When I walked into that library, the room filled with girls who looked like I did in 1995, I felt at home. And I had no idea what new memory would be created and associated with my return visit to Jackson Central-Merry High School where I graduated #8 in my class and mother to two-year old Jaylan in 1997.
Last year on March 20th, I was excited but knew I had work to do. I was about to speak to a small library full of teen mothers at my alma mater. When I was in school, I was one of four girls in the whole school who was pregnant (that I knew of). Nearly twenty years later, the two school campuses had been turned into separate schools so my school was half the size but the number of teen mothers had more than quadrupled.
My beloved school was no different than many schools across the country with so many young people with the huge responsibility of shaping little lives while still figuring out their own.
As I looked at each girl, I immediately loved them as I always do. I immediately showed them that I was not judging them as so many others do. I immediately let them know that I once was them and they could one day be like me.
And I told them that when I left them I would be rushing back to Memphis because my nineteen year old son and his girlfriend were at the hospital and my own granddaughter would be born soon. Yes, in my efforts of encouraging teen parents and trying to prevent teen pregnancy, real life still hit home. I wrote what I thought was a pretty good post about the array of feelings I had when I found out that despite my efforts to keep my son from becoming a teen father, a baby was on the way.
She was born an hour after I got back.
When I was asked to return to JCM to speak to teen moms again the next year, I was honored and excited. And of all days, it was on March 20th, my granddaughter’s first birthday.
Those familiar feelings returned as I stood in the library. These sweet girls got me. They appreciated me. Why? Because they know I get them. I understand them. I don’t judge them. I love them, and I want them to succeed.
The guidance counselor touched my heart when she sent me this email, “…I thought it was so sweet when the girls from last year faces lit up when they saw you. You are doing great things for these young ladies and I was so glad to be a part of it. Thanks again for all you do. YOU are making a Difference!”
Speaking to teen mothers at the high school where I was a teen mother on the day my son became a teen father. And again the next year on the same day as a grandmother.
Life is funny like that.