A little less than a month ago, my daughter texted me from school. This happens on an almost daily basis, so I didn't think anything of it. But the content made me raise my eyebrows a little. Hey Mom, Sami is coming over after school. We need to talk to you about something. You're going to be mad.
Well, that's interesting. I am? I asked.
Yes. You're going to yell at me.
My curiosity piqued, I spent the next hour pondering what she might be needing to tell me: that she crashed the car; she wanted to drop out of school to join the circus; she needed to know how to get blood out of clothing and couldn't tell me why... Then my phone notified me of another text.
Mom, I'm going to tell you now, because I can't do this in person. I'm pregnant.
My world narrowed to a pinhole in an instant as I stared at the words, the hand holding my phone frozen, unable to set it down or even close the screen. My other hand was still holding a cup of tea in midair. My mind started pushing the words away, insisting that this couldn't possibly be true. No. No no no NO! Not my daughter. Not my beautiful, smart, talented 16-year-old daughter. This had to be a prank. This simply could not be my reality now. We were a good family. Things like this didn't happen to good families. Did they?!?
Things like this don't happen to good families might be the most shaming sentence ever constructed. And maybe one of the most unquestioned, unless one of "those things" happens to your family. We all like to believe that we can create a protective bubble and place our loved ones inside of it, and that by doing so we can keep all manner of harm away from the people we hold dear. And by "harm", I mean all the things that we secretly hold in judgement. Addiction, adultery, homelessness, suicide, mental illness, teen pregnancy. All the things that we talk about in hushed tones. We hear about these things happening to other people, and in response we start writing our inner narratives about why those things could never happen to us. Because the idea that it could happen to us is too terrifying to contemplate, so we make up all the reasons why it couldn't. This allows us to sleep at night, and go about our daily lives feeling some measure of security. This works really well, too, except for the tiny fact that it puts a wall between us and the people who most need our love and compassion. But that actually works for us too, because it means that we don't have to come face-to-face with the most basic truth of human suffering: that the person experiencing one of "those things" is just like you.
When my daughter was around 13, she asked me what I would do if she got pregnant as a teenager. We talked about how a pregnancy would affect her life, and how hard it would be to take care of a baby when you have school and can't work full-time. We talked about how the kind of life a teenage mom could offer would be very different from what a grown woman with a stable income could offer. My daughter has plans for college, and for a career. She knows all about the importance of safe sex, and that we believe sex should be saved for loving, committed relationships, between two people who are mature enough to handle the consequences that come with sex. She has a good relationship with her dad. We have weekly scheduled family nights that we all prioritize. We eat dinner together at the table.
In short, we checked off all the boxes, and theoretically this should have meant that a teen pregnancy would not happen. But it did. So what does that mean?
I have a friend who is a Zen Buddhist priest. We have been writing to each other for four years, and periodically I'll complain to her about some stupid thing my daughter did, and how much she drives me crazy (everybody raising a teenage daughter should be so lucky as to have a Zen Buddhist priest on speed dial). My friend always reminds me that we can't really control our children, nor should we try. We do the best we can to give them good examples and show them the way, but ultimately they make their own choices. And that's the rub, isn't it? We have no real control over the lives of our children, the people we love more than anything else on the planet. There are no guarantees they will make good choices, or even that they will be safe. So what's a parent to do?
Right now, I'm going with loving them, doing my best to guide them, supporting them, and trusting them to deal with the consequences of their actions. And as for me, I'm taking a lot of naps, watching comfort television, and leaning on my friends. Because while I can't control my daughter's choices, I can control mine, and I'm choosing love. For my daughter, and for me.
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Hi there, I'm Amy. I'm so glad you're here. I'm a writer, photographer, mom, wife, and highly sensitive introvert, just trying my best to show up fully for myself, my family, and my life. It all gets a little crazy sometimes, and it helps to have a place to connect honestly about what's really going on. This is my place.