Thursday, 31 January 2013
I am the product of teen parenthood.
This statement alone creates both stereotypes of who my parents were, and who I am or who I will be. I feel as though it is unfair; but as unfair as I deem it to be, there will always be crude commentaries made about groups of people (any people) who fall away from the status quo.
My mother had four children, all before she was 22. We lived on welfare for most of my childhood, her own money going towards my father's drug addiction and later her own addictions when they separated. My sister raised us, an angel at 14. She started working young so that we could eat, have clothes, and survive. She taught us resilience. Our mother taught us patience. Our father? He taught us abstinence.
As far deep as my mother falls into the stereotype (more than one father for her children, welfare case, children also as teen parents, poverty), I will still dispute any argument. I will still defend my livelihood and the way in which I lived. Every time someone says a teen mother "can't," I'm belting out "why not?"
Recently, my girlfriend brought up this stereotype, referring to a "lesser breed" almost. Putting teen parents in a category with welfare cases and drug addicts, making them all seem unworthy, unwanted, and useless. As if they couldn't achieve what any other person could. I know she meant no harm, but I remember arguing with her, reminding her that I am one of those children! That I came from one of those homes. She said, "well obviously I don't mean you, you're so intelligent." I retorted, "I'm one of them, regardless of intelligence. I still come from that impoverished home, that struggle for food, that "trashy" label. I am no more than they are, and you are no better just because you had educated parents." Our debate ended with her apologizing for stereotyping. I still correct her every time I catch her passing judgement.
I grew up with friends giving me their pudding at lunch in bulk so that I had a meal to last me the rest of the day. I still slur and mispronounce words that most people say just fine, because my parents weren't well-educated. I am still teased about it, but I wouldn't change that fact about myself. The children from families with less, learn love before money. They learn survival and strength before algebra and physics. We could be perfectly happy with nothing; because it's all we've ever known. I constantly tell people that I would be happy with a shack in the woods and nothing but a girl to love and a pillow to sleep on. No BMW, fancy house, or mounds of money could buy me that kind of happy.
Do you feel like stereotypes are too often brought into real-life? Do you find yourself angered by this? Upset even a little? Do you fall into one of these stereotypes? If so, do you catch and stop people when they use them?