In case I have not told you this lately, I love you. I love you so much that there is no way you can begin to understand it, not until you have a daughter of your own. I hope you know that we are taking this class on Thursday nights NOT because I think you and Eli are bad kids, or because we are a family at risk, but because there are a lot of things that we could be doing to make it that much better. It isn't going to be very long before you are out on your own, and my hope is that you are going to learn some useful tools with which to navigate life.
When N. was teaching her class to us adults last night, though, I realized that she may be expressing her own personal beliefs and stating them as fact, and I wanted to take this chance to address some of the things she brought up. I want you to know how I feel, in case I haven't made it clear to you before. Neither of us is necessarily all wrong or all right, and I really need to make sure you know that there are many ways of looking at things as there are hairs on your head.
First, while I do believe that it is important for you to wait until you are in a committed, mutually respectful and loving relationship before you choose to have sex, I don't believe that has to be under the guise of marriage. Would I like to see you happily married to someone you love? Of course; what mother doesn't want that for her daughter? However, look at me and my life, sweetie, and you know that sometimes love doesn't come along until you are in your thirties or later, and I would really hate to see you marry some loser simply because you think that is the only way you are allowed to have sex. I really believe that if you approach sex as something precious and important and beautiful, you will know when the time is right.
And I love you so much that even if you choose to not wait to have sex, I am going to make sure you have the protection you need. You and I have already talked at great length about birth control, which is why you are on the Yaz. We have also talked about sexually transmitted diseases and condoms, and I cannot stress this one enough. The only way-ONLY way-to prevent pregnancy and sexually transmitted diseases is abstinence, and the second-best way is to use a condom. All the time, the whole time, every time. You have to be responsible and vigilant about this, honey, because a lot of time, boys won't be. If a guy tells you that "I just don't feel it as much with a condom," or if he says, " I had an accident when I was a kid and I am sterile," or "I will put one on right before I come," not only is he full of shit but he doesn't care about you. If the man with whom you are going to have sex does not respect your need to take care of your own sexual health, he is not the one you should be having sex with. You may be called a slut or whatever if you carry condoms with you, but I am telling you, you should do it anyway. Stop and think about whether the embarrassment it MIGHT cause is worth dying for-because there are some really, really nasty diseases out there than can kill you, or make you sterile, or cause all sort of other life-changing health issues. Don't take that chance. Take control of your own sexual health, and realize that it just makes you a better person in the end. Make wise choices, and you will not live to regret them, I promise you that.
Another think that I am not sure we HAVE talked about much is the impact that not having your father present in your day to life has had on you. If the things that N. said in our class is any indicator of the things she is talking about in your class, this has probably come up. I want you to remember that you do have a dad who loves you, and the fact that he is far away does not negate that. There are a lot of really awesome people-including the President-Elect of the United States Barack Obama-who were raised by single moms. Don't let her make you feel like you are doomed for failure simply because you don't have a father in the home. Don't let her diminish the strength of our family by telling you that I have done something wrong. you father and I made the decision to get divorced because we were very, very young; we were too young to have ever thought that marriage was a reasonable choice. It is easy now to say that we could have made it work, but 16 years ago, it didn't seem possible. I don't regret that decision, because it doesn't matter now. We did what we thought was best given the information we had at the time-it's done.
You are a strong, powerful, beautiful young woman, and the choices you make from here on out are the choices that are going to dictate the direction your life will take. I love you so much that I promise to make sure you have all of the information you need to make choices that are best for you, choices that are not based on what some other person or entity says is the "right" way to believe. I love you, and I trust you, and I know that you can do anything you set your mind to-not in spite of circumstances, but because of them. Believe it, Hannah-because this is just the beginning, and you are too young and too smart to listen to anyone who will tell you that you can't.