She has been crying for hours and I can’t get her to stop. I have just been sitting here, wondering what my next move should be.
Yande is my 17 year old daughter and I’ve been raising her on my own for several years now. Her mother left us after… well, the reason behind that is another long story. Unfortunately, I am starting to realize her absence is more and more impactful as Yande grows up. There are just certain things I don’t know how to handle with an adolescent girl that’s discovering her identity, as I wrestle with my own. One thing I made sure of though was to foster a strong relationship with her. I may not know how to handle everything but I made sure I was always a shoulder to cry on, an ear to vent to, and a sharer of my lessons learned. I made sure I was just as much her friend as her father.
Dad: Yande, stop crying. Sit up and talk to me.
Yande: I feel so stupid!
That’s the first thing she has said in the two hours I have been sitting in her room – so that’s a start. I was a worried mess.
Dad: What happened? I can’t help you if you don’t talk to me.
Yande looks over to me and very slowly utters the words that had been choking her this whole time.
Yande: I’m… pregnant.
I can’t move. I don’t know if I heard her correctly so I remain silent for a moment.
Dad: Yande, sit up and look at me. What did you say?
Immediately, the tears that had subdued momentarily were back and she started bawling.
Dad: No, no, come on. Speak up – did you say you’re pregnant?
She continues crying and I feel the room getting darker. I don’t know what to say next.
Yande: I’m so sorry! Please don’t hate me.
Dad: I don’t hate you. I’m angry. I just need you to explain to me what happened.
She is still crying uncontrollably. I start losing my patience.
Dad: I’m going to step out. Get yourself together and come talk to me when you’re done crying.
I slam her door shut and head for the front door.
I start pacing on the porch, wondering what went wrong … what didn’t add up. I have given her everything to make sure she never needed anything from anyone – ever! Fuck! I go for a walk around the neighborhood to clear my thoughts.
What if she had been raped? Did she have a boyfriend this whole time and I didn’t know? What does she even know about sex? I can’t pinpoint where to begin. I don’t know what to do and I don’t know what to say. I decide to head back home and confront the situation – I have to figure out what happened and decide from there.
I open the front door and see Yande sitting on the couch, waiting for me. My stomach drops as I look at my little princess, scared and worried. I am filled with every emotion as I make the walk over to the living room to join her. Angry that she’d gotten herself into this mess. Mad that I failed somehow as a father. Worried because I know I am not fully equipped to help her get through this but I have no choice. And finally, relieved that she came to me despite the unpleasantness of the situation. That’s one area I didn’t fail completely – I still have that bond with my princess. I probably feel more scared and worried than she does right about now, in all honesty. You’re never prepared for this kind of conversation. I sit down, hands shaking.
Yande: I just want to start by saying I’m so sorry. I can never apologize enough and I feel so ashamed sitting in front of you right now. I don’t even know what to say. I’m sorry, Daddy, please forgive me. I know you probably hate m…
Dad: Yande, stop. I don’t know what to say either. But I need you to start from the beginning.
Yande takes a deep breath and starts explaining.
Yande: Well, there’s this boy I’ve been seeing for a few months now. I swear I was going to bring him to meet you but I was waiting for the right time. It all moved really fast… I guess I just lost control. [Pause] Okay, let me start over. His name is Pape and he goes to my school and is in the same class as me.
I was quiet and intently listening – I need to hear more.
Yande: We really like each other – we’re in love. He knows about the baby.
I lose my breath at the sound of my 17 year old daughter talking about things I didn’t even think were on her mind.
Dad: Slow down. When did you start seeing this boy.
Yande: A few months ago. But it really picked up this school year… He’s not a bad guy, Daddy, my grades are still good and… let me stop. I know there is no justification for my behavior.
Dad: You’re right. There is no justification. Yande, you’re 17! He’s still a boy himself. I sent you to school to get an education, not to be someone’s girlfriend and definitely not to get pregnant! What the hell were you thinking?
Yande: I wasn’t thinking … I’m sorry. We didn’t plan this, I swear. It was an honest mistake – just one time! I was so scared and we promised not to do anything else. I am not a bad person, Daddy and then 7 weeks later I’m finding out I’m pregnant?! You haven’t even met him! How could I be so stupid?!
Dad: Slow down, girl. You’re not stupid. You just made stupid decisions.
Yande: Dad, help me. I am so scared.
Dad: Me too. I thought we had a good relationship; good to the point where you wouldn’t hide things like this from me. You’ve been seeing him for months and I didn’t know.
Yande: I know, Daddy but I just didn’t know how to bring it up. It felt…weird every time I wanted to bring him up.
Dad: Well, I would have rather you did so I could give you some advice. You’re still young and I know you’re going to have feelings but this is a very fragile age period for you. You’re going to feel like you have it all figured out but you don’t. And you won’t for a while. Honey, relationships are not made for the weak-minded or lighthearted.
Yande looks at me with the most inquisitive eyes, filled with tears – yearning for more. It’s like this was information she wish she had asked for before all of this happened. In that moment, I knew it was time to educate my daughter.
Dad: Babygirl, we’re going to have a lot more of these conversations. I need to meet this boy and his parents. You’ve gotten us into a huge mess and I’m gonna have to clean it up. You’re really going to need to brace yourself for some tough life lessons. Sometimes we make decisions that stick with us for a really long time … and this is one of them. That’s not to say your life is over but it just got a little harder.
At this point, her tears disappeared. I could tell what I was saying was sinking in and she was having a wake-up call.
Dad: Look, we need to start setting up doctor’s visits and getting in contact with Pape and his folks. But let’s table this conversation for now and get you some rest. Come on.
Yande: But Daddy, what if I don’t want to keep it?
My heart sank yet again. This is going to be a long journey.