Trigger Warning * Violence * Language
“This is so funny,” Nate said. “I get to tell people my wife is a freshman…in high school!”
Not wanting a 15-year-old married mother in the middle school, the school board made the decision to bump me to the ninth grade instead, and the very idea was exciting and terrifying. I had never officially passed the eighth grade, so I was afraid I wouldn’t be able to keep up.
On the other hand, I wondered what people would think about me being married with a baby. Would it surprise them? Would my teachers treat me differently than my classmates? I didn’t even know if I could juggle school with being a good mom and a good wife. When would I sleep?
On my first day of school, I kissed Scott over a hundred times before we dropped him off at his new babysitter’s house. And when Nate dropped me off at the front of the high school, I really had to push myself to walk through the front doors. I thought childbirth was hard, but that seemed like nothing at the moment compared to this. It took all my strength not to back out. It’s not like I had to go. This was completely optional. Me and my stupid ideas.
I checked in at the office and sat for a long time, waiting for a counselor to spare me a moment. When one did, we went through the course book and chose classes.
“And now, are your parents outside?” she asked.
“No, I’m married. I can do this all myself,” I explained.
“I see,” she said, shuffling her papers. “And you are…?”
I raised my eyebrows, unsure of the unfinished question.
“You are how old?”
“Oh, I’m 15,” I said. “I have a baby.”
“OK, that explains it, then,” she said, sighing. “Let’s go back over these classes and see what you can handle. I think looking at your records here, especially since you failed the eighth grade, we need to make sure you don’t overload yourself. How about Food and Nutrition for first period?”
That was the class I wanted the least. I did enough cooking and cleaning at home. I already earned my credits there.
“That’s all we have open for first,” she said, and went on to rearrange all the classes I had chosen.
I ended up in complete beginner classes, or what I soon thought of as the “barely smart enough to be in the ninth grade” classes, which I guess was true in my case.
The very first person I met in my “It’s Like I’m at Home and Married” class was another teen mom. I immediately felt comfortable as we complained to each other how excited we were to get a grade for what we do every day. It’d be even more of an insult if we couldn’t pass at least this one class. My new friend shared with me that she’d been back in a school for a little while and told me about a group she was in for other teen moms, which met right there at the school. It was a wonderful connection, but ultimately the group spent more time sorting coupons than actually connecting, so I stopped going. The organizer of the group, a teacher in the school, didn’t seem to have a clue what we really needed (not that coupons weren’t helpful), and since I didn’t exactly know what we needed either, I didn’t step up to offer advice. I just quietly left, my usual way to handle what I didn’t like or found overwhelming.
I earned As in all my classes and ended my first grading period with a straight-A honor roll. I was moved out of general science into the advanced class, and within days, I would be moved into a higher English class as well. The only class I struggled in was math, and since that’s what took me down in the eighth grade, I worked extra hard there. I didn’t sleep much, but it all seemed worth it.
Everyone seemed surprised by just how well I was doing. I knew I wasn’t stupid, but it had been a long time since I felt so smart. Chances were pretty good that I would make the Academic Hall of Fame featured in the main halls. Each student with the highest grade point average per class at the end of each semester was awarded this honor, and I wanted it so badly, I could taste it.
Had I known after the holidays I’d never get to see the inside of this school again, I would have worried about other things, and perhaps if I hadn’t been trying so hard to be perfect at school, I might have noticed things weren’t going so well with Nate anymore.
About Angela Giles Klocke – I’m a Colorado-based speaker, writer, advocate, and princess! I am also a survivor of child abuse, sexual assault, domestic violence, and more. I would love to speak to your group, school, or organization. Catch my TEDx Colorado Springs Talk on abuse, violence, and talking about uncomfortable topics, coming soon. Contact me!