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Teen pregnancy: An unexpected call to emotional maturity

Sixteen and pregnant. It's bad enough it happens, but now you get to watch it on television.

The TV season may be over, but the angst lives on. Thanks to my two daughters my DVR is filled with back episodes of the MTV reality show "16 and Pregnant."

Each week the show tracks a difference teen girl as she navigates the emotional drama of an unplanned pregnancy. From dysfunctional parents to unsupportive friends who dump her the minute she starts to show, it's heartbreaking. My own 16 year-old daughter said, "Part of you is disgusted and part of you can't look away."

One of the most gut-wrenching scenes was watching a teen couple pore through photographs and profiles of prospective adoptive parents as they tried to choose the best possible life for their soon to be born baby.

"Oh look, she water skis," said a seven-months-pregnant, braces-wearing girl as she peered at a photo of an attractive 30-something woman cutting through the water on one ski, smiling into the camera like she belonged in a Chapstick commercial.

"And he's a financial planner," said the teenage boy as he pondered the image of a button-down-shirted man, who somehow managed to look friendly and responsible at the same time.

"I wonder what that is?" asked the girl. "It sure sounds like a good job."

It was the photo of the house that sealed the deal. An all brick two-story, white trim, black shuttered home, that just wreaked of stability and security.

"Wow, look at their house." As the two teens stared at the suburban dwelling, their eyes were filled with hope and longing.

The girl fought back tears as she said, "A kid could sure have a nice life in that house."

Her own life had been anything but idyllic. She'd moved 13 times, her dad wasn't in the picture, and her mom's excessive partying had prompted her to move out several times during her childhood.

Her boyfriend hadn't had it much better. His dad had been in and out of jail several times, and he'd also been bounced from place to place.

However, neither the boy's father nor the girl's mother were supportive of their teenager's decision to put their baby up for adoption.

The boy's father, the man who had spent the better part of his son's childhood in jail, told his son that if he gave his baby to strangers it would mean, he "didn't man up" telling him, "I guess you're not the cowboy I thought you were."

I guess the parents figured their own parenting had been good enough, so why not repeat the cycle. The teens felt otherwise. So there they were, two high school kids holding hands and crying as they looked longingly at the photo of the good-looking couple in front of the red brick house.

Were they crying for what they were giving up? Or what they never had?

A stable home, a dad who showed up for dinner every night, a swing set, the chance to water ski and parents who, at least on paper, seemed grown-up enough to be there for their child.

It's a hard thing to rise above your own emotions and do the right thing for someone else. It's pretty impressive when two teens are able to do it better than their parents.

Snellville resident Lisa Earle McLeod is a nationally recognized speaker and the author of "Forget Perfect." Contact her at www.forgetperfect.com.