Almost four years ago we moved to Las Cruces and that year I taught middle school (and let me just tell you, its really hard to transition from teaching College to teaching middle school, but that's a conversation for another day). We had only been married for 2 weeks when school began and I kept a couple of wedding photos on my desk at school. The girls would pick them up now and again and ask questions or make comments. One day, the conversation went like this:
Girl #1: Miss Swan, do you have any kids?
Me: No, I just got married a few months ago.
(Girl #1 stares at me blankly)
Girl #2: Miss, what does that have to do with kids?
Me: I think that children should be born to a mom and dad that are married to each other.
Girl #1: Miss, you're weird.
Girl #3: How old are you Miss Swan?
Me: I'm 29.
All three girls: My mom is 28. My mom is 30. My mom is 29.
(I'm doing the math on these these girls and realizing how old their moms must have been when they had them. Then I don't know if I should hug them or grab them and have a really serious talk with them about stuff. I settle for the following question..)
Me: What do you think about your moms having you when they were 15 or so?
Girl #1: Its really cool 'cause she's like my sister. For my birthday we got our noses pierced together.
Girl #2: Everybody has babies when they're in high school. It doesn't matter 'cause there's free babysitting there.
Girl #3: Miss, I don't think its a good idea. I want to do stuff in my life like finish high school and get a job you know.
Me: I think its a really good idea for all of you to finish high school and even go to college. There are a lot of really amazing and fun things that you can do in your life when you are older. Life can be hard when you have kids depending on you and you're not out of school yet.
We were interrupted by the bell or schoolwork or something, but I was always having these kinds of conversations with 13-15 year olds at the middle schools. I would find notes (or pick up notes off of kids) that would outline explicit sexual acts that the girls were willing to do with the guys if they would "be [my] boyfriend and hold [my] hand during lunch time." The school nurse was constantly diagnosing stds. Middle school students. I remember middle school and I remember being really excited to get a NOTE from a boy.
Fast Forward to today.
I went shopping at a grocery store that I NEVER go to. I was checking out the popsicles, etc. trying to get ready for James' mini-surgery on Tuesday. A teenage girl walked up to me and asked my name and I recognized her as "Girl #2". I asked how she was doing and what school she was at and lamented out loud that I didn't bring James because she could have met my baby. She then says, "oh, I'll go get my baby and you can meet him!" She went to her mom and brought me her beautiful 3 month old son. I fussed over that adorable boy and I could tell she was proud, but then she said, "He doesn't look like me, huh?" I agreed that he didn't and she said that he looked exactly like his dad. She quickly told me that she didn't talk to that guy and that she's had a new boyfriend for a year and 2 months now who thinks the baby is 'cool'. In that moment my heart hurt so badly for that little baby.
Life is really different now that I have James. The love that I feel for him is the same love that makes me hurt for all the children who don't have everything that a child should. As I stood there with her and that beautiful, cooing baby, she started telling me about the other girls who had been in that class I taught. All 3 of the girls from the conversation above have babies, and one of them has 2. Two other girls from that class also have children. 15 and 16 year olds. You know, I was pretty mature at 15, but there is NO WAY THAT I COULD HAVE BEEN A MOTHER. I can't IMAGINE what it would have been like to have had James when I was that age. I talked to her about school and encouraged her in every way possible while standing in the middle of the frozen foods.
I can't get the face of that beautiful little baby out of my head.