Yesterday the Republican Vice-Presidential Candidate, Governor Palin, announced her 17-year-old daughter is five months pregnant.
First of all, this should never be used as criticism as to the Palins’ parenting skills. Being a parent myself, observing other parents and interacting with many others demonstrates that no matter what you do, sometimes your children do things you wish they hadn’t. It is part of the maturing process.
You can be the strictest parent, with tight control over their time, friends, and locations. They can still get in trouble. (We sure did.) You can be a parent who wants to be a friend, and imposes no rules whatsoever. They can still get in trouble. And—in the same range—each set of parents could have wonderful kids who never ever do anything wrong at all.
Until we can legally bring back iron chastity belts—regardless of your parenting skills—your child can become a parent.
Should the Palins have done something different? A pretty stupid question at this point. If they didn’t want their daughter to become pregnant, obviously they should have done something different. At the least, chain her to the radiator on a certain day. (I’m kidding….sorta.) As parents we all look back with perfect hindsight, smacking ourselves on the forehead, exclaiming, “I should have….” That is easy. The harder question is what to do in the future.
I do not know Governor Palin’s position on sex education. From what little positional statements I could find, as well as her background—it would not surprise me if she was a strong supporter of abstinence education. If so, I would hope she re-evaluates this position and recognizes abstinence-only education is not effective. Certainly we hope our children are abstinent; but we also hope to never be put in a nursing home. 50% of you reading this blog will be. Hope and reality are two very different creatures.
What pained me, upon reading the press release, was the “assurance” that this 17-year-old girl was going to marry the father of the child. As if to say, “Don’t worry, everybody. The marriage will legitimize this whole thing. What seems to be a minor bit of a spot right now will be washed clean by the sanctity of marriage and we can all breathe easy.”
Bristol Palin is 17.
Who were YOU dating at 17? 11th or 12th Grade in High School for Americans. Think back to him/her. Would you like to be married to them?
Oddly enough, I knew my wife when we were 17. And I would have liked to date her. Yet part of my maturing process involved dating others who were not like her, sorta like her, and had various qualities, in order to learn who it was that I yearned for. As the silly saying goes, “You have to date a lot of frogs to get your prince.”
There is some truth in that. We learn through the process as to what we can live with; and what we can’t. While I ended up marrying a woman I would have dated at 17; I seriously question whether we would still be married if we had married at 17.
Bristol Palin dated Levi (the name of the father) for a period of time, I suppose. We don’t know many details about him. She liked him. Liked him enough to have sex with him. But did she really want to marry him?
Now we will never know, because the pregnancy has “forced” the issue.
See, this happened often enough in the Christian community we lived in. Guy and girl date awhile. Decide to get married. Married the next month. Seven months later God delivers a miracle 8 ½ pound “preemie” baby. It happened enough, my friend made up the saying that is the title of this blog entry—“Once they’re married, it is not polite to count months.”
What is it about being married that makes a bit of difference? Why do they think having a marriage certificate before a birth certificate somehow makes it “better”? (Cough, Cough—not to bring up a troubling topic in the middle of this, but if “human life” begins at conception and not at birth—why treat birth so special?) If you think about it—it is almost amusing the race to “beat the clock.”
Resulting in couples marrying in hospitals hours before the birth, so they can legitimately declare, “This child was not born out of wedlock.” What a difference 12 hours can make!
I don’t fault the Palins’ parenting skills because they have a 17-year-old daughter with a world famous pregnancy. That could happen to any parent. What I do question is where they go from here? Nothing has been said about Bristol marrying Levi prior to the birth. (Although I’ll bet they do.) However, we all know the pressure Bristol is under to marry this guy.
I wish the Palins would tell Bristol, “Look. The two of you have a child. That is a big responsibility, and we will work through this as best we can. But you are 17. There is no law requiring the two of you to get married. We can wait. If you want to get married after one year, after two years—we can consider it.” I wish they would take that social, familial and most importantly spiritual pressure off Bristol and rather force another bad decision on top of the first, let Bristol make her own decision.
Yes, I know there are anecdotes of people marrying at 17 after becoming pregnant, and staying married for 96 years. And anecdotes of people being forced to marry for the same reasons and divorcing within 4. The point is—can’t we learn from that? Let Bristol choose to marry free from the constraints of have to marry?
My greatest concern of the parenting skills of the Palins is not what happened before. It is what will happen later.