Realistic Options for Responsible Parents by Annita Woz

http://www.cnn.com/2009/POLITICS/02/17/bristol.palin.interview/index.html

Bristol Palin announced today that she wants to set the record straight on some of the media stories about her pregnancy. She has a healthy baby boy and is engaged to the baby’s father. 

The best option is abstinence, the teen said, but added that she didn’t think that was “realistic.” I am not a fan of any parent’s stance of restricting sex education for teens.  I believe knowledge is power and that even with that power, it is still hard for teens to make the right choices. With or without sex ed, Bristol Palin and her now-fiancé, got pregnant. 

So what is a realistic expectation when it concerns teenagers and sex?

In her interview Bristol mentions that being a mother is not glamorous. Don’t we know it parents! How quickly images fade of cuddling a newborn to that crook between shoulder and ear and then listening for the sweet sighs of baby wisdom when a teen parent, heck any age parent, is faced with endless diapering and poop filled hours?

If Bristol Palin knew that motherhood would not be glamorous, would that have prevented her from having had sex? What if her fiancé thought she would not be glamorous as a mom, would that have stopped them?

In my group of friends, there are mothers with teenagers, grown children, some with young kids who are just getting the first “talk” about sex from the school.  Some of us had sex education in school, some of us didn’t.  While some in the group had been very frank about discussing the actual sex act with their own kids, some had only focused on contraception and some had used the “the talk”  to introduce formal names for body parts and some told stories about other people’s kids “in trouble”.   Sex-ed meant different things to each of us.

We readily admitted that despite our age, many of us are in our 40’s, we still made huge parenting blunders and didn’t think we were perfect mothers,  but didn’t necessarily want our kids to know that we struggled.  Confident parenting carries a lot of weight in the eyes of a child and  does wonders to encourage compliance when we ask for cooperation from our children. Is it this fear of admitting how hard it is to be a parent, even at our age, that prevents us from sharing realistic expectations with teens about sex? 

After all, if it is this hard for us, parents clearly grasp the fact that it will be so much harder for someone who is so young.  Should the purpose of preventing teenage pregnancies focus less the prevention of having sex, and more on helping teens preventing themselves from becoming mothers and fathers?

When thinking about the people I know who had babies as teens, I recognize that some of them became amazing mothers and every teen mother that I know who has successfully managed motherhood, has not done it alone. Some are finding much success in their careers, others have married and had more children. The fathers of these children- some were active in raising the baby, many married the mother of the child and sometimes that worked out well and sometimes it didn’t.   

But the secret to success for the teens who turned into good parents was parental involvement.  I don’t agree with Bristol’s mom on sex ed, but I believe in Sarah Palin’s mothering spirit. Her parents are helping with childcare, finances, encouraging school and providing emotional support.  Parents of teens who are pregnant are forced to face the consequences of their child’s behaviors and those that respond well should be applauded.

Perhaps parents should be taking sex education classes, too.  This way they are prepared for realistic options, too.  If our kids do have sex, and become a teenage pregnancy statistic, then it no longer matters what sex ed did or didn’t teach them but what matters is whether parents are ready to be responsible parents, to be there emotionally, financially, confidently, for their kids before and after sex-ed classes are approved and reality puts those lessons into practice.

Bristol essentially says in her interview that becoming a mother is a permanent and forever job and that she recognizes that she is no longer the most important person in her world anymore. The baby’s father, her fiancé Levi, has changed his definition of what a parent is to include himself. Can we ever successfully teach this lesson in a sex education class?  

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by Annita Woz

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One Response

  1. You are right; the role of a parent never ends. Our kids need us at all ages. I am a teacher and mother of 2 college aged kids and I don’t know what the answers are in teaching our kids about pre-marital sex. Not only do I worry about young girls becoming pregnant, but even more I worry about the emotional impact of pre-marital sex. How is that understood by young hormonal teens?

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