe would bite me and constantly want out of my grip, but at the same time he was a cute, soft, tiny bunny rabbit! Even though my parents were young and couldn’t afford elaborate things, I still had pretty normal things as a kid, like pets and toys. I had plenty of pets with super fun names like Flojo (pronounced Flo-ho), Copenhagen (Copey for short), Trixie, and Joe. There are plenty others, but those are the most unique. I have no idea what my process was when naming my pets, but they were interesting nonetheless.
Feeling like he needed more space, Joe became potty trained so he could live freely outside his cage within our home. Living outside his cage started to become a problem. Not only did Joe like to bite me, he also liked to chew on electrical cords and put holes in our clothes. We already lived in a mobile home park and we didn’t need more of a reason for people to judge us, so holey clothes wasn’t going to fly (I am totally joking, this was never a problem, I just like to make light of the way we lived). Jokes aside, Joe was becoming more of a pest and my parents had to figure out a way for him to live in peace as well as us, so they built him a small enclosure outside in the garden area with chicken wire. They figured he needed to be outdoors and in nature because being inside all day wasn’t fair to him. This too became a problem because Joe started to burrow and started to form tunnels under the shed. My family was concerned about the amount of tunneling Joe had done under the shed, so again, my parents were faced with another decision of what to do.
They were in luck because they told me that some of their friends were moving a few hours away to a place that had plenty of land where Joe could roam around with their pet rabbit. Now I know how this sounds. My parents telling me that they were giving away my pet rabbit to roam free on open land with another rabbit friend sounds like a “your pet died so we are trying to ease the pain” speech, but it really wasn’t. I have written before that my parents told me everything and didn’t keep secrets, and this was one of those times. Joe really was going to a better home and even had a new friend he could play with and be happy. Well, he indeed was extremely happy. Remember at the beginning of this post I said that Joe wasn’t who we thought he was? Well, Joe was in fact Josephine! Not long after leaving our home, Joe became Josephine and a mother all in one day. Josephine gave birth and I know nothing. Apparently Joe was a Josephine all along and got busy with my parents’ friend’s bunny rabbit. That is the story of my pet rabbit, Joe. The end.
This post might come of as kind of sad or depressing, but I promise you, it isn’t meant to be. The message I hope you get from reading this post is that children adapt and learn quickly from their environment. Even though I didn’t have siblings to play with until I was eight years old, I still had an incredibly fun and happy childhood. I didn’t have many friends before the age of five because none of my parents’ friends had kids and I wasn’t in school yet. To pass the time, I would play on my own a lot or with whomever was taking care of me at the moment. While my mom and dad worked, my primary caregivers were aunts, uncles, and grandparents. My parents were so fortunate to have them around because without them, I’m not sure how my parents would have taken care of me. Most of the time I would just hang with the adults and do whatever they were doing. I loved to play dress up in my aunts’ school dance dresses, and I especially loved to wear their high heels around the house, but two of my favorite things happened when I was with both of my grandmothers.
Being in the presence of a grandmother is something special. Both of my grandmothers were and are the best. My Grams is no longer with us, but I am so fortunate to still have my Nana. My grandparents were obviously very young when I was born, so spending time with them was fun. Both grandmas always made sure I had the best, but most of all, they both made sure I was having fun and learning at the same time.
A lot of kids played grocery store when they were growing up, but were they as method actor as I? Probably not. When I would “play” I got super into my role as a grocery store shopper. In my mind, I was a mother out shopping for her family. My Grams was the one who always played “Grocery Store” with me and I would get serious with my shopping. I would take everything out of our pantry and place it on the table and “shop” for it. My Grams would lay down flat on the couch and I would use HER as a conveyor belt! I would scan my items on her belly, she would say “beep” and then I would place my items in a paper bag, pay for my things and walk away. In some way, I guess I had the whole “self-checkout” thing down before it even existed. I was definitely on to something! This is one of my favorite past times because doing this made me happy and it was so simple. My parents didn’t have to pay for a grocery set because I used the real thing. I didn’t have anyone else to play with so I made my own fun, and I learned how to shop on my own. Some people might think this is weird, but a kid has to do what a kid has to do.
Playing at my Nana’s was fun too because I had cousins that would come over and I could play with them and we could watch movies together. Sometimes, when we loved the movie so much, my Nana would let us “rent” the movie from her. Back then, videos were on VHS so there were definitely rules and regulations of how we could “rent” a movie. To teach us responsibility, my Nana made us laminated “rental” cards, just like a Blockbuster membership card. I thought it was so cool to have my own card and she even printed on it “Nana’s Video Rental” or something like that and we had to sign the back just like a library card. One of the rules was that we must rewind the video before returning it, and we had a specific time allotted to rent the video and there would be a late fee for late returns, though she never really charged us. My Nana even had a separate rewind machine that was only used to rewind VHS’s so we had no excuse for it to not be rewound. Having a “rental” agreement was so much fun because I felt like an adult and if you read my last blog post, you know that is was my dream to be a grown up. I felt so incredibly cool that I had my own membership. It was the best. I wish I still had my “rental” card because you best believe that I would still use it!
I think everyone has weird quirks about them and I love quirks. I think they make an individual unique and fun! It was unique things like grocery shopping on my Grams belly and renting videos from my Nana that kept me busy as a child. Another weird and awesome quirk is that my dad used to make me call to order pizza one pizza night and I hated it because I was afraid to talk to a stranger and possibly mess up the order. My dad would quiz me EVERY SINGLE TIME a song came on the radio to make sure I knew that singer’s name and how they died. What I did not know is that all of those little things help me function in my everyday life as an adult. I’m happy that I played grocery store and rented videos because when I got to an age where I started doing those things on my own, I knew what I was doing. It also helped that I got to go to the store with my parents and I got to go to the rental store because I got interaction with other people. Now days we can order almost everything in advance or have it shipped to our door and children and even adults aren’t getting that face to face time with other humans. As far as the random song facts go, they are pretty useful when you’re trying to impress people when they aren’t expecting you to know something. Like I’ve said before, you might not think your children are listening to you, but they are and they will thank you for it later in life.
Having teen parents seems all fun and games until someone gets in trouble for taking a baby to an inappropriate place. I was born at the end of the fabulous decade of big hair, arcades, and rock concerts, so naturally I had some kind of experience with all three. My dad’s sister would put my hair in curlers (the foam kind), my first concert would be The Doobie Brothers and The Steve Miller Band, and my first experience in an arcade would also be me watching my mom and aunt get busted by my Grams. Granted, I don’t actually remember watching them get busted because I was probably only a few months old, but I have been told the story time and time again.
Before I get into my story, I would like to briefly mention that I know first time parents don’t know what the heck they are doing, regardless of how old they are, but my parents would never intentionally put me in danger’s way. Considering that my parents were young teenagers when I was a child, I met countless people throughout my childhood and was never kidnapped or abused. I think that says a lot about the people that my parents were friends with because I have heard so many horror stories of abductions and sexual abuse, especially in the 90’s (circa JonBenét). Whether I was being looked after by a grandparent, a friend of a parent, or relative, I was always in good hands.
My parents and family members would take me everywhere with them. I used to go with my mom to watch my dad play football at his high school, I would go with my uncle and aunts places, and I even went to high school with my mom. I joke all the time that I went to high school twice because technically I did. I believe I even graduated from my baby class when my mom got her high school diploma. The only problem was that sometimes I was taken to places I probably shouldn’t have been. As a child I would go to some parties with my parents and be at home when they had parties at our house. The guests at my first birthday party were nothing but teenagers. In fact, I wasn’t even a year old yet when I got to experience my first arcade adventure. I wish I was old enough to remember it for myself, but second hand stories will have to suffice.
When I was born, I would spend time between both my parents homes, but my primary home was with my mom, her sister and brother, and my grandmother in a mobile home park. The town I grew up in wasn’t as developed as it is now so everything was within walking distance. My mom and her best friend (whom I call my aunt) decided it would be fun to go to an arcade that was about a mile or less from where we lived. Not thinking twice, they loaded me up in a stroller and took me along for the ride, no big deal. If I remember the story correctly, it was a little chilly outside and I wasn’t exactly dressed for the weather, which was strike number one. (Side note: When I think about the 80’s, especially when it comes to my life stories, I imagine a cheesy 80’s movie on loop). It must have been such an adventure to walk to an arcade with your mom and aunt and to see all of the wonderful neon colors, but I remember none of this. My aunt told me, “We didn’t think anything of it taking you to a smoke filled arcade, I mean gosh, you were with your mom after all.” She was being totally sarcastic though because knowing what they know now, I never would have gone to that arcade with them, but they didn’t know any better. Strike number two was that it was a smoke filled establishment, but because I was with my mom, everything was peachy. However, they were so incredibly wrong. My Grams stormed into that place and confiscated me (my aunt’s words) and exclaimed, “You took a damn baby to the fucking arcade?!” Strike number three: They took me. To a fucking. Arcade. Arcades were not like how they are today. They were smoke filled, teenager and adult filled, germ infested places. Less kid friendly, more cool place to hang out when there was nothing better to do. I can only imagine the looks of the other people that were close enough to hear my Grams scold my mom and aunt. Were other people interested that there was a baby at an arcade? Were they concerned? Did they even care? Short answer, probably not. The 80’s was a time for some weird shit.
Everytime I hear this story I imagine all of it happening like reverse Donkey Kong where Donkey Kong is the one trying to rescue the princess. Mario and Luigi take Donkey Kong’s precious princess out for a walk when they all of a sudden have to escape Donkey Kong’s wrath and to find safety, they seek shelter in an arcade. Donkey Kong discovers where they are and comes stomping in, demanding that the princess be returned to him. The princess was precious cargo, after all.
We should all just be thankful that I turned out fine and I don’t have too many quirks. Just kidding, I have a lot of quirks, but that is what makes me, me. Growing up was a lot of fun. I got to hang out with adults all the time and I got to hoard their cash (without them knowing) for future McDonald’s purchases. I learned how to read people and how to be stealthy. Most of all, I learned where NOT to take a child.