With the birth of our first grand-child (I know, she’s adorable), I’ve done quite a bit of reflecting. The overriding question of “how did we get here?” keeps popping into my mind. This question is rooted in the fact that I feel absolutely blessed and that I realize that things could have turned out so very, very different.
When I was 14 years old I remember thinking that if there was part of me (a son or a daughter) somewhere in this world, I sure wanted to know him or her and be involved in his or her life. This may seem like a bizarre thought for a 14-year-old, but it was a reality because my girlfriend at the time was in fact pregnant. Fast forward almost 28 years, my son is now 27, married, and a father of a precious little girl…and his mother and I have been together this whole time and married for 23 years. So the question…”how did we get here?”
We quickly realized that we had to look long-term. We still continued to do well in school with both of us graduating in the top 10% of our class (yes, she was ahead of me…probably should have tried harder to not sleep through Chemistry). Once we graduated high school, we choose the difficult path of both of us working and both of us going to school. Looking back, I’m really not sure how we managed to find enough hours in the day. I do know that staying focused on the long-term goals made a big difference. We were both committed to getting college degrees – dropping out was not an option. The short-term was tough. My grades weren’t stellar, but I was committed to working enough to qualify for health insurance, finish a bachelor’s degree in three years, raise two sons, and work part-time at a small church. We did both finish college and we did both find good jobs. But more importantly, we managed to keep our little family together.
We certainly faced our share of challenges and to a certain degree, we still do. Personally, one of the long-term effects of being a teen parent comes from the point of self-reliance. We definitely leaned hard on each other over the years, but we developed a mentality that we had to prove to the world that we didn’t need really need much help. We were capable and we were going to succeed. I still suffer from being too self-reliant. I really don’t want to bother others with whatever trials, stress or challenges that I may be facing. I also don’t celebrate wins well – mainly because I expect wins. I despise self-promotion and quickly attempt to dismiss or defuse anyone else’s promotion of me. Part of the challenge with not taking time to celebrate well is that setbacks tend to sting quite a bit more.
Another challenge we face (and continue to face) is being able to relate to peers. The parents of our sons’ friends were generally about 15 years older than us. They had other concerns…other interests. And, most of our peers that are our age still have young children at home. But even with these challenges (past and present), I can say that I really don’t have any regrets. Sure, I would have liked to have been a better student, a better employee, a better husband, a better father, and a better friend. But, the difficult path we traveled has led us to a place of tremendous blessings.
Obviously our determination and faith in our abilities propelled us forward. But it was much more than that. Our families, friends, and teachers all seemed to share in that faith that we were going to be okay. Many teen parents don’t get that – they’re just written off. This faith in our selves and the faith of those around us all came from the same source – faith that God would see us through. Through the ups and through the downs. He has and He will.