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!
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.