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!
Since both sides of my family are crazy cheesy fanatics for the holidays, I experience every holiday like they are straight out of the movies, or so it seems. Growing up on my dad’s side of the family, we would get together with the WHOLE family. I am talking 2nd, 3rd, and 4th cousins, maybe even 5th. It was crazytown, yet fantastic.
First and foremost you have to understand that my dad’s side of he family is huge. My immediate family on that side is probably average in size, but when you take into consideration the extended family, it grows exponentially. To this day I still have not met the entire family.
Since my parents had me so young, I was fortunate enough to know my great grandparents on my dad’s side for a very long time. We would spend a lot of my childhood Sundays and holidays at their house. Christmas time on my dad’s side of the family was always an adventure, more so when my three other siblings came along because it was always a fun time trying to get everyone ready to go. When my great grandparents were still alive, everyone would venture on over to their house in Azusa, California for a fun filled day of activities. We would also go to a Knights of Columbus dinner around Christmas time and Santa, who looked a lot like my grandpa, would come all the way from the North Pole to Visit our clan. The Knights of Columbus dinner was always held at the Knights of Columbus Hall and fortunately it was big enough to fit our family and close friends. Santa would bring us candy filled mesh Christmas stockings (do these still exist?) and he’d magically have enough for my entire family. Back then no RSVP was needed so how the hell did Santa know how many stockings to bring? As an adult, I feel as though I still do not have my shit together, even when requiring an RSVP. What kind of witchcraft is that? Anyway, Santa would patiently sit there and listen to what every one of my cousins wanted for Christmas and send them on their way. When I was old enough to know that it wasn’t the real Santa, I would crawl up on to his lap, lean over and whisper, “Hi Papa”. He would then smile and give me some nonsense about how he wasn’t my Papa, but the actual Santa. I loved him more for that. He would then give me a mini candy cane with my mesh stocking and send me on my way. I am not sure if he remembers this like I do, but I didn’t realize how special those moments were until I was a little older. I will cherish them until the day I die.
Around the same time as the Knights of Columbus Christmas dinner, we would go over to my great grandparents house to do a gift exchange with my extended family. Throughout the entire day, approximately 50 people (give or take a few) would come and go. My extended family includes my great aunt and great uncle’s families. I thought that getting together with extended family was a normal thing, but as I got older, I realized that my friend’s family’s didn’t do that. I am not sure how the gift exchange was organized, but it always worked out. I always remember being shy when initially getting to my great grandparents house, but eventually I would start to play with my cousins. I think I was intimidated by the amount of kids that were there since I was used to being the only child.
As soon as I would walk into my great grandparents’ house, I would be hit with the smell of menudo and I would start to salivate. To me, the smell of menudo is like a security blanket because as soon as I smell it, I feel comfort and safety. I would be greeted at the door by my great grandma with a big hug and my great grandpa would be either sitting at the table or in the backyard doing something with the family (because they got there on time). Our family (my dad cough* cough*) would tend to arrive a little late, but surprisingly we weren’t always the last ones to arrive. By the time everyone got there we would start the gift exchange. It was the 90’s and my family is Latino so you can probably guess the wicked cool things we got.
After the exchange was finished, us kids would go play among ourselves and the parents would drink and be merry. It was amazing that we got home safely because it was a full day of drinking and eating for the adults.
I will always have a special place in my heart for the memories I have of the Christmases spent at my great grandparents’ house and the Knights of Columbus because of how much time I spent there. Once my great grandma passed away, the family rarely got together anymore. She was like a magnet that we were all pulled towards. She was definitely the matriarch of the family. As a matter of fact, both my parents families are matriarchies. Boss lady’s all around and for that I am thankful.