Wednesday, January 28, 2009

Babies Having Babies: When Talking Abstinence Just Isn't Enough

If you’re not up on Chrisette Michele, you better ask somebody. Not only can this 20-something chanteuse blow, she’s a prolific writer who stretches and bends lyrics that actually mean something—a tall order these days when lines like “please excuse my hands” and “she wants to lick the lollipop” get feted like they’re Pulitzer Prize-winning librettos. While the other girls are telling boys they “shoulda put a ring on it” (with apologies to B), Chrisette is singing about female empowerment and a father’s love and getting over heartbreak with your dignity in tact and, in her song, "If I Have My Way," saving the good stuff for someone who’s earned it and is willing to wait until she's good and ready.

Ha’ mercy, what I would do if some of these little girls around here turned off Lil’ Wayne and T-Pain and them and listened to Chrisette for even just a little while. Frankly, they could stand to hear someone tell them straight and plain: Don’t have sex with boys until you’re really ready and he’s really worthy and both of you are willing to use protection. Because clearly, these conversations are not being had around these parts.

What’s my issue, you ask? Well, my 16-year-old stepson announced at the dinner table last night that he knows at least 10 girls in his school who are “expecting,” and I don’t mean SAT scores or prom dates. These girls are expecting babies—just strolling the school hallways with child like it's nothing. Please understand, I’m trying my best not to pass judgment here. But really—the hell? Can someone please explain to me how, not even six months after studies showed that African American teen pregnancy rates dropped a whopping 23%--more than the rates of any other racial group and the largest decline for black teens ever—my kid’s school has almost a dozen girls headed to the local maternity ward?

Clearly, somebody’s fallen down on the job. I don’t know if it’s the school, or our community’s extremely conservative political base, or inattentive, overworked, out-to-lunch parents, or a combo of all of the above, but somebody’s failing these girls if they’re too scared/stupid/gullible/idiotic to just say “no” to these little boys, or at least walk into the local CVS and get them a box of condoms so that they’re protected. Because ain't no way that many girls would be knocked up in a community that actually cared enough to be realistic about teen sex and make sure these little girls and boys aren't getting into some mess they can't handle.

I hope and pray that my stepson and daughters heed Chrisette’s message:

You're who I desire/You light my fire

With every kiss/you take me higher

Feeling like your lovin' I just cannot resist
There's something that's makin' me hold on

There's no one I'd rather share my good 
lovin' with 

But I promised I'd wait 'til I'm ready for this

But just in case they decide waiting just isn’t an option for them, trust me when I tell you this: I will be telling them over and over and over again that the two minutes of embarrassment they'll suffer from slapping a box of condoms on the counter at the local drug store will be much easier to handle than trying to figure out how to care for and raise another human being when you barely know how to wipe your own ass good.

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  1. I wish I had something more profound to add than the shaking of my head and the sucking of my teeth. I don't know why young people are so quick to be hot and burn up and out so fast. Slow down, live a little and yes-please learn to wipe your own ass!

  2. Gurl..I have Chrisette at my desk and play her all day long! She is the bomb! I love her words and yes how cool would it be if our young girls were inspired by her words. I guess we have to keep praying daily for can definitely change things:) Thanks for sharing D.


  3. I was a teen mother three times, and not because I had triplets. I got pregnant, got married and then kept having babies because "that's what my husband wanted."

    I was one of those dumb girls you see on Maury who wanted a baby (or so I thought), because I wanted somebody to love me unconditionally, which I didn't think my mother did.

    My mother had a nervous breakdown after my father left when I was five. From that point on, I was in charge of taking care of the house and my siblings. When I was 17 (what should have been my senior year in high school), my mother moved to a different state and left my youngest siblings (5 and 12) with me because she couldn't find a job and couldn't take care of them. So, there I was at 17 with a daughter and two sisters to care for. Neither of my parents have a diploma (my dad dropped out in 3rd grade), and I graduated high school making more than them combined.

    Let's just say that my now ex-husband was a way out for me. That was me looking at life through a child's eyes. Had I seen it from where I sit now, I would have known that being ranked 4th in a class of 432 (the top 1%) was my passport from the nonsense I was living in.

    But, I gave up full-ride scholarships, along with my self-respect because that's all I knew at the time. I never had any parental support in school. The only time my mother went to the school was when she had to get my brother back in. When I graduated from high school, neither of my parents were there. In the end, I was stuck and angry with everybody but myself until I took back my power and took responsibility for my own life and happiness.

    I'm glad you're not judging, because like me, we all have a story. And, I won't presume to know what these young ladies' story is because I know how much easier it is to criticize than it is to help. My baby girl's former schoolmate just packed up and left her three children (4, 6 and 9) and moved from Minneapolis to Dallas on a whim. One day she was here, and the next day she was gone. Her nine-year-old has been bestowed the responsibility of caring for her siblings (getting them ready in the morning, playing mama when they get home from school...)

    Before anyone asks where's daddy, that's who they live with. He's always been the responsible one. But, for now, he's roughing it because he was blindsided with his wife's unannounced, sudden departure. In the meantime, all I see is a nine-year-old child on the same road I traveled on.

    Clearly, there are no easy answers.

  4. Tell it mama! I'm working in a school right now where a girl is about 8 months pregnant and it seems just so...abnormally normal. parents have really helped their grandchildren by not talikng to us about sex because now I know I'm gonna be all up in my kids' ears--when I have them.

  5. Lisa: I don't think you were dumb--just young and a victim of some EXTREMELY difficult circumstances. What you went through as a child is certainly the story of many more pregnant teenage girls--the products of parents who aren't doing their jobs, school administrators who aren't paying attention, and, in the case around here, too many conservatives who think it's okay to withhold info on safe sex and pregnancy prevention, and then point fingers and deny culpability when KIDS wind up pregnant. I'm praying that your friend's 9-year-old doesn't suffer the same fate--and I hope that you're doing everything YOU can to help keep that child from walking that path. You and she are in my family's prayers.

  6. I couldn't have said it better, Denene. I openly discussed abstinence, birth control usage and all of that with my daughters. I worked as a parent educator for a teen pregnant and parenting program and it was very eye opening to see even 12 year olds pregnant and trying to raise babies when they are babies themselves.

    Parents should never feel hesitant to discuss something that their child may have heard from someone else. Often times, what they've heard may not always be true. One girl that I worked with told me that she was told if she used Welch's Grape Jelly after she had sex, she wouldn't get pregnant. I asked her if she tried it. Her response was, "Yeah, but it wasn't Welch's".

    The novelty of raising a child wears really quickly when you are a baby too.

    I could go on and on but I won't. I just hope and pray that at your son's school, they are seeing that it's an issue that needs to be addressed.

  7. Thanks Denene. That's why I think it's so important for adults to give the pure, unadulterated version of our testimony, instead of tweaking it to make themselves look good. I used to hold back when telling my story because I didn't want to glamorize teen pregnancy when young ladies see me as a "success" story. But in the words of Maya Angelou, if I don't tell the truth, I haven't helped anybody.

    As for Chrisette Michelle, she is definitely not getting her props. I bought her CD, and quickly put the word out for my friends to go out and get it.

  8. i agree that we all need to do more. one thing for sure...we have to be open and honest with our discussions EARLY...and that means in 2nd grade, not high school...age appropriate, of course.

    i have been in high school student ministry for 17 years. i am shocked at what well meaning christian parents don't tell their children...other than "don't have sex". here's the 411...that doesn't work...and girls end up pregnant and have single motherhood and a loss of a lot of hs dreams and freedom to look forward to.

    now, i also think we need to applaud these girls for their decision to continue with their pregnancy and not terminate.

    and, honestly, one of my kiddos who happens to be adopted, had a very, very young birthmother...and it's hard, but you really can't judge unless you know the story...and honestly, sometimes it's not as clear as you may think. sometimes the girl isn't a hussy...sometimes she is. but either way, she needs love and attention and help...and not people looking down on her and judging...because that will only bring about more bad decisions.

    i'm off my high horse...i could write a book on this...and i just have to say, i wouldn't trade my middle two girlie pies for anything...thank goodness their birthmom's both chose life.

  9. Mommaof4wife2r: I, too, am glad the mothers of your beautiful daughters chose life. Goodness knows, I'm grateful that my birth mom did the same; her actions put me in the hands of two human beings who sacrificed a lot to raise a child that wasn't their (physical) own. There was a lot of selflessness involved in those decisions, and the one who benefited the most was me. So I'm grateful to that woman, whoever she may be, for choosing life. I just wish that the girls in my son's school would have thought about all of this BEFORE they laid down, you know?

  10. Great post! More proof that we (parents, community members, etc.) need to have candid conversations with our children about sex and all that comes with it. I've met parents with teenagers who are still waiting for the "right time" to talk to their children about sex?!? Helloooo, anybody home?!

  11. That was very, very well said. And yeah- can't add too much to that.

    (There are many girls at Sassy's school who are "in the family way.."

  12. I have two daughters and I am terrified of them having sex, much less getting pregnant. Not now, per se, but ten years from now, it could happen. I was a teen mother. I had my son 4 months after I graduated high school. It is not an easy path. I try to teach my daughters that they are beautiful and worthy of respect. I pray that they will make good choices. I love them infinitely.

  13. Babies will continue to have babies until we go back to the days where we value sex. Sex is a game now a days, with many women not even considering oral sex to be "sex" and offering it to any guy who's willing. THAT'S insane to me.When you have sex with someone, you are offering them a part of your body. Doesn't that mean anything? Like you said, with songs like "please excuse my hands" (I won't capitalize it, I just won't) girls today are learning that their bodies are simply playgrounds for boys.

    I tell my younger sisters that they must absolutely wait until Mr. Right comes along. ABSOLUTELY. There is nothing to be gained from having sex too son. Not a single thing. But once it's gone, you can't take it back.


  14. PREACH! There are soo many different factors, its hard to pinpoint 1 or 2 just because there are different situations, so bottom line, like you said, the problems/failures lie in all of the above.

    We still have a huge problem with the silencing of sexuality, which turns into misinformation about sexuality and the lack of proper education about sexuality. Not just a simple talk about the birds, bees, flower and trees. No, no, no, lol. Many are not taught by their parents how to really own their bodies... because their parents were also not taught how to own theirs, and so on. We are afraid to really talk about sex with kids, conversation that go far past "don't do it because you'll get pregnant" or "don't do it because I said not to". The conversations need to be more like "you don't have to do anything with your body that you are not ready to do and definitely not just because everyone else happens to be doing it" or "let's talk about ways that you can pleasure yourself". Hello!! In the words of T-Boz, "ain't nothing wrong with making it feel good!" And I ain't never heard of anybody getting pregnant from masturbation, lol.

    Kids will have sex at some point. If it is before they meet the "right" person it would be much more productive to arm them with the proper knowledge about how to do it safely rather than just flat out telling them they shouldn't be doing it at all, or trying to scare them with talk of pregnancy and STDs. I think a healthy sexuality is an informed one.

  15. Ms. Bar B.: YOU BETTA TELL IT!!!! TELL! IT! Man, you better be giving lessons somewhere for these moms (AND DADS!!!) out here!

  16. Sadly, I have to say that I am almost, almost, glad to hear that these girls are in highschool. In no way do I condone teen pregnancy but when I was in AmeriCorps here in Atlanta I was placed at a middle school. Please hear me, children from 10-12(maybe 13) and in the year I was there at least 2 of these babies were having babies.

    It is criminal! There is a huge problem in Georgia and I think that the parents of these teen parents need to take parenting classes. Because the urge might be there - but if you come from a home where your parents make it clear to you that support is forthcoming regardless of the circumstances, some of this ish will change.

    As a teen I TOLD my mother when my boyfriend was pressuring me to have sex and she told me he should become familiar with Mary Palmer. And when it became clear that I was "likely" to be participating in a sexual relationship she sat me down, interrogated me and promptly took me to the gyno. I think if more parents were proactive we could avoid some of thess senseless underage pregnancies.

    Oh, and Chrisette is the bomb!

  17. My daughter isn't at an age yet when I need to talk to her about this, but 2 of my nieces are. I am SO happy that my sister has chosen to be very proactive and frankly, very blunt, with them about sex and teen pregnancy. Like your kids Denene, they are in school in a conservative Georgia county, and they certainly aren't learning about it there. My 16-year-old niece knows that my sister would straight up kill her if she wound up pregnant. But in addition to the scare tactics, my sister has also told them about why they should wait and about birth control.

    The conservatives can preach abstinence and nothing else all they want. The reality is that although all of us want our kids to abstain, a great many of them will have sex anyway, and I'd much rather have them know how to protect themselves if they ever needed to.


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