The scariest moment of my life was how and when I became a teen mother. Almost equally scary (upsetting, embarrassing, devastating…) was when I learned that my teenager was about to become a father.
As Halloween approaches, I want to offer some tips for dealing with a situation much scarier than ghosts and goblins.
Have you heard about the McKamey Manor, the haunted house in Summertown (not my town though), Tennessee that requires a 40-page waiver? It’s being called the world’s scariest haunted house, and they are offering $20,000 to anyone who can make it through.
About 15 years ago I went with a group of friends to my last haunted house. There were the expected zombies, monsters, ghosts, and goblins. And of course there were unexpected creatures and features that made us run or made our hearts drop.
It was my last haunted house not because it was so scary- although it was. It was my last because I had already experienced something much scarier, and though I didn’t know it, I would experience things much harder to endure.
So I didn’t feel the need to pay for an experience to scare me.
Nine years earlier, I had become a teen mother. My worst nightmare at the time. And I did so as a result of a scary experience itself. When I went to the haunted house, I had already spent nine years trying to grow up and take care of myself while figuring out how to be a mother. And I would spend the next nine years as a single mother and sole parent to a preteen, teenager, and young man who needed much more than I could give him.
Those 18 years (plus six now) were full of fun and amazing memories, proud moments, and exciting times. They were also memories of experiences scarier than zombies, monsters, ghosts, and goblins- starting from the moment I sat in the health department examination room listening to the nurse telling the 15 year-old me, “Your pregnancy test came back positive”.
Even at 40 years old, successful and self-sufficient unlike the 15 year-old me, when asked if I want more children, the fear of possibly becoming a single mother and doing it alone again is scary.
Each day and probably every hour, people experience related scary moments. I get the emails and phones calls asking how to handle it that proves it. I hear from:
- teenagers who found out they are pregnant
- parents who found out their teenager is pregnant
- single women experiencing an unexpected pregnancy
All these people are scared and these situations are scary. Scarier than a haunted house.
When I published my memoir nearly 10 years ago, I simply wanted to:
- show teen parents they could still be successful
- help other teens avoid becoming teen parents
- provide a guide for single mothers to achieve their goals
So how do you deal with the scariness of teen (or potential) or unplanned pregnancy?
- Face the monster. Accept that our kids are exposed to sex. From television and music to peers at school and the internet, there is almost no way to prevent our kids from seeing it. We must accept this fact and arm our kids with information, real information.
- Don’t be scared. Having the sex talk with your kids might be uncomfortable, but it’s necessary. If you just can’t do it, encourage your children to find another trusted adult who will be open, honest, and nonjudgmental. And don’t be afraid to let them get informed through other programs with more knowledge, more resources, or more guts.
- Take off the masks. None of us are perfect. Including our kids. Let’s stop faking like they are or expecting them to be. Let’s keep pushing them to be their best while loving them through their worst times. Even if they become teen parents.
- Do your part (see above) to prevent it, but If it happens:
- Don’t blame yourself. You’ve done your best to educate and equip your child, but they are still individuals with influences (maybe stronger) other than you.
- Allow yourself to feel hurt, even anger. This is natural. Embarrassed, sad, frustrated, are some of the other emotions that come. On the other side of this is the recognition of the blessing of life.
- Be there for your child. You decide to what level and how, but don’t let your hurt make you push your child away when they need you most.
- Focus on the positive. No matter what the situation is, there are positives in it. Look for the positives in the situation and in your child. Sometimes this is hard…really hard, but it can make all the difference in making more positives come.
Share my story with a teenager you love to encourage them to experience scariness with haunted houses instead! Now through Halloween get a copy of my book, Life After Birth, for just $15.
So how did you handle the scary situation when you found out either that you were pregnant unexpectedly or that your child was making you a grandparent before you thought you were ready?