Last night was the final episode of the first season of MTV’s Teen Mom reality show, which followed the lives of four mothers that were originally on the network’s very popular 16 and Pregnant series last season. I’ve been following the show and making posts all season and although I’ve been quick to poke a little fun at some of the folks in the show (When is Butch getting his own series?!?), I have to confess that when it’s all said and done the series was nothing short of an enlightening documentary.
We were given a glimpse into the lives of four teenage girls that are not only riding a horrendously stressful emotional roller coaster as they are forced to rapidly mature enough to handle the responsibilities that go along with raising a baby, but they are choosing to do so in front of television cameras.
Inherent in all “reality” shows are inauthentic (or “unreal”) elements, but this series was able to overcome those elements and provide viewers with a real glimpse of real human beings dealing with real problems. Part of the appeal of the show is that these are teenagers and so it’s easy to be judgmental of some of their innocence and naivety, but don’t let that judgmentalism interfere with the valuable insights this show provides into the human condition and concepts like love, regret, motherhood, and family.
If anything, their innocence and naivety leads to more honesty. The teenagers on the show haven’t mastered the mature art of deception, so they tend to say what they feel. Granted, their feelings are often that of a 17-year-old, but that’s because they are 17 years old! I suppose what I’m trying to say is that these teenage moms (and Tyler!) are about 18 months older than when we first met them on 16 and Pregnant, but they all seem to be years older now.
Before I really start rambling, here is the full Episode 8 of Teen Mom titled “Happy Birthday:”
CLICK HERE to buy the first season of 16 & Pregnant.
Here’s a more accurate breakdown for each of the young ladies – let me know if you think my take is accurate:
Maci breaks down when she realizes Ryan will never be a good father for Bentley
Beginning Maturity: 16
Ending maturity: 28
My heart goes out to Maci. She was a typical 16-year-old girl with a boyfriend and thoughts of going to college, but getting pregnant changed all of that. Throughout the Teen Mom series she shows a great deal of strength and grace as she tries to do what’s right for herself and for her newborn son with a boyfriend that is nothing but dead weight, literally and figuratively. She tries to get through college by taking online courses and continually bends over backwards to make room for slacker Ryan in her and Bentley’s life, including going to relationship counseling.
Maci seemed to have the most painful moments of any of the girls on the show, two of which really stood out for me. There was the scene in the final episode where she was talking with her friends about the possibility of breaking up with Ryan and one of them talked about the fact that Ryan doesn’t really seem to want to be with Bentley, at which point Maci starts to break down. She holds her head in her hands and says, “I can’t talk about Bentley.” I think Maci has feelings for Ryan and part of her pain is for herself, but I think that what overwhelmed her at that moment was the concern for her child and the fact that his father was a heartless jerk. As easy as it would be to convert that pain into angry judgmentalism and finger pointing, Maci appeared to be dealing with the fact that it was her that got pregnant with him and it was largely her fault that Ryan was the father of her child. Don’t get me wrong, I’m not putting the blame all on Maci! But it is a healthy thing to have humility enough to accept responsibility for the part you played in whatever bad situation you find yourself in. Of course Ryan is a 4-year-old douchebag in a post-puberty body – most anyone in Maci’s position would have to eventually realize that. But focusing on that would have left her angry and bitter. I don’t think Maci is headed down the angry and bitter path. She looks to be moving toward forgiveness (for Ryan and more importantly for herself) and toward the potential for emotional health and being able to love someone else.
Father-of-the-year Ryan gently breaks some bad news to son Bentley
The second painful Maci moment that sticks out for me is when she and Ryan are in counseling and the therapist seems to fall under Ryan’s man-bimbo spell. This “professional” seems to believe the blame for Maci and Ryan’s problems is a 50/50 split and she tells Maci that she is too resentful. Are you kidding me?!? I think it was that ridiculous statement that perpetuated their unhealthy relationship for weeks and possibly months. (I might be mistaken but I think the therapist may have told that to Maci in a session with just her because Ryan didn’t want to go to counseling any more.)
Catelynn acted mature beyond her years throughout both shows, but my trophy for most mature goes to Maci. My only concern is that the feelings she has for Ryan are gonna be the silver bullet that brings her down in the end. My advice to you Maci is to keep your emotional distance from him! Move on! Through your actions you’ve shown yourself to be a very atractive and loving human being – go find someone that appreciates that! Oh, and get a new therapist.
Amber and Gary shop for Leah’s birthday at the Family Holler
Beginning Maturity: 13
Ending Maturity: 17
Amber’s main problem from the get go is that she is an angry person. The shows didn’t really show us anything that might explain this trait in her, but I’m guessing there is something in her past or in how she was raised that caused her to have so much rage. Gary seems a little more mellow on the surface, but underneath that big exterior is anger and defensiveness. The combination is nothing short of volatile! (Watch the video where Amber pushes and chokes Gary HERE.) Normally anger stems fromsome sort of deep-rooted bitterness, but I don’t really get that vibe from Amber. She’s just plain angry.
That being said, she has matured over the course of the two shows. I think being able to recognize her toxic relationship with Gary and getting Leah out of that environment says a lot for how far she has come. But, that still leaves her as an angry 17-year-old and that means she still has a ways to go! I suppose it’s possible Gary could have some life-changing epiphany or Kierkegaardian existential midnight hour moment at some point, but otherwise it seems the best thing for Leah is for these two explosive substances to keep their distance from each other.
Not liking being alone, Farrah invites her mom to Sophia’s music class
Beginning Maturity: 15
Ending Maturity: 19
Farrah fell behind early but she really finished strong down the stretch! Being an attractive and popular high school cheerleader meant she had the most to lose by getting pregnant. (Of course I mean “most to lose” in a superficial sense, but let’s not forget that in high school 90% of reality is based on superficiality.) For a large part of Teen Mom, Farrah seemed desperate to try to recapture the life she had before – going out partying and dating guys – and partly in denial of the fact that she was a mother. Farrah’s mother helped with Sophia, but she wasn’t much help with Farrah by being so heavy-handedly judgmental all the time. Her mom had that stereotypical parental style of always saying things like, “You know, being a mom means you can’t do all the things you used to do.” Which is fine when you don’t say it ALL the time. (Apparently Farrah reached her breaking point which lead to a dispute and her mother’s arrest for assault! Read all about that story and see her mother’s mug shot HERE.)
In the last few episodes Farrah crashes into reality pretty hard. She finally comes to terms with the fact that she is a single mother and no longer an unencumbered high school student. The realization is sad to watch, but it is a very good thing for Farrah and Sophia’s future. I am crediting Farrah for maturing four years over the course of both shows and I think over half of that was in the last few episodes of Teen Mom. My suggestion is that she get out of her mother’s house. I think the tensions in their relationship will become manageable with a little distance. I hope. And don’t worry Farrah, the boys will come, but with a child you should really be looking for a man. (Like DJ Pauly D from Jersey Shore?)
Tyler and Catelynn from 16 and Pregnant just after Carly’s adoption
Beginning Maturity: 17
Ending Maturity: 27
Catelynn and Tyler may be the best two teenagers to ever appear in an MTV television show. Granted, they did get pregnant and I’m not suggesting that they should be admired for that. But, given their situation, I cannot imagine a young couple handling it with more maturity than these two. They came from relatively poor and unstable homes, which overlapped when Tyler’s real dad married Catelynn’s mother, and they knew that their child’s chances of a healthy, happy life would be greatly increased if they put her up for adoption. So they did. During 16 and Pregnant we saw a very emotional Tyler and Catelynn say good-bye to their newborn daughter and the painful aftermath that found the couple getting strength from each other while being chastised by their parents for their decision to give Carly up.
At first I thought it was an odd decision to follow Catelynn and Tyler on Teen Mom, but now I see the wisdom in it. The producers of the show were obviously going for diversity and following the journey of a teen mother that opted for adoption was a great compliment to the stories of the mothers who decide to keep their babies. The show followed Catelynn and Tyler as they dealt with the decision to give their daughter away and in doing so provided a realistic glimpse into what that experience is like, which is an invaluable tool for expecting parents young or old facing the same decision in their own lives (and even the adoptive parents of children.)
Even when the show began the young couple seemed more mature than their parents, especially Butch and Catelynn’s mom, and during the two seasons they put a lot more distance between them and their parents. Catelynn went on a retreat to help with her feelings of loss and Tyler visited an Air Force Recruiter, all of which was done while simultaneously dealing with the drama of a dysfunctional family that includes a mutual dad who can’t seem to stay out of jail. By the end we are left with an emotional Tyler asking Catelynn to marry him with a unflinchingly honest and humble proposal Hollywood writers could only dream of. He literally gave his soul to her at that restaurant table. I’m a guy who likes watching sports and Clint Eastwood movies and I have to admit I was tearing up big time during this scene. Read about Catelynn and Tyler’s 16 & Pregnant episode here.
Tyler and Catelynn hug after his proposal. (Notice the fancy meal!)
One of my favorite love songs is Bruce Springsteen’s “If I Should Fall Behind” which has the line:
I’ll wait for you dear
and should I fall behind
wait for me
“Falling behind” is a pleasant term that covers a lot of unpleasant things, and it seems to sum up marriage pretty well as something more than just “staying together as long as we’re happy.” Tough guy Tyler seemed to be offering all of this in his proposal. It was almost as though the level of commitment he was offering was so big, so beyond his years that his small 17-year-old body almost couldn’t handle it!
Good luck to both of you on your continued journey!
WOW! I really didn’t intend to write an entire book when I started! And I didn’t even do a recap of the finale! Ummmm… All the babies have birthdays and that means drama! That pretty much sums it up.
Stay tuned for MTV’s new season of 16 and Pregnant February 16! We will be following that one as well and hope you’re able to follow it with us.