Thursday, July 29, 2010

Watching Teen Mom

I haven't watched MTV in years. I didn't have cable until late in college, so MTV wasn't a staple of my upbringing. Last year, I got into the madness that is Jersey Shore and ended up also DVRing a show called Teen Mom. I was a little worried about the idea behind the show. Was MTV going to glorify having babies at a young age? I hoped not.

It turns out the show is quite sensitive to the major issues teenage mothers face--questions about schooling, bad relationships with boyfriends, living with your parents, and not relating anymore to your friends. They even showcase one couple who gave their child up for adoption and show the aftermath of that decision. I'm actually quite impressed with it.

Season 2 started this week, and they've brought back the same girls to let the audience see how things are going. It's not been easy for these girls, and I felt my heart hurting a bit as I watched them struggle to be grown-ups.

We had a lot of babies in my class. Our first two girls got pregnant when we were 15. One proudly displayed her belly with BABY [arrow pointing down] T-shirts while the other one covered her belly with giant, over-sized outfits. More people got pregnant after that. It was kind of an epidemic for a while. Birth control is not something that was spoken of back then. This small, God-fearing Lutheran/Catholic town decided no one was having sex. Wrong.

And so babies were born. And some babies were not born. The latter were not spoken of. The former showed up around town and grew up and are now gorgeous teenagers. I saw one of the babies born to a senior from my class a few months ago--she is beautiful, smart, and looks just like her momma. It was crazy. I remember her being a tiny, little preemie right before I went off to college--and never saw her again until now. Now that she's almost an adult, parenting looks so easy. But I wasn't around for all of the hard years. I can't imagine what my friend went through.

As a 33-year-old woman who has no children, it's shocking to watch these teenagers on Teen Mom go through the process of becoming adults in a wicked-fast fashion. Given, many of them are still living with their parents because they can't afford to live on their own. Knowing how many of my friends had children so young, I sometimes find myself wondering what my life would have been like if I had gone down that road. I didn't have boyfriends in high school, so I basically didn't have the opportunities to get preggo that many of my friends had. At that age, I never fell crazy in love with a boy who loved me back. At the time, it made me really sad. But now I see it as a blessing. Life was hard enough back then without the trauma of a wild love affair--or an unexpected pregnancy.

So now I find myself watching the teen moms on TV with the curiosity of the childless. Yes, I've been around babies and helped watch babies, but I've never lactated because one is crying. I can distance myself from the hardcore mom feelings. I can look at Maci's ex and realize he is a giant DOUCHEBAG. I can roll my eyes when one of the girls makes a poor choice. But I try not to judge them. They, too, are just babies. They're working on it. And I really do hope they figure it out. The girls in my class sure did. I am very proud of them.


Maria said...

You know, I watched that show too and I was not nearly as impressed. I think I am just too old or something. All I could think of was that the boys (FATHERS!) all acted like they were about 12 and the girls (MOTHERS) all seemed totally clueless about what they were really getting into.

I think it would be interesting to see them in five years time to see how things are going. Walking through fire will tell the tale.

I hope they all make it, I really do.

Cindy said...

Great post - I watch with with the curiosity of the childless as well. Let's hope these kids are reaping the financial benefit and using it wisely!

Green said...

I'm also 33 and childless. What struck me is that the people who seem like they'd make the best parents are the two kids who gave their baby up for adoption.

I feel really bad for Leah, the baby of the black-haired girl who is ALWAYS angry and screaming.