When I walked into the salon, I noticed her first. A blue-eyed, curly haired brunette of a toddler, with round cheeks and the unsteady gait of a child who is first leaning to walk. She waddled past me, under grandma’s watchful eye, and I gave her a smile because that’s the right thing to do when one is acknowledged by a baby. The mood of the place was light-hearted as the stylist tied up my locks and draped a giant bib around my shoulders. We chatted a bit about the Academy Awards, and the comedic genius that is Ellen (even though- in all honesty- I didn’t watch any of the actual show, but I’m pretty good at playing off those sorts of things off given that my social media feed was full of the Oscar highlights pertinent to the conversation). Within a few minutes, my attention drifted to the young man who was seated directly behind me. His stylist laughed as she cut inches off his hair and joked that he’d no longer look like a recovering hippie. “Your mom has been trying to get you to do this for years!” she teased, “You’ll barely recognize yourself when I’m done with you!” I sideways glanced into the fun house of mirrors around me until I got a clear look at him. Cute kid. Probably a year or two older than my oldest son….maybe 18 or so? He flashed an endearing smile as the finishing touches were put on his new shortly cropped style, and he reached for his phone. His teenage brother sauntered over and whistled…”You’re going to take a selfie?” he laughed. The kid in the chair threw his head back and grinned, “Nah, man, I’m not about that life. You’re going to take it for me. Then it’s technically not a selfie, it’s a portrait.” Something about the entire interaction made for a feel-good Monday night moment…the excitement of the stylist to reveal her finished work, the good-natured joking between siblings, the Parisian jazz playing in the background accompanied by the happy squealing of the toddler in the lobby area. I found myself smiling.
As the young man got up and dusted the excess hair off his flannel, the toddler turned and looked at him, confused. Her grandma swooped her up and walked her toward him, “You don’t recognize your clean-cut daddy?” she asked. I watched as he reached for his daughter, and caught a glimpse of concern on his face when she squirmed in grandma’s arms to turn away from him. “Baby, it’s me…It’s still me!” then, under his breath, “I knew this was going to happen…” His mom kissed him on his cheek and reassured, “She’ll get used to it by tomorrow. No worries, handsome.”
Just then, the man in the chair next to me leaned into my space & shook his head, “Scary, isn’t it? Just one of those accidents, that ends in, well…a kid having a kid.”
This happens to me quite often, by the way. Someone openly passes judgement on young parents in my presence. We are all aware of the viciousness of the mommy wars, but I honestly believe that harshest criticism voiced on topics such as the breast/bottle debate, co-sleeping, discipline, and parenting styles, is saved for the online forums where anonymity (or at the least the guise of it), allow people the luxury of making an ass of themselves without fear of face-to-face conflict. Not so when it comes to parenting teens. I’ve nursed 4 children to toddler-hood and can count on my hands the number of times anyone has had the audacity to approach me about my choice to breastfeed. (Actually, it’s one.) In contrast, as a teen parent, I was often made to listen to the passive-aggressive criticisms of family acquaintances, school personnel, and random insignificant people who thought it their duty to inform me of the ways I damaged my life and that of my son. Anyhow, I don’t care to dwell on that, and in instances such as today in the salon, I’ve even learned to deliver curt comebacks informing the tongue-wagger that as a former young mommy, I do not participate in conversations that perpetuate the stigma surrounding teen parents.
Anyhow, the tenderness in which that young daddy reached for his daughter lingered with me this evening. The comment of the other salon patron did too, but it did not irritate or anger me in any way. The juxtaposition of the two events spoke to me. Left me brimming with motivation.
You see, I’m going to let you in on something I’ve been rather tight-lipped about for some time. But I believe that speaking about it openly is the first step toward it’s materialization. An opportunity to revive a young parent mentoring program has fallen into my lap. As of current, there is an absence of non-secular teen parent mentoring programs available to youth in Sacramento county. This program would fill that void. I was in attendance at one of the trainings provided by the non-profit group that would ultimately host this new endeavor, and was still feeling hesitant about whether or not I’m ready to take on a project of such scale. At the end of the training, a young women approached me, as she’d heard that I was entertaining of the thought of taking over the teen parent portion of the program. She told me of how she’d given birth to her daughter at 18, went on to graduate from college, and is now set on a doctorate program. In addition, she wants to mentor young moms. I feel invested in this opportunity, and it hasn’t even taken off yet.
I’m going to need a team of supporters. We’ll need mentors. We’ll need grants. And a clear program mission. But the young parents are out there. And chances are they are looking for some sort of guidance, or community They may be in need resources. Or a helping hand, a listening ear, a friend.
If at least one family is positively impacted, would it not have been worth a shot?