18 June 2011
Gina Bauman's teenage years were marked by “alcohol and promiscuity,” she said. The 40-year-old Winona resident said drinking enabled her to behave in whatever manner attracted attention — particularly from boys.
“When a guy would sleep with me, I felt like he loved me. When a guy wasn't interested in sleeping with me anymore, I felt like he'd stopped loving me. I went looking for another guy who would 'love' me.”
Bauman's teenage dependence on physical relationships was the outgrowth of the emotional bonds she lacked at home, she said. Her father was unaffectionate. He saw his main role to be material provider. His interactions with his children were sometimes abusive.
“He would say that I looked fat or I looked like a cow. He was only joking, but he didn't realize how bad it made me feel,” said Bauman, adding that as an adult, she's been able to make peace with her father who apologized for his behavior.
Bauman witnessed in her teenage peers the same pattern of behavior that defined her youth. Bauman has also observed such adolecent struggles during her time as a public-school employee.
“Many young women are falling into immorality because they don't have a strong father figure. They seek their worth in boyfriend-girlfriend relationships instead of knowing they have worth apart from guys,” said Bauman, who estimated 75 percent of girls struggle with low self-esteem at Gladewater High School, where she worked for two years as a teacher's aide. Such was Barbara Bobo's story also. The Tyler resident said her relationship with her father was distant, a problem exacerbated by her being the middle of seven children. She sought attention from boys in high school and eventually started dating “Eddie.”
“I made this young man my god because he gave me the attention I craved,” Bobo said.
Bobo and Eddie began a sexual relationship, leading to her pregnancy at age 16. Even after a traumatic abortion experience — which nearly led to her death — Bobo became pregnant again a year later by Eddie. She planned to abort again, but a physician told her she wasn't a good candidate for the procedure.
Bobo said she and Eddie planned to get married, but her plans changed after a rare display of concern from her father.
“A turning point was when my dad said 'Don't marry this man. He won't be good for you,'” Bobo recalled. Bobo listened to her father's advice. She gave birth to her son, Michael in 1970 and raised him as a single mother until she married Keith Bobo.
Danielle Vuke, 27, credits the relationship she had with her father with helping her avoid some of the pitfalls common to teenagers.
“I was always able to pour out some of the most intimate details of my life to my dad. There was never any condemnation or judgment,” Vuke said. “He helped me through a lot of tough times that could have scarred me for life.”
Vuke said her parents trained her to focus on matters of eternal significance, rather than the temporary satisfaction of dating.
“My dad said that if I pursue God, I will be able to find contentment in God and bypass a lot of the heartache that a lot of girls experience,” she said.
Vuke, who interned for two years with Teen Mania Ministries in Garden Valley, Texas, said that her time working with young adult women opened her eyes to how rare it is for girls to have affirming relationships with their fathers.
“I think of my relationship with God as similar to my relationship with my father,” Vuke said, noting the high level of openness and honesty of both relationships. “As I'm getting older, I'm seeing more and more how fortunate I was to have such an encouraging family life.”
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