Some news stories just get me beyond riled up. Here is an example, “Teen mom Caitlin Tiller photo banned from yearbook.” This young mother graduated high school early just this past December. She is going to college to become a medical assistant, working 30 hours a week and taking care of her 3 month old son. Last summer the incoming seniors were told that they were to have a prop of some sort in their senior photo that, “represents you and helped you achieve something.” Caitlin decided that she wanted her 3 month old son to be in the picture. She explains that he helped motivate her to finish school and to pursue her dreams. From Yahoo Shine, ” ‘I picked my son because he’s helped me be a better person,’ Tiller told Yahoo! Shine. ‘By having him, I grew up quickly but I learned how to be responsible.’ ”
The schools reaction. To tell Caitlin that they would not publish the photo in the yearbook because it “promoted teen pregnancy.” They told her that she could choose another photo or they would give her a free spread in the family section of the yearbook. She refused both offers.
Many commentators on these articles have stated things along the line of “It’s a senior photo not a family photo. Her child had no place in it.” I disagree. For one, some students had their photo’s taken with their pets. So how is it that a student can meet the requirements for the photo by posing with their pet but this young mother cannot? Isn’t it better that she cares for and is motivated to achieve by a real person, not by some material object?
Another issue is the school’s claim that this photo “promotes teen pregnancy.” That could not be further from the truth. Instead Caitlin shows that having a child is not the end of a teenagers life. You don’t have to dropout of school and work minimum wage jobs to just scrape by. She graduated early and is already attending college while most seniors are still sitting in the high school’s classrooms. On top of that she is working 30 hours a week. Caitlin is showing others that you can still achieve your dreams even if you have a child at a young age.
Why does this situation upset me so much? Because I got pregnant when I was 18 and in my final semester of high school. Yes it was hard to finish school when I was suffering pregnancy symptoms, worrying about college, moving my wedding up from October to June, and trying to figure out how I was going to be a mother. I still finished high school with a 3.8 GPA, a member of the National Honor Society, National Art Honor Society, and was rewarded 3 scholarships based on character and academic achievements. I completed AP Biology, took the exam and felt my sons first kicks during it. I received a score of 4 on that exam which translated means that I am “well qualified” to receive college credits for that topic. The highest score you can receive is a 5. I am about to finish my first semester of college with straight A’s. I never had the issue of choosing whether or not to include my son, or pregnancy photo’s int he yearbook because they had been submitted long before I knew I was pregnant. However, if I had, I would have chosen photo’s showing my son and/or my pregnancy. Some would argue, “well you are the exception.” Hardly. There are many teen parents out there who are just as exceptional. Maybe they didn’t finish high school with a 4.0 GPA, but they finished despite the ridicule from teachers, administrators and peers. They are more responsible than others in the same age group as they work or go to school and take care of their child. If you were to survey these teen parents I think that you would find the majority telling you, “I wouldn’t give up my child. They are the best thing that has happened to me.” Yes, sometimes we wish that things had been a little different. We don’t want our children following in our footsteps. But under the circumstances we have overcome, we have taken responsibility and we don’t deserve the ridicule and disgust that we get from society. When schools pull things like this and bring down young parents they are basically telling them, “we don’t think you will ever make something of yourself because you have a child. We don’t care how hard you have worked. We don’t care that you took responsibility.”
Teen pregnancy is an issue. I realize this. Yes, we should be trying to prevent it. Prevention consists of making sex education available, making birth control available, but also making sure that our teens are raised with the right morals. Sex isn’t just for pleasure. It’s a risk of pregnancy, a covenant between a husband and wife, and something that should not just be given out to anyone. But when a teen does have a child we need to be supportive. If we want these teen parents and their children to succeed we need to start showing them that we support them. We can’t turn back the clock and stop them from having sex. Our current disgust and condemnation of teen parents is one of the biggest factors in their low school graduation rates and difficult lives. In turn this affects their children.
Even I didn’t escape from societies hate. I had been with my fiance (now husband) for 3 years when I found out I was pregnant. He has been the only one I have ever been with, dating or otherwise. Yet I still heard of girls calling me a slut and whore behind my back. I didn’t get it as badly as other girls in my school who were pregnant. One of the girls practically lost all her friends and had people saying very nasty things behind her back and to her. I know another young mother ( a little younger than me) who is no longer in high school, married, yet has had people threatening her and her unborn baby, harassing her, and just generally trying to make her life miserable. So this treatment of young mothers is not just reserved for those in high school or the unmarried. Our society has developed a stereotype that any young mother is not going to succeed in life and will not be able to complete school.
There is no shame in taking responsibility for a life that you created. Teen pregnancy has been around for a long long time, and it won’t disappear anytime soon. Society needs to start showing a little care in how they treat these parents. Caitlin you’re doing the right thing. Keep pushing forward!
- Teen Mom’s Yearbook Photo Banned (fox8.com)