Dear Bristol Palin, You Can Get an EducationKelly Wickham
I am at the stage in my life where I have to consider what the next phases will bring. First of all, all four of my children are legal adults, two of them with jobs and homes of their own. The two youngest are still working their way through college, internships, and part-time jobs to pay for their educations. It’s a stage that comes with much frustration, at times, at seeing them work slowly towards an unknown future. But it is also a stage during which they grow and mature and that makes for a very satisfying part of parenthood. My sons, the two youngest of my children, are figuring out who they are by asking questions, getting involved with our community in ways that satisfy them, and are growing into fine young men of whom I am proud. Their sisters are there already, and I anticipate being made a grandmother sometime now that my eldest is married and planning out her life. In all, I am a happy and satisfied mother who has put a lot of hours into this parenthood gig.
When I combine what I know about being a mother with what I know about working with children, impressionable girls among them, I am unable to keep quiet when young girls use their manufactured platforms like Bristol Palin recently did in her piece titled Dear Wendy Davis, You Can Have a Job and Kids. Perhaps the hardest part to swallow is why Bristol even has a platform. But, that isn’t something over which I have any control. It’s distasteful that her fame is second-hand to her mother, a woman who didn’t finish her term as Alaskan governor, but worse still are the reality shows and her own loss in Dancing With the Stars.
In Bristol’s Blog, a horribly written column on the Patheos website, she incoherently takes to task the business of tearing down Wendy Davis. Upon trying to get through a reading of it, I realized something about this stage of my life: I, too, have a platform, and not just in the sense of writing online (thought, admittedly, this blog here is titled Mocha Momma Has Something To Say). My work in schools allows me to work with girls, some of them who end up pregnant and alone in making decisions about becoming a parent. When I worked at the high school level, I had other administrators from other buildings who sent girls my way in order to hear another side of the story. One that isn’t always so dismal and a grindingly difficult uphill battle.
That is because I have something in common with these girls: I was left to raise a child alone. This was an already difficult phase of my life when her Christian Conservative biological father decided that adding a child to his life wasn’t something he felt like doing.
Now, I don’t want to make this all about politics and the Right and the Left, but those who were willing to abandon and those who were willing to help in my struggle were from two very different camps. That is my own experience. You are left to determine what this says about broken systems and holding one another accountable.
It was so clear to me, by age 15, that tearing down others who would denigrate my station in life was a futile exercise. If I wanted something, it would be because I felt the urgency to produce it on my own. I became intimately aware of social services, using Planned Parenthood (an institution Wendy Davis seeks to save for a plethora of health reasons), and figuring out how to create a tribe who would support me. Education, for me, was paramount. It was before I got pregnant and it was afterward, too. While I tried keeping up with actual news, there would be an occasional story about Bristol, pregnant like I was as a youth, that came across my radar. That’s why it was disheartening to hear when she decided that college was “too hard” for her and that she was giving up on that effort.
No, I thought, thinking of the hordes of young girls in my charge. This setback should spur you on, not deter you. You have every available resource at your disposal. You should be using them in ways that I worked too hard to get. It’s a mantra I would repeat to these girls, scared and housing a new life in their fragile bodies, when they came before me. It is a mantra I would suggest young Bristol, and girls like her who would see her as a celebrity model, take up on their own.
Get an education, Bristol. Wendy Davis certainly did so and deserves none of the derision hurled her way. Likewise, having earned two college degrees and finding a career out of that, was the only way I got to this phase of life. It is too bad that reality television skews the truth of what it’s really like to raise a child on your own. If nothing else, at least learn to write better arguments. As an educator who has taught writing, I can decidedly assign you a grade of F on that front. Which begs the question: who did you get to ghostwrite that memoir of yours?