I quickly took the pregnancy test out of the bag and fumbled with the instructions: pee on the stick, wait three minutes, discover if your whole world is about to change. I didn’t even have time to put the test down on the counter before “PREGNANT” appeared on the little digital screen. Oh, sh*t.
That was five years ago. I had just turned 20, was smack in the middle of my junior year of college, and was looking forward to a summer internship in New York, the first step on my road to world domination. This was not the time for a baby.
RELATED: Talking To My Teen About Sex Just Got Real
Instead of feeling elated about the news, I was burdened by how I thought others would react and my own personal shortcomings. I wore extra large shirts on campus for the rest of the semester and didn’t speak a word of the pregnancy to anyone except those who absolutely needed to know. During that period of my life, I probably averaged at least three full-blown crying fits a week. On the bus. In my dorm room. In the car on the way to the doctor’s office. Of course now, as the mom of two (my son was born two years later), I feel like my kids are the best thing that ever happened to me. But, it took me a long time (and a lot of tears) to get here.
As a young mom, I’m fully aware of the challenges of becoming a parent before you’re ready. This is not for the weak. In essence, it’s an endless game of catch-up. Rushing to find a pediatrician. Rushing to save money. Rushing to get a spot in an affordable daycare center. Rushing, rushing, rushing. And, I don’t want that for my kids. When they decide to bring a life into the world, I want them to be bursting with joy. To be confident that they have the skills they need to be an amazing mom or dad. And, to know that if they do need anything, their mom is only one phone call away. But, in order to do this, they need to know they can come to me, or their father, with their questions and concerns. And I admit, this stumps me: How can I be an “askable” parent? How can I begin to build that line of communication now, so my kids always look at me as their ally, rather than the warden?
RELATED: The Best Way For Parents To Get Ready For The Talk
“I’m not being hypocritical when I insist that you wait until marriage to have sex. I’m hoping you can learn from my mistakes.”
I learned a lot of things the hard way, and I suspect that’s a huge part of growing up and exploring. But, when those actions (i.e., unprotected sex) can have long-lasting consequences, it’s my job as their mom to help them navigate this minefield.
“If you are going to date someone, you need to make sure they respect you 100%.”
This is where I feel a lot of parents fall short. We might set rules about when it is okay for our teens to date, but are we teaching them what comes next? Are we helping them discover what a good boyfriend or girlfriend even looks like? Heck, most adults don’t even know what a good catch looks like or how to hold on to one, so leaving our kids alone to stumble through these adolescent relationships is reckless endangerment.
Some parents choose to hide their shortcomings from their children, figuring it’s easier to lay down the law if they don’t have to explain about all the times they disobeyed it themselves. I, of course, can’t pretend to be little Ms. Virginal (my daughter was present at my wedding), but it doesn’t mean that I can’t want more for my kids. Letting them know that mom struggled too is my way of opening the gates to conversations that might be a little uncomfortable — for the both of us.
RELATED: A Recipe For Solid Relationships
“Choosing a great parent for your children is one of the most important things you will ever do for them. Don’t date anyone you wouldn’t want to marry or have kids with.”
This might be a little too black and white for some people, but I firmly stand by this. I don’t knock women who go on dates purely for fun, or because the person was cute, but I do throw major shade their way when they continually ignore the red flags that should send them running in the other direction. Love is sticky, sure, but knowing when to cut your losses early is a skill too many in this generation lack.
I know I will really be tested as the years go by and the questions stop being rhetorical. I know there will be times when I think to myself, "What on God’s green earth would possess you to ask me that?" There will be times when I don’t have the answers and I don’t want to hear the questions. But, I’m dedicated to making sure that I am there for them, every step of the way, so when they do get out on their own, and they’re grasping that pregnancy test, there’ll be no room for any emotion except pure joy.
Denene Millner, founder of My Brown Baby, is dedicated to lifting the voices of every mom & dad, no matter if you're looking for parenting advice or just a high-five. MyBrownBaby offers a district perspective that's wickedly funny, often irreverent, and always thought-provoking — all filtered through a smart, colorful lens.