Young Parents

2 min
at 11:43 PM

We are parked outside the motel at the edge of town in my worn-out Honda Accord. It's a sweltering day in May, and our minds are still reeling from being kicked out of our respective parents' homes when they discovered my partner is pregnant.

"So do you want to keep it?"

I look away reluctantly as her words echo through my brain. She had already made it clear that abortion is inconceivable for her, so I recognize quickly that her question is directed squarely at whether or not I would stay with her. My mind races as I slowly wipe the sweat off my forehead. If I stay, there's a tumultuous road ahead, with just a part-time retail job and no place to call home. But if I leave, would I ever look at myself in the mirror with pride, knowing I chose the easy way out? In a moment of resolve, I reach for her hand.

"OK, let's raise our first child".

For young parents, we all have stories to tell. Mine starts at a Motel 6 when I was 19. When people see teen parents, though, there's an automatic negative energy in the air. It's hard to describe the shame and unwarranted judgments we must endure from both strangers and loved ones. We've been called foolish or irresponsible for having kids so young, or too immature to even handle ourselves. Not long ago we watched an older couple stare at us in a grocery store, shaking their heads as we walked past them with our daughter.

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What people don't see are the struggles of enormous responsibility, torn family relationships, and agonizing financial woes. What also seems to be invisible are the relentless love for our little ones and the round-the-clock work we put in to build them a better future. For me, I've worked two jobs for a new car at age 21 and to buy our own home at age 23. At the same time, I've gone back to school and recently got admitted to my dream university, and I can now say that I'm ready to take on the world with my family by my side.

So, the next time you see a young couple at the grocery store with their kids, take a second to consider your reaction. Understand that we're not asking for money or even sympathy--just the consideration that we're trying to raise happy children just like any other parents. Our first child is now four years old and is joined by her little brother, playing and laughing with the purest joy lighting up their faces. You don't even need to smile at us as we walk by--we have plenty of smiles on our kids' faces already.

With a Perspective, I'm Daniel Shepard.

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Daniel Shepard works as a paralegal in Palo Alto and a server in Fremont. This fall, he will study business administration at UC Berkeley.

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