Sunday, January 31, 2010

And She's OFF!!

The dreaded day has come. The driving instructor came knocking on our door this morning at 10:05, and after 15 minutes of instructions at the curb, my first-born daughter accelerated off into the dark unknown. OK, maybe I'm being a little dramatic. It was bright daylight. But for all you parents of teens or soon-to-be teens who think that you have all kinds of time before you have to worry about your children driving, well, you don't.

If you read my blog at all, you know that my teenager driving is my worst nightmare. Something I've been stressing over for the past year or so. Why? Well, it might have something to do with the fact that car accidents are the leading cause of death for kids ages 16-19.

I should relax and trust the process a little more. Driving laws are a lot tougher now. Ever since they enacted the Graduated Driver's License Law in California in 1998, the first state in this country to do so, traffic fatalities in teenagers have been reduced significantly. In the first two years after passage of the law, teen passengers killed and injured in crashes involving 16-year-old drivers decreased by 40 percent in this state.

Breathe in. Breathe out.

I should remember that I was sitting where she was once, A VERY LONG TIME AGO. And look at me . . . I've stayed alive long enough to be able to write neurotic posts about how scary it is for teenagers to be driving. Truth be told, I think my teenager is already a safer, more cautious driver than I was when I was 16. The first day I got my license, I ran a motorcyclist off the road because I didn't know that he had the same rights to the road as cars. I could have SWORN that I read in the driver's manual that motorcyclists were supposed to drive in the bike lane. They ARE bikes, right?

It's been about an hour since my daughter pulled away from the curb. My cell phone hasn't rung and I haven't heard any sirens off in the distance. So far, so good. I feel a little more relaxed, I guess. Writing this post has helped. And I keep hearing what my oldest sister said, "Lynn, you're going to have to let her grow up sometime."

Now I can move on to my next neurotic episode . . . buying more car insurance so she can practice driving with me.

Friday, January 15, 2010

Return Of The Bad-Luck BFF

Hello, again . . . been MIA for a while in accordance with some of my top New Year’s resolutions: Get off my butt, move my body around more, and instead of blogging so much about life, actually get out there and enjoy a little of it.

But I’m back on my butt, where it feels oh-so-comfortable, to talk about a few teen things. Over the holidays, my 16-year-old daughter’s friend from Wisconsin came out to visit us. Again. (But this time in NorCal instead of SoCal.) They’re good buddies. They met on the Disney Cruise last year, talk regularly on the phone, text nearly daily and have seen each other three times since the cruise. Did I mention this friend is a “he?” Chris is his name. VERY nice boy, respectful, comes from hard-working, family-centered, honest parents. You know, the kind of people you’d meet on a Disney Cruise.

Now, some of you might think it’s inappropriate to allow a teenaged boy to fly all the way out to the Left Coast – alone! -- to visit my teenaged daughter for a week, especially given the fact that we live in an all-female home, with no man around to intimidate a 16-year-old boy who might have “other’ things on his mind. (In case you’re wondering about the sleeping arrangements: Chris slept in my daughter’s room, she slept with me, and I slept with one eye open.)

With or without a dad in the house, Chris being here felt so right to me. There is NOTHING but friendship between them, trust me. They didn’t even kiss on New Year’s Eve. She’s been telling me all along, “Mom, Chris is my best friend.” And after observing them for a week, I see what she means. Those two really have a very special, NON-SEXUAL bond between them. They talk. They laugh. They kid each other. They lie around on her bed like two BFFs, shoes kicked off, sharing a bag of chips and pictures from their cell phones.

I can’t help but wonder that had I spent time building a similar friendship with my ex-husband, we might still be married. Nope, we were too eager to jump all over each other, and look how that ended.

Anyway, Chris’ visit wasn’t without its mishaps. Again. When he came out to visit us last year in Orange County, he fell ill and spent the entire weekend on my couch. His mom called it The Wisconsin Plague ( This trip, the dark cloud hovered once again. First off, his plane was delayed out of Milwaukee and he almost missed his connecting flight. Had he sprinted to the gate 10 minutes later, out of breath and in dire need of the asthma inhaler he forgot to pack, he would have had to spend the entire night in the Houston airport. Thankfully, he made it in time. But it was a nail-biter, let me tell you.

While we did enjoy a lovely daytrip to San Francisco one day, the flu came knocking on our door once again, only this time it hit all of us, starting with my youngest daughter. (I really don’t think you’ve earned your parenting stripes until you’ve cleaned up your child’s vomit.)

Between flu days, my daughters and Chris were well enough to go jump on some trampolines at a local hotspot. That’s where Chris fell hard, hitting his head and causing a massive nosebleed. We spent the evening on Concussion Watch. The next day, I was cleaning up my daughter’s room and tripped over Chris’ suitcase, landing hard on my tailbone, where I am now sporting a rather beautiful purple bruise.

It’s probably a good thing that my teeanged daughter caught the flu the day we were supposed to go skiing in Lake Tahoe. I shudder to think what might have happened to Chris on the slippery slopes with that bad-luck cloud following him.

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Thursday, January 7, 2010

Debate Over Teen Pregnancy

After posting Tricia Goyer's take on how to cut down on teen pregnancies, I received a request from a reader named Rick Machado, another expert on teen pregnancy, who asked if he could write a rebuttal to Tricia's post because of some apparent inconsistencies that he cites in it. I love a good, healthy debate. So take it away, Rick . . .

Ms. Goyer writes an article that is like thousands of other articles written today about teen pregnancy, They concentrate heavily on the morals, values and scruples of the teen. They lay heavily on the stance of abstinence. They work to "frighten" the teen into delaying sex because of the risk of "protected sex". They are quick to point out the failure rate of contraception. They warn that it could happen to "good girls". They associate teen pregnancy with sex. They demonize the media. They encourage chastity and "purity." Ms. Goyer even goes further to say that having heterosexual, monogamous sex in a marraige will show"integrity", and thus help "curb" teen pregnancy, something that is a first for me. Then what about single moms, single dads? Gay couples?

First, we use the teen birth rate (TBR), not "teen pregnancy." We seldom use the teen pregnancy rate (TPR) because it is wildly inaccurate, mostly because of legalized abortion. And we don't use totals - they mean nothing without context. A million births? So what? Compared to what?

Second, The National Center for Health points out that between 2005-2006, there were 435,000 births to teens. The TBR was at 41.6. The latest figures I have show a slight uptick in the TBR to 41.9. That puts total teen pregnancies at about 750,000, and if that's "nearly a million", then the earth is flat. It's also nearly half a million. An "expert" should really be more precise.

Third, putting our time and money into making the teen more responsible has no bearing on the TBR. Nor do all of the other "ways" to "curb " teen pregnancy she mentions. Lectures on chastity, purity, waiting, and guilt, none of these having anything to do with lowering the TBR. The TBR has nothing to do with contraception, sex, teen morals, values, the media, or any of her points.

Perhaps what is most damaging in Ms. Goyer's article is her warning to "good girls." If there are "good girls," then there must be "bad" girls. She may as well have said, "We know bad girls get pregnant because they don't have an important dad, and get poor grades! But, hey, it can happen to you too." Why do only "good" girls get the warning? This class bigotry shows ignorance, and should outrage everyone.

There are 10 dynamics behind the teen birth rate. Each dynamic has data, not speculation, not supposition. Each carries its own weight, each interlocks, each is exponential in its affect of the teens, and society as a whole.

1. The Adult Birth Rate: Teens follow the ABR almost lockstep, and have since the 40's. Sarah Palin pregnant in July 2007, delivers April 2008. Bristol Palin pregnant March 2008, delivers December 2008. That's just one example of many.

2. Poverty: Between 70 and 85% of pregnant teens come from poverty, including emotional poverty, like Jamie Lynn Spears. . Being pregnant doesn't cause poverty, as Kristen Luker points out. Being poor causes women to bear children earlier. Today's poverty rate is our TBR in 10 years.

Here's a chart I made for a talk I gave last year at a high school.

92694 104K, less than 1%
92555 62K, 9%
92557 54K, 10%
92551 49K, 11%
92553 38K, 15%
92570 32K, 17%
93702 21K, 20%

The first number is the zip code of various towns in Calif, my home state, including the zip code of the school I was speaking at. . The second is mean income per family, the third number, the percentage of births to teens.

3. Sex Abuse: Between 66% and 80% of pregnant teens have been sexually abused, or forced into early sexualization, and that's just the ones reported and caught. Teen pregnancy and sex abuse go hand in hand. See the chart above? Look at zip code 92570. It has a sex abuse per capita rate at 1-225, 4 times higher than the state average of 1-1100. Oh, and Bristol Palin? Juneau Alaska has a sex abuse rate per capita of 1-303, one of the highest in the nation.

4. Violent, chaotic households: A Washington study found of pregnant teens, that:

66% sexually are abused
44% are raped
49% are hit with belt or strap
31% are hit with sticks
26% are thrown against walls
5% are burned
Overall, 70% had been physically or sexually abused.

5. Economic attraction to older males: About 80% of all teens are impregnanted by adult men. Average age for her 15.3 pregnant, delivers at 16. Average age for him, 21.5.

6. Lack of reproductive health care as an unpregnant female: The health care situation may change, but it is a complete failure for the young and poor. Michelle Bachelet, president of Chile, on her first day in office stipulated free contraception for everyone, noting" Our country will crumble when our young get pregnant early".(paraphrasing)

7. Educational failure: There is no greater show of cowardice than the abdication of our schools in teaching about sexuality. Abstinence, a horrific and shameful failure, shows how much we hate our young. We make them fear sex, a gift they will spend the rest of their life engaging in. The rate of pregnancy when contraceptives are used correctly, and the STD rate when contraceptives are used correctly is miniscule compared to the dangers of teen driving, living in a high crime areas, prescription drugs, and keeping firearms in the home.

8. Lack of competing choices: Helen Benedict (The Lonely Soldier) points out that half of all enlistees in our entire Armed Services joined to escape both physical and sexual abuse. The jobs are gone, college is not affordable, high schools are broke, towns are crumbling, families are broken, and increasingly homeless. A pregnancy looks good to a girl in these situations.

9. Male abandonment: Eighty-five percent of all men leave the pregnant teen. This is what causes her poverty, not the fact she got pregnant.

10. The uncomfortable but true fact that having a child as a teen is often a good choice: The sex abuse stops. She gets health care denied as an unpregnant girl. She has someone to love. She has purpose. If this makes you uncomfortable, then put Ms. Goyer and rest of the adult-dominated society in front of the mirror, not the teen.

Teen Pregnancy is an adult problem, not a teen problem, and it has been forever. Adults created it, adults drive it, and adults are the only ones who can fix it. Ms. Goyer writes an absurd, ludicrous article. It is designed to pad her resume, perpetuate the status quo, hold teens down and keep adults blameless.

Faye Waddleton said it best- "If you want to keep a teen from getting pregnant, don't give her a condom. Give her a better future."

My stats come from all over:

Mike Males- Scapegoat Generation
Kristen Luker- Dubious Conceptions
Judith Musick- Young, Poor and Pregnant
Allan Guttmacher Inst.
League of Nations
Faye Waddleton, past pres. Planned Parenthood
CDC, and many more.

Many thanks to Lynn for providing this opportunity to speak.

Rick Machado
Public Speaker on Teen Pregnancy

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Saturday, January 2, 2010

How To Curb Teen Pregnancy

Happy New Year, Everyone! What better way for parents of teenagers to start out 2010 than with a little guidance to help keep our emerging young adults on the right path. I am pleased to bring you a wonderful guest post by Tricia Goyer, a renowned author, speaker and teen expert. Take it away, Tricia . . .

How many young women do you know having babies? I know many. Nearly 1 million teen girls get pregnant every year.

If you don’t want your daughter to be one of the 1 million teen girls who find themselves pregnant every year, consider this:

1. Be a Role Model. Our kids often follow where we lead. Consider your life. Are you living with integrity? Are you only having sex within the bounds of marriage? The saying, “Do what I say not what I do” never works.

2. Talk about what love is. Love is not sex. Going “all the way” with someone doesn’t prove your love. (No matter what they show on television.) True love is shown through life-long commitment and by valuing the other person. Remind teens that they are the one responsible for setting sexual limits on a relationship. Remind young women, “Sex won't make him yours. A baby won't make him stay.”

3. Remind kids it CAN happen to them. Having sex, even so called "protected" sex, can lead to pregnancy. It can happen even to kids from a good family. The only way to 100% prevent pregnancy is to not have sex.

4. Emphasize that even “good girls” get pregnant. Having a good report card, being a good person, having an important parent, or being conscientious will not protect you from pregnancy. According to, one in three young women get pregnant at least once before they turn 20--good girls included.

5. Let your daughter know that most teens wished they had waited. Sex before marriage can not only lead to pregnancy, but there are other health concerns, such as STDs. There is also emotional baggage. According to, 60% of teens “wished they had waited longer” to have sex.

6. Encourage your teen to plan her actions BEFORE the situation arises. Talk about set boundaries and not putting herself in situations that will cause her to compromise those decisions. Help her make good plans for her future and stick to goals.

7. Talk about media’s wrong messages. The media (television, radio, movies, music videos, magazines, the Internet) are chock full of material sending the wrong messages. Just because we see everyone in Hollywood having sex and having babies, doesn't mean it's the right thing to do. Babies are a responsibility, not a fashion accessory.

8. Encourage secondary purity. Teens can say “no” even if they’ve said "yes" before. Today your daughter can make the right choice and choose abstinence.

9. Realize parents can only do so much … but make sure it’s done! As a parent, you cannot be around your child 24/7. Yet, we can do our best to prepare our daughters. Don’t wait.

10. Let you kids know you are available to talk about every issue in life. It's also important for parents to open up a two way conversation, not a one-way lecture. Parents can do this by turning the above topics into questions such as: What are your boundaries? Do you think sex proves you love someone? What do you think of the messages media gives out?

Tricia Goyer is an author, speaker and Teen/Family Life Expert. Learn more about her at:

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