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Sarah Henson

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Life's Detours Don't End the Story

Posted: 12/29/11 01:44 PM ET

I wonder what my life would have been like had Teen Mom been popular when I had my son at age fourteen. I wonder if the stares would have lasted as long or if the shame would have moved inside of my heart where it lived for years.

Of course, I have never seen a teen mom on the television show whose father was on the cover of Time magazine or whose congregation had 30,000 members! My situation is significantly different from those depicted on the show but, I can't help but wonder how less lonely I would have felt had I known that someone else understood my plight.

There once was a time when teen moms were treated like lepers. Other parents did not want their daughters to be seen with a girl whose belly was growing well outside of her frame. So they isolated those girls, made sure they realized that their life was different, that from that moment on they should be very rarely seen and almost never heard.

This tradition has carried on long before I was even born. Families would send their child to live with a family member or take them to a local clinic just so their communities wouldn't know that this once innocent girl would be turning into a woman long before her age reflected adulthood.

Now, what was once leprosy has become glorified in many ways. Our television screens are inundated with young girls struggling to raise children while finding their own paths in life. Balancing a crying baby and a midterm exam, we are allowed to view her journey from the inside, and to see the trials she faces up close.

Watching these shows, I wonder if a balance can exist between shunning teen moms and using entertainment to incite a young girl's curiosity to follow the same path?

Any parent can tell you regardless of how many books you read or shows you watch nothing compares to the real deal. So while the shows give a glimpse into the life of teenage motherhood, it cannot fully capture the difficulties that exist.

There are self-esteem issues that often plague young mothers for years after the child's birth. At an age when most girls are wondering whether or not their first crush would be requited, I was wondering what was going to be the best way to tell my crush that we wouldn't just be dating anymore -- there was a baby involved.

The best gift that we can offer those young girls who are still finding their way are stories of survival that come from others who have overcome the difficulties that exist when raising a baby when you're still a baby.
We make a mistake when we think our voices are not valid on the issues that we struggle with personally. The reality is that our past is what qualifies us to speak to those who are flirting with the very issue that caused us grief.

As parents we often believe hiding our reality is the best way to keep our children from making the same mistakes. We allow fear to make us believe that if our children knew our truth it would disqualify them from following our instructions.

I believe that this way of thinking may have seemed to have worked in the past when the Internet and reality television weren't the accessible sources of information that they are today. Now, it's more likely that a child will surf the Web or click the remote for an answer before they walk down the hall to knock on your door to ask for advice.

Showing our vulnerabilities can be difficult because it is proof that we messed up, and that we didn't always live the life we thought that we were supposed to have lived. Our generation doesn't need for parents to answer questions about where babies come from or the ins and outs of sex.

Today's child is surrounded by images that depict with detail anything that may pique their curiosity. Instead what we need is an open and honest forum where we can discuss our feelings, our curiosity, and issues that we faced without feeling isolated.

If you want your children to show you their mind and heart, it may help if they could extract the truth from your experiences. It is this concept of open and honest dialog that I think can bring awareness about the many temptations that exist within our culture.

As a teen mom, I can look back and say that I made it. I came into womanhood, received an education, created a family, and have a career but, I had to work ten times harder than everyone around me. I added additional weight to my race through life and it made my journey much harder and much longer than it had to be.

Just because I was able to do it doesn't mean that it was easy nor does it mean it was the right thing for me to do. My past is certainly not squeaky clean. I have a few blemishes, some minor and major scratches but I'm still here.

Each part of my past is a lesson that I hope to pass on to my children in hopes that these scars will help them avoid some of life's worst wounds. Though it will be my heart's prayer that they take shortcuts to their destiny and not the long way, as I did.

If their life takes a detour that leads them off track, I hope that our society will allow them the opportunity to push past their mistakes and run with all of their might into a destiny full with promise.