Karla Martinez/COACHELLA UNINCORPORATED
While there are many family traditions I hope to pass down to my children one day, there is one tradition I hope ends with me.
My great-grandmother, grandmother, and mother were all teen moms.
I was born when my parents were only 15, which is just a year older than I am now. I can’t imagine the responsibility of becoming a parent at such a young age.
The reality is that my parents were kids themselves when they had me, and as a result I was forced to grow up fast.
My childhood was very unstable. My parents ended up getting divorced after my brother and sister were born. When I was nine, my mother and stepfather took my siblings and me to live in Las Vegas, the beginning of a rough period. By that time I’d already attended many schools as a child, and it was always difficult switching environments. This time, though, was even harder because Las Vegas was so far away from everyone and everything familiar to me.
I felt as if a hole had been punched through my stomach. It was a feeling of emptiness — the fear of being alone. Living with strangers, as we often did, kept me up at night and often drove me to tears.
My mother lost her childhood when I was born. She didn’t know what it was like to go out with friends and have fun. Instead, she was at home changing diapers, making bottles and wondering how her life would be if I hadn’t been born.
I was forced to become the adult and take care of my brother and sister while she tried to be young again. She would have crazy outbursts where she would tell us that she wanted to travel and live in other places and experience different jobs. My younger siblings never had a clue. They just smiled because their mother was there; that was all that really counted in their eyes.
The outcome was traumatic. I began to rebel and hardly knew the difference between right and wrong. I was in pain. My behavior wasn’t the same. Everyone was the enemy, and the world was against me. I couldn’t express my anger or my frustrations. I was depressed. I began to write. It was my sixth grade teacher who opened my eyes, for the first time, to the world and to the millions of possibilities and opportunities I had to succeed.
I began to realize that I didn’t have to end up like my mother. The years passed and my mom didn’t come to her senses; she only got worse. My decision was made. I was done following her around because I realized it was always going to be about her happiness and whatever was in her best interest – not mine.
I went back to my grandmother’s home in Coachella, where I had spent a lot of my childhood. I reconnected with my dad, who had been in and out of my life over the years. He, too, had gone through a phase of trying to find himself. He made me realize that I only had one mother and that holding a grudge against her wouldn’t solve anything.
Still, today I am creating a new destiny for myself. I will not follow in the footsteps of the women in my family who have gotten pregnant and had children so early in life. I’m on my way to those millions of possibilities for my future.
Despite the hard times, I have come to see that my mother tried her best. In fact, because of what I experienced as the child of a teen mom, I am the ambitious, optimistic, and hard-working person I am today.
And I am proud to say my mother, too, is catching on and improving, day by day.
Karla Martinez, 14, is a sophomore at Olive Crest Academy in Coachella.