Princeton Times

Opinion

September 7, 2012

Proms and pregnancy: Still watching ‘girls growing up too fast’

PRINCETON — I was stumbling around the DirecTV television guide recently, looking for something to watch. I happened to click over to “High School Moms” on Discovery Fit and Health.

If you're unfamiliar, “High School Moms” follows the lives of several teenage girls that are either pregnant or already the mother to a child. The girls attend a special school built to serve their needs in a suburb of Denver, Colo.

I'm torn on this show. Part of me wanted to switch channels immediately and part of me wanted to continue watching. I wanted to watch because it's always nice to see someone overcome tremendous odds that are stacked against them. It's always very uplifting to watch.

I didn't want to watch because well, quite frankly, it's the worst part of our culture. Girls, growing up way, way, way too fast, and attempting to be mothers before they've accomplished what we've required of them. I mean we're talking about girls that have kids at the age of 16 or 17 years old.

The girls have to deal with things like boyfriends (so much for shotgun weddings!) going to jail, boys that have abandoned them, and parents that are completely frazzled and don't know what to do with their baby that's having a baby.

Now, I am by no means a sociologist or a psychiatrist, but some of these girls have serious issues. We're not talking about slapping her in the detention room at school. These girls have real issues, the kind that need professional attention and possibly jail time to fix.

One girl ran away from home several times before coming back pregnant and enrolling in the school. When she began acting out in class, she had a meeting with the principal of the school.

He told her that she was acting in ways that were not acceptable. She didn't seem to be the least bit concerned. She spent most of that meeting with her eyes on her phone.

She eventually asked, “Can I leave now?”

The principal seemed to be more than exasperated because he believed he was going to have to take more and more harsh disciplinary measures against the girl before kicking her out of the school.

Later, her mom and the principal had a meeting.

The girl was none-too-pleased with that. She told her “nana” that she couldn't believe her mom was trying to act like a mom now. She was also worried that her mom would make her leave the school and get her GED.

The mom explained that the girl was always running away before coming back six months later pregnant.

Part of me wants to help this girl and the others at the school. The principal seems to think that these girls need encouragement and empowerment to do better in their lives and to provide for the children.

Another part of me is less kind. I want to grab these girls, their parents, and shake them or something. I want to tell them that getting an education should be their top priority. They should be focused on their lives. Instead, they've made a tragic mistake, and destroyed their lives and possibly the lives of their kids.

The only thing I know for sure is that it's compelling television. By the way, I had no idea that they made prom dresses for pregnant girls.

Matt Christian is a Princeton Times reporter.

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