Before Teen Mom

In an attempt to get rid of a migraine Sunday I laid on the couch with a hot pack, watching the Teen Mom 2 marathon. I’ve never seen the show before but I’m pretty sure it’s not a recommended migraine cure. Until I finally watched an episode or ten, I don’t think I realized why I avoided it (aside from the fact that it’s a trashy reality show aimed at a generation I am years from being part of).

I cringed at the train wreck of a show. Girls leaving their babies with everyone but the local party store clerk, guys coming in and out of their lives treating parenthood as optional. I didn’t want to see myself in any of it. I wanted to see Ashlyn’s childhood through rose colored classes with a side of glistening sunshine.

But maybe there were a few things I identified with.

At 19 or 20, grocery shopping made me anxious. Not just because I had a three year-old ready-to-run-at-any-second child with autism strapped in my cart, but because I was trying to put on the best I-can-do-this show while performing the ultimate mom task.

I pretended to know just what coupons I could double and I always, always wore my glasses.

They made me look older.

I tried to not let my mouth fall open as I debated over cream of mushroom or chicken and wondered if people thought I was running errands for my mom. Scanning toddler cookies for sugar content was usually the point, I decided, most thought I was a dedicated nanny.

I spent years upon drama filled years trying to be a “mom.” Shuttling my daughter to doctor appointments and clumsily attempting time-outs, I was never really sure if this was what motherhood was supposed to look like.

Sunday night I grocery shopped by. my. self. and who says you can’t get nostalgic in a grocery store when you have time to finish a full thought inside your own head without being interrupted?

Standing in front of the canned tomatoes, trying to decide between stewed or diced or paste, I flashed back to the uncertain 20 year-old trying not to blow her cover. My heart started beating faster as a confident shopper breezed by, quickly grabbing spaghetti sauce. She didn’t even have a list.

There will always be someone doing it better, or at least making it look that way.

I shopped my way from aisle 5 to aisle 15 mulling over high fructose corn syrup and parenting failures then got as excited, as always, when the cashier told me how much I saved.

My trunk piling over with groceries I pulled in our driveway to a crowd running to greet me like it was Christmas,

not a single one of them noticing I bought rye instead of wheat. 

watching bus

Today I’m over at Childswork sharing one of my favorite things about Ashlyn and many other kids with autism. Maybe I didn’t do so bad after all, or maybe she’s just amazing.

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  1. says

    Would you believe that is one of my favorite shows? I don’t know why it has pulled me in the way it has; I guess I just relate. My heart breaks for those girls–and their babies–every time they play those wistful, mourning songs at the end. I want to call them up and tell them that happy endings do happen. As you and I both know.
    Darcie Maranich recently posted..Some things I remember

  2. says

    Is it weird that I’m so moved by your kids never noticing you bought rye?
    Their love crowds out those silly details. Always.

    My kids are teenagers now; but when we’re done with dinner and karate practice and homework and all the other chores of the day, they STILL ask, “What are we watching tonight?! Is Survivor on?!” They want to spend time together as a family.

    Every night.
    Like Christmas.

    Motherhood isn’t an age.
    And love like that is forever.
    julie gardner recently posted..How to Rock a Writer’s Conference

  3. says

    What a great reflection to share Jessica. I love reading your posts always, but really love when you take a glimpse back at your life. It’s always interesting to look back at life a little older, a little wiser (and COMPLETELY beyond the generation of the Teen Mom “target audience” :) Hehe)
    Kate F. recently posted..Paying it Forward with Patience

  4. says

    I wasn’t a teen mom, but I still feel like I’m faking it half the time. I stand in the aisle and try to remember exectly which ingredient is to be avoided and why.

  5. says

    Jess- Motherhood is one lesson you cannot learn in any school- its not a course you can take up in grad school. A child teaches you how to a mom- and your children a darn good teachers darling- cause you turned out just fine!
    Reha recently posted..And a doctor he became

  6. says

    Honestly? I am in awe. At 19 and 20 I could barely take care of MYSELF, much less anyone else. I know how hard it was to be a first time parent at 30, so I can’t imagine how much harder it would be a full decade earlier. The best part of all of it is that you have an amazing family, wonderful kids that YOU made… and that YOU taught and nurtured and made as awesome as they are. You totally rocked it. :-)
    Ashley @ It’s Fitting recently posted..The Perfect Pie Crust :: Good Enough to Eat

  7. says

    Shopping with my kids is something I try my best to avoid like the plague. It has to be the most stressful thing ever. My son is ADHD and he hates grocery (or any) shopping, so he makes the most fuss and acts up. My current solution is to grocery shop while the 3 1/2 and 5 year olds are at school, and the 2 year old comes with me. Much more peaceful. Of course, I love the times when I can go alone but those are rare.
    Mercy recently posted..Halloween Party and Sweets Contest

  8. says

    Lest you ever view yourself as a statistic, Jess, rest assured you’re not. You’re a success story.

    And FWIW, I had my first child at age 34, and for the first few months of her life the thought of going anywhere with her scared the hell out of me. Still does sometimes. 😉
    Kristin @ What She Said recently posted..Page 79

  9. says

    The other day I was at the grocery store with Gracie, my 4yo, and another little one was throwing a tantrum. Gracie was staring and asking lots of questions and the poor mom was just trying to get the hell out of there. I wanted to help but I knew the best thing I could do was get my loudly-questioning preschooler away so she didn’t cause that poor mom more stress! Ugh, grocery shopping with kids can be SO HARD!
    JD @ Honest Mom recently posted..Honest Mom Reader Giveaway #2 : Two Dozen Handcrafted Holiday Cookies!

  10. says

    I remember those days! A pregnant twenty year old attempting to shop with a three year old in tow. I felt like such a kid! Shopping with kids is super difficult, though, no matter how old you are. As John said, I never give “those looks” when I see or hear a little one giving mom a hard time. I may say something to my own kids about how it sounds like someone is having a hard time being at the store today and have explained that we shouldn’t judge since we don’t know that mom and child(ren)’s life situation. Shopping alone is not a luxury ever mom has. I cherish the few times I get to shop alone.
    Amy O’Connor recently posted..Thankful… Day One

  11. says

    I think you have done a great job. No matter how old we are, the anxiety of being a first time mom is completely overwhelming. I’m not sure I ventured out with my oldest alone until he was over a year old. I always brought dad along…just in case I (or baby boy) had a meltdown in the store. LOL
    Courtney Kirkland recently posted..False Alarm…

  12. says

    I can’t imagine having been a teen mother, so immature and unready was I as a teen. Heck it took me into my 40’s to brave it at all. And grocery shopping alone is one of the luxuries of my life with them both in school… when I have time to and remember to get it done during the day. My heart sinks when I’m home with both boys and realize there’s an essential item I need for the next day’s lunchboxes and my husband is working late. Because a trip with both of them to the grocery store? Bringing a Civil War battle along with me. (Autism boy + ADD boy + public place = explosion.) I am constantly amazed at all you juggle and still hold it together as beautifully as you do. xoxoxo
    Varda (SquashedMom) recently posted..Listen To Your Mother is back and badder than ever!