Essay Preview: Parenting
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Parenting was a role that I thrust upon myself through ignorance. The early 70s was an aftermath of free spirited loving. Those of us who were too young to really understand that there were responsibilities that went hand in hand with the freedom would face the consequences. Society coined the phrase, “in trouble.” At the age of 14 I was a girl in trouble, and again at the age of 16. By the age of 18 I was responsible for three children who would be a part of tomorrows future. Reflecting back on the past 27 years, it is difficult to discern between the teaching as a parent and the learning as a parent. There have been volumes written about parenting and the different stages of child development. Some of the key points that have been a real learning process for me are planning and social adjustment, self-esteem, discipline, multiple roles of the parent, and the thrill of the teenage years.
Planning and Social Adjustments.
The first major impact of parenting on my life was the social adjustment that was necessary. Failure to plan for parenthood would account for some major adjustments in my life.
Concrete Experience. Planning for the birth of my first child was an overwhelming experience, especially because it was an unplanned pregnancy. The first priority was to find a physician that would provide prenatal care. I was considered high risk, and was not enthusiastically greeted by more than one physician. Legally, I was not old enough to receive medical treatment with out parental consent, requiring my mother to take an active role in working through some of the legal problems. Doctors told me that there were places for girls like me and recommend that I go there. This was only the beginning of what could be considered social out-casting. I was a child about to learn the cold hard truth about the realities of socially unacceptable behavior.
The next lesson would come from the educational institution. When the superintendent of the school was informed of my pregnancy I was immediately asked (ordered) to leave. This created a “catch 22” situation. By state law at the age of 14 I must attend school, and either by state law or the schools mandate I could not attend night school until I was 18. Continuing my education involved a legal battle. My mother was unwilling to accept the superintendents suggestion that there were homes for girls like me and they were equipped to provide an adequate education until after the baby was born. My mothers determination prevailed, and I attended night school until after the baby was born. I returned to regular high school for my sophomore year.
Returning to day school meant selecting child care. The first experience was with a woman who stayed at home after raising her children and cared for several children of working women in the neighborhood. Returning early, because school had been canceled due to bad weather, I found my son in a crib crying and sobbing uncontrollably. The baby-sitter was in the basement doing laundry. I questioned her about his behavior and the cold bottle of milk in the crib. She noted that his crying was not unusual and in her opinion he was old enough to take his bottle cold. That was the last day she provided care for my child. My second attempt to find child care was a woman who came to our home. She was older, the grandmother type who seemed as if she would be capable of providing the individual attention I wanted my son to have. It did not take long to realize that watching soap operas was more important than providing care for my child.
Failure to find adequate child care resulted in my quitting school and becoming a full time, stay at home, mother. The decision to stay at home with my first child continued until our third child entered kindergarten. Raising three children with a single income was not without material sacrifices. However, the emotional and psychological advantages for both the children and me were well worth the price.
The struggle for acceptance went beyond society in general. My family would also be affected. Friends that my older sister had associated with for years were instructed by their parents to dissolve the relationship. My sister eventually went to live with our grandparents in a neighboring town to escape the humiliation and ridicule. I could see the internal strife that my situation was causing my parents. We were a lower middle class family with five children in a three bedroom home. My father was a long distance truck driver, and my mother worked in a factory. They struggled to make ends meet, and I was adding to that struggle by adding another mouth to feed. My mother took the position that she would never forsake one of her children, and the thought of giving a grandchild up for adoption was out of the question. My father worried endlessly about how they would pay for prenatal care and the impending hospital bill.
Reflective Observations. While I did not do any prior planning for my first child, I did a tremendous amount of planning during the pregnancy. Essentially I would be planning the rest of my life, and a large portion of my parents lives.
My mothers unconditional love, support, and dedication to my emotional and educational growth were the basic foundation for my parenting skills. She would not allow the system or those who administered it to sweep me under the rug and pretend that I did not exist. Her determination resulted in finding a physician that was willing to assume responsibility for a high risk pregnancy. In seven short months I learned what it meant to be responsible for myself and my actions. My visits to the doctors office were not the picture we see in movies or on television. The visits were never pleasant. The doctor routinely badgered me about the excessive weight I was gaining.
I realized that I was entering into an adult world, at the ripe old age of 14, both physically and emotionally. Entering night school was a culture shock. The educational institution is more than a place of learning, especially for teenagers. It is a social structure in which teenagers interact and expand their independence, responsibilities, and relationships with peers. Through my actions, I would not be allowed to be a part of this social structure. Students were in night school because they wanted to be, not because they had to be. The importance was on learning, not socially acceptable behavior, the clothes you wore, or the number of friends you had. The teachers respected a persons desire to learn and seemed to be more aware of individual strengths and weaknesses. On the surface it felt as if I had found