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.
My parents are married and all of my siblings are from the same parents. I’d just like to get that out of the way because I get asked a lot if my parents are still together and if my siblings and I come from the same parents since there is such a big age gap between us. It is uncommon for people in my parent’s situation to still be married and there were times where they almost weren’t, but they have come a looooong way. I am a firm believer that no one has the whole marriage thing down because the truth is, life is constantly changing and we have to change with it. My parents have overcome many obstacles, but now that all their children are grown, it will been fun to see what their life will be like sans school aged children. My parent’s obviously did things a little backwards, but they did do things like other couples did. They got married, had kids (one before marriage, obvi), and bought a house. Their wedding wasn’t grand, but it was special.
Weddings have been around for a long time and even though weddings have evolved over time, the gist is about the same. Family and friends come together to celebrate the union of two people and eat and drink and have a heck of a time. In most weddings, the father of the bride walks down the aisle with the bride or groom and “gives them away”. This is all usually done in a fancy environment and your kid is usually not in attendance because first comes love, then comes marriage, then comes a baby in a baby carriage (for the record, I don’t believe you have to be married to have kids). Certainly, at most weddings, guests do not show up with their half naked baby in tow…because it is a wedding…but someone did just that at my parent’s wedding. I understand that styles change, and to each their own, but in the case of the wedding of my mother and father, some standards were thrown out the window for some people who were in attendance (but did they even have standards to begin with? Probably not). Maybe it was because some guests thought, “Oh, they already had the baby so this is just a formality”. Or maybe it was because the wedding was being held in a backyard and not a fancy reception room. I don’t know. What I do know is that it was the most exciting day of my life because my mom and dad were getting married and my mother looked beautiful in her dress. My dad, while he was handsome as ever, wore black dress shorts and a penguin tail suit jacket (please see the below photo). I was five years old when my parents got married and thought it was normal to be at their wedding. Looking back at it, I probably thought all little kids attended their parents’ wedding. I think I may have just started school, or was about to start, so I had no little kid friends to compare lives with.
The coolest part about my parent’s wedding was that I got to give my mom away to my dad (and one of the guests gave me a Precious Moments doll). I got to wear a pretty dress and flower crown (I was obsessed with both), and I was able to walk down the aisle with my mom like a grownup. I think my childhood dream was to be a grownup. Most kids probably wanted to be things like a firefighter or superhero, but I just wanted to be a grownup and walking down the aisle with my mom allowed me to feel like one. She didn’t have a relationship with her dad, so it was my responsibility to fill that part. I think that as I write this, I am just now realizing that I wanted to be her protector because she didn’t have one. She was my protector, and I was her’s. Yes, she had her mom, her siblings, and my dad, but in my eyes she was my responsibility just as much as I was her responsibility. Sounds strange, but it makes perfect sense in my brain. I think those kind of emotions are pretty heavy for a five year old and it shows.
Like any adult in a wedding party, I got to stand at the altar with the bride and groom. In reality it was more like, “You’re our kid daughter so ya, duh, you are a part of this as much as we are,” but I didn’t feel like a little kid. At times I felt so grown up, and when I wasn’t included in things, I got offended. Those aren’t really feelings that a five year old usually has, but I did. I also thought about things like how people were going to get home safely if they had been drinking, and I consciously thought about what to and what not to say in front of certain people. To me, that is a ludicrous skill to have at five years old. People might have known or might not have, but I was ALWAYS listening. Not that I was being nosy, I was just taking mental notes of how to be an adult. This is why I tell my friends to watch what they say around their kids because it could potentially stick with them for their whole life and impact how they make decisions. I am glad the adults in my life growing up weren’t dumb dumbs because I would be royally screwed.I think as a kid I was always in my own thoughts and analyzed things way too much, which is where some of my anxiety comes from. I was never that kid who would go off and play with other kids, partially because I was the only kid around, but also because I was more interested in what the adults were doing.
Someone once asked me if I always knew my childhood was different or if I had to be told it was different and the short answer is yes to both questions. One thing that you have to understand about having teen parents is that I didn’t know any different, just like you didn’t know any different about your upbringing. I knew that my parents were young when they had me and I knew that we were not a typical traditional family, but what is typical anyway? To be honest, I dislike when people talk about what should be “traditional” or “typical” because we live in a world where things like that shouldn’t matter. You should do what is best for you and your family and do what is ‘traditional’ for you. I was always treated like an adult while growing up, I was never lied to and my parents never fabricated stories to hide things from me. I am sure they told me sugar coated versions of some things to keep my child brain safe, but for the most part, they told me anything I wanted to know. I always knew that I came from a complex situation and that my upbringing was different from other children, but I was and still am proud of my upbringing. I was the luckiest five year old because I got the honor of walking my mom down the aisle and witness my parent’s marriage to one another. Most people can’t say they got to participate in something so special. My parent’s marriage wasn’t and isn’t perfect, but whose is?
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.
Happy New Year, Zoo Fam! I am sending all of you good health and well wishes in 2019! As we ring in the new year and work on our resolutions, let us also remember the difficulties we may have faced in 2018. Life can be difficult sometimes and that is perfectly fine.Bounce back and own 2019. I for once had an amazing year filled with accomplishments. I snagged a badass internship with an organization that cares deeply about sexual and reproductive health, I finally received my bachelors degree, I turned 30 years old, and I started this blog! To some people those might not be huge accomplishments, but to me they are and I plan on having an even more accomplishing 2019. It has taken me a long time to get to where I am today and for that I feel grateful and accomplished.
Today’s blog is about new beginnings and what better way to start the new year off with the story of how my mom found out she was pregnant with me and my quick arrival into this world. Without getting too deep into the conversation of “when does life begin”, I will start my “life” off as when my mom found out she was pregnant with me because that seems like a fair place to start.
My mom never wanted to have kids. Granted, she was only 16 years old when she had me so who can say 100% that would have been the case when she was older, but we will never know. She went on to have three more children after me so, yeah. Anyway, back to me!
I was the biggest “oops” that could probably happen, but I was the most loved “oops”. I was never actually seriously referred to as an “oops” (maybe as a joke), but we all know that no one has their shit together at 16 and doesn’t plan on having a child at that age so an “oops” is an appropriate description. My mom kept complaining about stomach pain, so naturally she and my Grams assumed it could be appendicitis. My Grams took her to the hospital and had some tests done. This is where the details get a little fuzzy because I don’t exactly know how the doctor ended up talking to my mom alone, (because she was a minor) but after the exam was finished, the doctor asked my Grams if she would like to go in and see my mother. Once she was inside the room she noticed my mom was crying with her head in her hands. As my Grams entered the room, my mom sobbed into her hands, “they said that there are two heart beats,” meaning my heart beat and my mother’s. My Grams immediately hugged my mom and started to laugh. Laughing in a crisis must run in the family because my aunt (mom’s sister) had the same reaction when my mom told her about the pregnancy. My mom didn’t really have any other symptoms of being pregnant because she still had her period and she grew sideways instead of outward (her words, not mine). It was at this same doctors appointment that she found out she was FIVE months into the pregnancy.
My mom waited a whole week before she told anyone else about the pregnancy because she wanted to seek out alternative options before making a decision that would ultimately change her and my dad’s life. My mom visited a clinic almost immediately after she found out she was pregnant with me to see about an abortion, but she was too far along and the procedure couldn’t be done. She then weighed the option of putting me up for adoption, but she couldn’t bear the thought of me being in a home where she would have no idea if the people were good people or not. So, ultimately she decided to keep me.
Now, all of that information that I just shared might sound harsh or cold, but I never once hated my mom for the options she weighed. I don’t blame her for telling me about them either. If I were in her shoes at 16 years old, I probably would have weighed the same options. It also blows my mind that she, as a 16 year old, had the smarts to think of my future when considering putting me up for adoption. She could have said “fuck it” and given zero fucks of where I ended up, but instead, she thought about my future and what kind of home I might be placed in. Yes, she did consider abortion, but she was thinking of my future life. She had no idea what kind of life she could provide for me and we all know that at that age (and era), a majority of the time the responsibility for taking care of a baby as a teen parent falls on the mother. That was a lot of responsibility to consider and it wouldn’t just affect her. The responsibility would fall under anyone who was responsible for my mom and anyone who was responsible for my dad. That is a lot of people’s lives to have to consider.
She obviously decided not to put me up for adoption because if not, you would probably be reading a completely different type of blog. I was born premature at 7 months gestation. My mom and dad had a whole whopping two months of knowing I was coming and to prepare, but I didn’t even make it long enough for my mom to have her baby shower.
I was fortunate to be born into two families who valued my life. Life for everyone was altered once I was born and everyone put all of their efforts into making sure I had the best of everything. My birth affected both sides of the family and it was a huge adjustment that was not resolved over night. Not every child born to teen parents, or any parent for that matter, is as fortunate as I was. I’ve lived an incredible life thus far, and it only continues to get better. I am a huge believer in fortuity and all of the decisions my mom and dad made for me has lead me to where I am today in some way or another. I am my future.
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.
Who really remembers the last moment or time they believed in Santa Claus? I think for most people that is a tough question because as we get older, our memory fades or changes. I have many memories where I remember being excited about Christmas and the lore of Santa Claus, but there is only one time that I explicitly remember thinking Santa was a real person, but before I share that memory with you, let me give you a glimpse into my life during the holidays when I was a child. I had to break this into a two part post because I will be describing memories from when I was extra young and from when I was a little bit older. Either way, both deserve their own post.
I was incredibly lucky to be born into two families who love the holidays. Being the first child and grandchild on both sides of my family was pretty cool because I got to reap the benefits even more during the holidays. I was the only child around so I received double the attention and double the love. I was a very well mannered kid who rarely asked for anything so when Santa Claus came to visit, it was a real treat because I felt like Santa really understood me since he gave me everything I asked for. I miss the magic of Christmas that I once believed in as a child. I still wholeheartedly believe in Christmas magic, but it just feels different as an adult. The excitement of knowing the stockings would be magically filled in the morning and we would be eating papas and chorizo for breakfast was elating. The anticipation of christmas was and still is a gift in itself. Maybe some of that magic will come back once I have kids of my own. Growing up, I never knew what to expect at family gatherings and to this day I expect the unexpected. Getting together with family as an adult can be incredibly fun and harmonious, or it could be a complete nightmare. Either way, it was and is always a surprise.
I lived in Southern California growing up and believe it or not, it wasn’t hot as f*** in December like it sometimes is now. We were actually able to wear simi heavy winter clothes and the ski resorts got actual snow and didn’t have to make their own (and they say global warming isn’t an actual thing :p). It was actually cold enough to put our heaters on. As silly as it sounds, the sound of the heater actually triggers happy thoughts for me during Christmas time. My Grams used to live with us for a while and she had this gigantic entertainment center that was in the living room. During the holidays, the entertainment center was home to a lot of Christmas decorations. Among those decorations were our stockings which hung from the shelves instead of the fireplace. Red, green,orange, and blue Christmas lights intertwined with the decorations and stockings on the shelves, while fake cotton snow was shoved in between ceramic Santas. The reflection of the Christmas lights on the entertainment center and Christmas tree would bounce off the ceiling and twinkle all over the room. We would leave them on all night so we could hold on to the magic as we slept. I was a weird kid who liked to occasionally sleep in the living room anytime of the year, but I especially enjoyed it during the holidays. The heater would kick on and the smell of the heater and christmas tree would find its way to me, and I would open my eyes to find the bright reflection of the christmas lights dancing in front of me. I couldn’t see anything else but the lights and couldn’t smell anything else but the heater and christmas tree. It was an amazing thing to experience and it is what I think of today to remind myself of what the magic of Christmas is. When I had those moments as a child, I knew that Christmas was coming and with that came the claymation movies, Alvin and the Chipmunks (record, not movie), the music, the food, and so much more. Those were some of the things that made up the Christmas season in our household and those are the things I look forward to and hope to share with my children someday.
Most people would probably agree that the best thing about Christmas is getting together with family. While I agree that this is awesome and fun (and I definitely cherish my family and time together), one of the most special things to me about Christmas is my stocking. My Grams made all of our stockings from scratch and each one with a different pattern. Not one of them is the same. In fact, my dad’s stocking is extra long because he is extra tall. The stockings are so special to me that when my Grams was still alive, I asked her to make a stocking for Justin even though at this point in time we hadn’t even said ‘I love you’ yet. It was a big risk to take, but I am glad that I did because it was also at this point in time that her health began to decline rapidly. Because her health was failing, she gave her stocking pattern to my aunt and had my aunt sew them for her, but it is still just as special. So now Justin and our dog Juno (and subsequent dogs) have their very own Grams stocking. Why is it that we cherish things more when the people we love the most are gone?
Now that you know part of what makes Christmas so special to me, I will share with you the one memory that sticks out in my mind of the last time I believed Santa Claus was real. It was before my parents were married and I split time in between both grandparents houses. When I was with my mom, we lived with my Grams and during this specific Christmas, I was probably about three or four years old. My Grams was opening her gifts and there was a beautiful small package that was meant for her from Santa. I remember being excited for her to open it merely for the fact that my relatives were embellishing that the gift was from “Santa”. If I remember correctly, it was a beautiful pair or ruby earrings. They may have not been ruby, or even red, but I remember her getting earings and everyone was in awe. Maybe I am remembering this incorrectly because I was three or four years old, but it has stuck in my mind ever since. I couldn’t believe that Santa loved my Grams so much that he would bring her a pair of such beautiful earrings. We weren’t well to do and literally everyone on both sides of my family worked their asses off to provide, so I was surprised at such a fancy gift. The love and thoughtfulness behind such a special gift is part of the magic of Christmas I miss so much.
Live and love well this Christmas, Zoo Fam. Stay tuned for Part 2.
Pop culture has taught us how to glorify one-sided social media and TV and sometimes we forget that there are multiple sides to every story. Two of the most popular TV shows that demonstrate this are 16 and Pregnant and Teen Mom. On those shows, we get to follow the lives of teen parents, but what we are really watching is the exploitation of their struggles and failures as parents while their successes get ignored. Don’t get me wrong though, most of what they show on TV is non-sense and it’s all for ratings, but the stories we don’t really get to see and understand is that of the child who is effected. This has a lot to do with the child being so young, but also because TV likes to dramatize their parent’s lives to make a good story. In this blog it is my mission to provide a voice to those children and to other people like myself who are products of teen pregnancies. I have been alive long enough to share stories of a child born to teenage parents and I suppose I wonder if there are any other people out there like me who suffer from anxiety or other ailments from similar experiences. Most of the time we hear from the perspective of the teenage mother, but now I want to share from the perspective of the child because I feel like our voice is often overlooked.
Feeling like you are sometimes overlooked or not heard can drive you crazy, but what happens if you live with a bunch of crazy people just like yourself? Let us talk about crazy people for a minute. I’m not talking about the clinically insane (or am I?). All of our families have crazy members. My family is full of them. In fact, I am one of them. But I love them and they love me. Those crazy people are who shaped me into the person I am today. Those crazy people were always around when I was a baby and young child, but the most important thing is that they were loving and caring people who helped my parents tremendously. I come from an amazing, yet complicated background. I was born to teen parents which is tough enough, but being born to teen parents where both came from divorced families made it even more difficult. The odds were definitely not in my parents favor, but they overcame the odds in more ways than one. Both sides of my family had to learn together what it was like to raise teenagers and their infant daughter. We all grew up together and we continue to grow whether we are living near or far. When I was a kid, one of the running jokes my aunt used to tell me to try and scare me when I was acting up (which was almost never because I was a weird kid and I never cried or got into trouble) was that she was going to take me back to where I really came from. She was going to take me back to my real parents (monkeys) at the zoo (probably because I was a hairy child and my parents were crazy like monkeys). If you find this funny and want your kid to turn out totally cool like me, I have many character building stories just like this one so stay tuned! If you really think about it though, a lot of families are ‘zoo-like’. There are so many different dynamics, but it works. It is because of things like telling me that I was born at the zoo that I have a twisted and sometimes morbid sense of humor. It wasn’t always sunshine and rainbows being raised by teen parents. There were many ups and there were many downs, but I never went without and my parents always put me first. And to be clear, I had an amazing childhood, but it definitely wasn’t perfect.
It took me a very long time to mentally get to where I am today and I hope to grow even more as time passes. Finishing school in the last year and a half and finally getting my bachelor’s degree felt like one giant therapy session. Switching my major from Liberal Arts to Psychology was one of the best decisions I ever made. Not only did I grow as a person, I was able to recognize things about who I am and where I come from in a way that I have never thought about before. I have a better and deeper understanding of who I am and where I came from. I also gained a new form of respect for my parents and myself.
I used to be an extremely anxious person all the time with high levels of anxiety because I was constantly waiting for the other shoe to drop. In my adolescence and early twenties I chose to dwell and remember only the bad things that I had gone through with my parents (fights, family drama, being everyone’s therapist), but what I failed to see was that those experiences were important because my family was learning as things were happening. My grandparents had no experience in raising children that had a child themselves. Since I did know some of my family member’s deepest thoughts and secrets, I developed a lot of character and personality over the years, but I also gained a huge weight on my chest knowing the personal individual struggles of family members. I shouldn’t have had to hear the fights or known everyone’s business, but it is because of those experiences that I am who I am today. Those experiences and memories outline the conversations I have with my partner, teachers, co-workers, friends, and strangers on a daily basis. We are 100% made up of our memories and experiences. Without our memories and experiences, we would have nothing. We would be walking around mindless and emotionless. Just always remember that the experiences you want your children to have will define who they could become in the future. Don’t let your kids do asshole things because chances are they will do asshole things as adults. You are the creator of your life and the creator of your child’s life.
I am so excited to be writing again, but sometimes my words don’t work when said out loud so writing helps me express myself when words fail me. The way I speak to myself in my brain is nothing like what I sound like in real life. I feel like I am my true self when I am writing. I am 100% uncensored and honest. It is kind of like writing in a journal for the entire world to read. I may not have a million followers, but it makes me happy to be writing for those of you that are reading this and I hope that through my writings I might be able to help someone else who is going through a difficult time or that just needs a break from their norm. I want to document my life experiences to let you know you aren’t alone in your struggles. Everyone is human and has problems and if they try to tell you otherwise, then they are just lying to themselves and are full of shit.
There ARE silver linings and pots of gold at the end of rainbows, but that doesn’t come without a few storms here and there. I think a lot of people try to escape the craziness of their lives in hopes of finding peace by leaving. I did it. While some people might call it running away from their problems, I call it trying to find sanity and inner peace. When I left California I left my entire family behind, I left all of my friends behind, and I left behind all of the beautiful mountains and beaches California has to offer. But the most amazing thing I left behind was my anxiety (not all of it, but most of it…life would be boring if I didn’t have a little anxiety…said no one ever). Even though I left the crazy in California, I find myself wanting the crazy back. Not all of the time, but once in a while. I want to hug my family and friends and go to the beach. Sometimes I just want someone to take me back to the zoo.