How on EEErrrfff (and yes, I meant to spell Earth that way) did I get here? I know . . . The song lyric "Life is what happens to you when you're making other plans" by John Lennon is the best way that I can explain it. But since we're internet friends, I'll elaborate. Let's start from the beginning.
I'm the oldest of four daughters raised in a single parent household. My sex education at home included "You stay away from them no good ass muthafuckas" and "You heard what the fuck I said" and "Don't let me catch you even looking at them no good ass niggas." My classroom sex education included a video reel of a woman giving birth where most students, myself included, and was only left to the sounds of her screams. With no real guidance on understanding my body, dating, sex, or safe sex, and with extremely low self-esteem and the constant feeling of sadness and fear, at the age of 15, I became a #teenmom.
Time later, I learned self-worth, self-advocacy, and that I could build my own family support system that got me to graduate an alternative high school, gave me the courage to move to a
I'M NOT YOUR REGULAR MOMMY BLOGGER!
When I began to think about how to write my "mom" story, I looked to mommy bloggers Rage Against The Minivan, A Little Bit of Lacquer, and Sincerely Onyi . . . and I have to tell you that my "mommy story" is nothing like what I've researched.
COLLEGE IS USEFUL OUTSIDE THE CLASSROOM
My interest in nonverbal communication studies was for me to examine scenery, placement, and body language in advertisements and how its effects influences people of color attitudes and behaviors. While I am beyond my academic research days, I find that I am eagerly engrossed in reading people's body language, particularly as they get to know me. For the most part, I have very pleasant encounters - genuine smiles, out loud laughter, and even keen interest. But when I share that I have a 25 year old daughter, I am faced with body language that brings them closer in proximity, a heightened or lowered vocal tone, and the show of shock, stun, confusion, surprise, empathy, disappointment, sorrow, and even disbelief.
Yup, if you do the math, I was a teen mom at the age of 15. Let me help you understand how I arrived there.
Some #teenmom stories like this one and this one shares young womens' households before pregnancy and they speak of living in loving and supportive environments. However, my life before teenage parenthood is quite different. I was raised in a low-income, single parent household. As the the oldest of four daughters, the beginning of my life forced me into a lot of responsibilities at a very early age. I was not my mother's favorite child, I was not taught any real form of sexual education inside or outside the classroom, and I was not taught self-worth, which lead me to look for "love" in all the wrong places.
LOVE DON'T LIVE HERE ANYMORE
While I was raised in a single parent household, my home did not start out that way. I was born to a black mother and a white father in a very white neighborhood in Chicago. I had the privilege of a stay-at-home mom and I was the happy-go-lucky kid who wasn't interested in a lot of material things because my joy was Sesame Street, Mr. Rogers Neighborhood, The Muppet Show, doing activities at the local Chicago Park District, and waiting for my dad to come home from work. I would hear the key find its way into the lock, see gold colored, nickel finished lock and the door knob turn, and in walked this curly brown-haired, blue-eyed man that would allow me to lock my limbs around his leg and he would walk me through the apartment as if I was his favorite house shoe. When I was with my dad, I felt love; and the last day that he was at home was when my reality drastically changed. My mother became a different person and she took her anger and sadness out on me. I was quickly released from adoration and introduced to condemnation.
"IT'S A HARD KNOCK LIFE . . ."
As my mother worked her jobs often until bedtime, I was made to be the second parent of the household. During my middle school days, I was made to cook, do very thorough and specific cleaning regimens, go to the laundromat to do the laundry and come back to put it away, and help my sisters with their homework – all while making sure to do my homework without fail. There are some children who earned good grades and good behavioral marks to make their parents proud. I on the other hand, earned just passable grades and good behavioral marks in order to keep my mother from looking bad in front of teachers and social workers because I understood the consequences all too well if I made my mother look like a bad parent.
My self-worth was continuously drowned with almost daily statements like, “You ain’t shit”…… “You’re an ungrateful muthafucka”…… “You don’t need shit”……“Don’t ask me no muthafuckin’ questions”……and “I shoulda aborted your muthafuckin’ ass”. While all was explicitly demoralizing, I think the most confusing directive was, “Stay in a child’s place”, especially when I was made to do more than my sisters and other children that I knew. I graduated from eighth grade and moved up to high school. While some were excited that high school would bring them more freedom, my life responsibilities continued to grow.
ENTER THE HIGH SCHOOL FRESHMAN
There was very little under my control, but I was able to find peace in drawing. I curated quite a lot of drawings that got the attention of my teachers and they suggested that I apply to art-focused high schools - and I got in! The Chicago Public School system does not have a good reputation, but in all fairness, my household wasn't all that good either. I got into Curie Metro High School, but my excitement was quickly diminished when my mother found out it was about an hour away from home. Rants like, "How the fuck are you gonna take care of what you need to do here"......"You think you gonna be out here runnin' the streets"......."Who's gonna be here to help your sisters?"......."You a inconsiderate muthafucka you" quickly dashed away my dreams of being a part of the artist community in high school; and with that, my mother did what she needed to have me attend high school closer to home. So my first day of high school landed me at Sullivan High School, the only high school that was close to home so that I did not skirt any of the home tasks that my mother deemed necessary.
CONTINUE TO THE SOPHOMORE SCHOOL YEAR
I wasn’t popular by any stretch of the imagination, and in fact, I did everything to stay under the radar. However, my desperate need for love, attention, and affection lead to my getting pregnant, and that, made me infamous – at home and at school. I was not taught how to determine what I liked, how to date, what a date looked like, what love looked liked, what love felt like, or about human reproduction and the protections against it. My sex education from school was a video reel of a woman giving birth, so horrifying that many students, including myself, averted our eyes in order to not see her vaginal area riddled with blood, fluids, and tears. My sex education from home was my mother’s famous statement of, “You stay away from those no-good ass Niggas! You hear me?” Nowhere near sufficient information to protect my own body, let alone, how to protect against others. Not only was I given new labels of whore and slut in the school halls, I was targeted at home by my sister, enabled by my mother and vice versa. I didn’t understand the real definition or the origin of either of my new names – I just understood that they were not good.
I was told repeatedly that my pregnancy shamed my mother and the whole family, and after having my daughter, I walked on eggshells as to not anger my mother any more than she already was. My new added role of being a teen mom left me with very little time to do school work, so after a severely failed report card, I dropped out of high school and enrolled in an alternative high school for “troubled students”. What little “relationship” my mother and I had deteriorated further, as she put me and my daughter out of the house frequently, which lead to being "the hidden homeless" – more lovingly known as couch surfing.
HOW I GREW FROM MY TEEN MOM EXPERIENCE
If you have read up until now, I know that hearing my story is very difficult to believe or even digest; but the fact that you're here means that you are interested in other peoples' experiences, even if they differ from your own.
Some people have met me and have heard my story, and along with not believing that I am still a teen mom, they have a hard time grasping the abuse that I've experienced for a very understandable reason - I don't present as a "damaged" human being. Comments like, "You seem so normal" is a phrase that people belt out and then try to retract when they've realized that that statement could be offensive. After giving them the nod that I'm not offended, they go on to share that I seem so well put together. . .and let me tell you, that was not by accident. It took many years to obtain the "normal" characteristics that I now see in myself.
Once I was able to move beyond the environments I grew up in, I was able to learn beyond the negative comments that I had been told. My traditional college education introduced me to articles, fact sheets, research journals, catalogs, and even scripts. My access to knowledge, counseling services, campus and community resources, faculty, staff, and mentors helped to make me the person that I am today. Now, I'm not saying that a college education will save you from the perceived depths and sorrows that surrounds the phrase "teen mom" or "single parent". If you have a supportive and safe home environment, there are MANY alternatives to a college education. I just know that from my experience, it helped to save me.