For those who are unaware of the raging debate and over-publicized extreme and, seemingly, ignorant opinion of one Michigan mother, follow this link: https://www.facebook.com/sara.tranum and read the blog post I linked to on my Facebook page earlier today. Or The Washington Times posted a summation of the blog itself with a link to it. Search for “I.AM.THE.MOM.” and you will surely find both the blog and the flurry of internet activity it has started.
So here’s my mad dash into the fray:
For shame that you will prohibit a doctor or nurse from talking privately to your child. The child mentioned in your post is 17 years of age. I hate to be the bearer of bad news but in the next year or so, she will likely leave the nest, perhaps even for college. Once there, she will be completely on her own for many daily decision making opportunities and left to her own devices to communicate with adults in a whole new way. In a way that, despite the opportunity, it sounds she will not learn with you nearby because you couldn’t relinquish control for even 5 minutes. Her professors will likely not only not want to discuss your daughter with you but may be prohibited from doing so, whether she gives permission or not. For a non-emergency and non-family-history-related situation, her medical practitioner will, again, likely not include you.
Based on your side of the story, surely things could have been handled differently, perhaps better, by the office and office staff. But to every story there are three sides: Your side, their side and the truth.
Now, I can understand a parent’s concern over topics that are in contrast with the moral teachings in the household being discussed elsewhere. But let’s be honest: Would you rather your daughter learn the facts from her practitioner or from a friend or (possibly worse yet) her friend’s parents?
It may stun you to learn that according the 2011 statistics, 41.2% of Michigan high school students admitted to having had sex. Here are some quick facts (these and the previous are all from The National Campaign to Prevent Teen and Unplanned Pregnancy, http://www.thenationalcampaign.org): Michigan ranked 20/50 for highest teen pregnancy and teen birth rate, with 8,913 in 2012 or 26.3 births per 1000 girls. 26% were ages 15-17 and a stunning 72% were 18-19 years old. While it ain’t 50th, 20th really isn’t anything to right home about. Worse yet, 54% of ALL pregnancies in women ages 15 – 44 were unplanned. This tells me that somewhere in their formative years, girls are missing some critical pieces of pregnancy-prevention education, and that this failure follows them and affects them even as mature women. My home state of Virginia boasts a (still depressing) 12th in teen pregnancy and 16th in teen birth rate, at 6,076 teen births in 2012, or 22.9 births per 1000 girls. The statistics on age breakdown and percentage of teens who admitted to having sex in 2011 were not posted but a whopping 53% of all pregnancies, ages 15-44, were unplanned. Let’s not even get into the cost-to-taxpayers for those unplanned pregnancies.
Now, consider for a second that in allowing your daughter even five minutes with the practitioner you may be empowering her to start developing a trusted relationship where she can talk to someone about bullying. About abuse. About drugs. About feeling depressed. Having a safe place to talk about those things is so important. Maybe your daughter is lucky to have had zero encounters with any of that in her seventeen years, but maybe not. Maybe your relationship with her is the one that all mother’s wish to have, where any topic is open for discussion and your child trusts you completely and tells you everything. But just in case that is not the situation, wouldn’t you like to know the person she goes to is someone you also trust and respect?
Yes, it does sound like YOUR DAUGHTER’S practitioner (because let’s be honest, the practitioner is NOT in the room to see you) wants to address some tough topics with your daughter. Please consider these points:
1. If you don’t trust the practitioner to be alone with your child for even a few minutes, what are you doing in that office?
2. The strongest likelihood (and this is my total-outsider, but professional medical opinion) is that no one is trying to undermine your parental authority. They are probably trying to establish a comfortable, trusting relationship with your teenager who is soon to be an adult, who may be making adult choices without all the information needed to make an informed decision and who certainly who needs to learn to talk to practitioners as an adult and WITHOUT YOU.
3. What on earth do you think they are going to cover in FIVE minutes?
4. Realize that your child is learning about all of these things anyways, likely from non-reputable and uneducated sources. (As in, unless you home school, chaperone all social interactions and don’t even leave her with the cell phone or lap top to go to the bathroom, you are likely NOT picking who talks to her about sex, drugs and rock-and-roll!) A medical practitioner can talk facts, statistics, hard truths, dispel myths, explain research, evidence-based medicine and even just offer a listening ear.
5. You are the mom. So be the mom. Help your daughter the adult skills she needs when she leaves the nest. Be there to guide and support her. And you might as well find something sweet to help you swallow that bitter pill of knowing that your turn to make all of her decisions is about over.
Hopefully she will succeed. Hopefully she will not be one more statistic. Hopefully when you do let go, you will see you raised a smart, thoughtful, intelligent and considerate woman who makes good, sound decisions.
Happy trails, and may they lead you to amazing places and great adventures along the way.