My husband and I met in high school. We had psychology class together when he was just a sophomore in high school. A little over a year after dating, when he was the ripe ol’ age of 17 years old, and a few weeks before his junior prom, we found out we were expecting. These days it’s definitely not as taboo to hear about teenage pregnancies thanks to the (I use this term so loosely) “glorification” of the situation provided by things like 16 and Pregnant, but that broader acceptance shines no light on the stark reality of living it first hand. So while it’s nowhere near as scandalous as it was “back in the day”, It is still without a doubt, personally, the most challenging and defining experience of our lives.
In general however, within the decade since being the teenager with the huge belly and empty ring finger waddling through crowds of judgmental looks and pointing fingers, the whispers have turned into kudos. I’ve been called, “strong” and an “overcomer” with some encouragement about triumphing over my circumstance. While I don’t want to be deemed some sort of specialty for simply owning up to my own responsibilities or on the other hand diminish the trial and certainly the hurt and growth being a teenage mom has contributed to my character and my life’s journey, I will say it has made me a better human being but I did not face it alone.
There’s an unsung hero that many never acknowledge in these circumstances (unless they’re blasted on social media as a deadbeat of course)… the teenage dad. Now don’t get me wrong, I have NEVER played damsel in distress that needed saving. I just know what I’ve experienced is not the norm. I also know that some people will read this and say, “You both don’t deserve a prize. It’s called consequences for your actions.” To which I will reply, “I get it. Really. But the only difference between the bad choices we made as teenagers and every other human made as a teenager was 1) we got caught and 2) ours had life long effects …that we owned up to without a helping hand or crutch from anyone.” Now, I am simply just sharing about our experience within it. So save me the sermon. I lived it and it’s my story to tell. Thankyouverymuch.
When you’re not in a “traditional family setting” (read: a married couple expecting a planned child) then the situation can get a bit sticky. Culturally and quite literally in a physical sense, the “dad” can get off the hook in a teenage pregnancy much easier than a girl whose body begins morphing before the two pink lines even appear. I’m not saying that what my husband did as a young boy wasn’t what he should have rightfully done, I’m just saying… I’d like to acknowledge it’s enormity in correlation to me. Without further ado, please humor my very public and never said before thank you on his birthday, to my husband, who was the unsung hero: the teenage dad.
As a teenage girl with a baby growing inside of me, it seemed like me against the world. I know we loved each other, but we both know now, 12 years after our first date, the depths of our love then compared to the deep deep crevices of our Christ-like love now fails in comparison. Our puppy love lead to some pretty big situations. It led to some circumstances that we, as kids making adult decisions, could acknowledge but not grasp. Our love stumped our maturity, rose colored glasses showed the way.
As your birthday approached I’ve thought how blessed I am to have you. How full and content this day-to-day life has made me. How different our lives have evolved since we’ve been on this journey. I’ve thought of how much we have “defied the odds” together. I sat and pondered on our journey to this point…. On my journey to this point…. and then it hit me, YOUR journey to this point.
You were a JUNIOR in high school when you became a dad. When I think of the stupid crap I did my last two years of high school (edit: I’m two grades older than he is), I am astonished by you. I don’t think society, or our families, or myself give you enough credit. So here is the thank you I want to remind you of every single day:
Thank you for staying. (I know that it takes two to tango, but it would’ve been so much easier for you to go in such a scary situation and you didn’t).
Thank you for not just staying, but thriving. You never just tolerated us becoming parents. You sang to my belly. You made every appointment. You celebrated our baby as a blessing.
Thank you for enduring jokes, and remarks, and judgement, and lectures from peers, coaches, family members, and teachers.
Thank you for tolerating being an outcast. High school is hard enough as it is. But you went to class tired from rocking a baby all night, not from partying. You couldn’t chime into the everyday life of your peers because your world was just so different than theirs. Your dog never ate your homework. If it was incomplete it was because between school hours and work hours and family life, you literally ran out of hours in the day. You didn’t look like them anymore. You didn’t fit in, and you were okay with that.
Thank you for being a kid yourself but holding the burden of our family on your shoulders. It seems normal now that you handle the stress and the business and the bills and providing for us all as a family of 5 (3 kids deep now!) But I literally don’t know how you endured that amount of pressure and maturity as a teenager. But you did. And you did it exceptionally.
Thank you for the dreams you sacrificed for us. You are the smartest man I know. And back then you were the smartest kid I knew. You were accepted to every college you applied to and graduated in the top 10% of your class. Today, you work hard with your hands everyday. Because back then, you had to make really hard choices about your future because of us. You never acted entitled to your dreams or your happiness (albeit we’re pretty happy now) but instead you put us first. You did what you had to do and we are forever indebted for those sacrifices.
Thanks for the new dreams you’ve strived for. When everyone else was mourning your potential, you just thought out of the box. You are the best business man I’ve ever met and you used that intelligence of yours to build us a striving and growing business to this day. Keep dreaming baby, we’re proving them all wrong.
Thank you for diving into family life with me. We quickly learned we no longer connected with those our age. Most of our friends have always been 10 years older than us at least due to current life position. We embraced climbing the ladder from Friday night football games to play dates and family vacations seamlessly. Okay, that’s a lie. Nothing about our journey was seamless😂.
Thank you for never letting me question if you stayed because you had to and always reminding me that you stayed here because you wanted to. Not to mention, telling me 10 years later that you’d pick this over and over again calms all doubt.
Thank you for giving me all the things that I thought were history because we did things “the wrong way”. I still was proposed to in the most magical way with the most beautiful ring. You gifted me an amazing engagement to plan my favorite wedding ever before we purchased a lovely first home, and now our dream home. Things were hard sometimes but you made sure we didn’t “miss out” on giving us the world.
Thank you for being an amazing dad. From the first Valentine’s Day when you took our 3 month old on a date to the other day when you carried her as a 9 year old to the car… you’ve been all I could imagine for the father of my children.
Thank you for not killing me when you read this. Because you’ve done all of this without ever wanting recognition. You “stepped up” without ever thinking it was extraordinary, because that’s just what you do. You have never asked for a thank you, but as your grateful wife 10 years later… I owe you one.
Thank you Honey, for all you did as a teenage dad and all you have done since then.
Your baby mama (x3)
Sometimes it’s easy to get focused on our own personal perspectives of situations within our lives, but what about those who come along side of us? What about those that dramatically change us through simply seeing us through it. Whether, you were a teenage mom or are a single mom or maybe a step parent… if there is someone who you could thank in your life, who would it be? Gratitude acknowledges the unsung heroes. And the unsung heroes weave together the fabric of our stories, and even more so, of our hearts.