I started today’s post on another TV show, Sister Wives, and in fact, I finished it. When I saw last night’s episode of Teen Mom, MTV’s reality show that follows four young girls who got pregnant in high school and how each one’s decisions affected theirs and their families’ lives, I had to lay the other article aside for now.
For anyone who doesn’t follow the show, and if you have teens in your life, you really should consider it. It’s powerful and is probably the most realistic of reality TV found on any network. Each girl lives her life in front of the camera at least part of the time. There is one couple who initially opted to stay together and raise their daughter in a more traditional family unit. Unfortunately, it’s proven incredibly overwhelming for both of them and has now
reached a dangerous point that includes physical abuse. The couple, Amber and Gary, are both under twenty and neither completed high school. Neither have jobs, although MTV does pay $125 per camera hour to the girls. While this might seem significant, it’s important to keep in mind filming is only for a few months out of the year and in spurts of half days here and there.
Some of these girls are coping better than others. Briefly, the other three girls, Catelynn, Farrah and Maci, have their own struggles. Catelynn and her boyfriend have stayed together but opted to place their daughter for adoption. These two seem wise beyond their years and have overcome some difficult times, including parents who are less than ideal, with the exception of Tyler’s (Catelynn’s boyfriend) mother, who has supported both of them in their decision to choose adoption.
Farrah’s boyfriend died in a car crash before their daughter was born, and she’s clearly still grieving this loss, as the episodes reveal throughout the season.
Maci is strong and has a supportive family, as does her ex boyfriend (although he has a lot of growing up to do). She is incredibly independent and appears to be a mother whose priorities are straight.
Amber and Gary, as mentioned, are clearly struggling and while viewers have seen Amber unravel throughout this season, last night’s show was very disturbing. She punched Gary in the face several times, kicked him in the back as he was going down the stairs and demanded he bring their daughter back to her (he’d taken the baby out of the house during a fight the day before). I’ve put the clip below, and I’ve debated whether or not to keep it up. I think it’s important though, so up it stays. Gary, to his credit, maintained his composure and never even raised his voice. It’s clear he is heartbroken, even though he doesn’t have the maturity to have a healthy relationship anymore than Amber does. And really, that’s how it’s supposed to be, right? Who is ready at 18 or 19?
Throughout the episode, MTV aired PSAs with websites and phone numbers for those who are in abusive relationships and after the show aired, the network told viewers to go to the site for an update (and if you are in an abusive relationship, please call the National Domestic Violence Hotline. This is a powerful organization that stands ready to help both men and women who are being abused. The number is 800-799-7233 or visit the site here). In the video update, it’s clear nothing has really changed as Amber, who initially is embarrassed and frustrated, eventually cuts Gary off and rolls her eyes several times. Gary, in a classic tell-tale sign, keeps his eyes down and avoids confrontation with Amber.
There’s more though. Amber is not equipped with the mindset or the patience to raise a young daughter. The little girl, Leah, is probably less than two years old now. She’s just beautiful with a sweet disposition, but Amber’s patience is near zero. She has little tolerance for Leah when she cries and seems to forget this baby is in the room when she hones in on Gary. Gary threatened to call CPS on last night’s episode as he’s walking out the door with the baby.
The truth of the matter is, many of these young relationships often end in some level of abuse. The maturity is absent and then coupled with grown up responsibilities, such as raising a baby, going to work each day and maintaining a household, it can quickly become volatile. Amber, when she’s not giving Gary hell, is in bed, which is part of the problem she has with Leah. She thinks the little girl should sleep whenever Amber orders her to sleep. Of course, anyone who’s raised a child knows that’s not even remotely realistic.
I’m not sure how this will work out between this young couple; it appears they’ve gone their separate ways. There’s no way for Gary to know this, but this chapter of his life will affect him forever. Ideally, it won’t prevent him from a healthy relationship in the future, but the fact is, that kind of abuse – and in many ways, the emotional abuse more than the physical abuse – stays with him. That doesn’t mean he’ll choose the same personalities each time, but it will affect his choices, his self esteem and it’s likely he won’t even put two and two together for many years.
For now, though, he needs to get it together. He needs to walk away from this abusive situation (if he hasn’t already), find a job and begin to make those decisions that are good for his daughter. No one deserves to be abused; however, that’s no excuse for checking out. He has a little girl who needs everything he can give her and he deserves far better, too.