Letter to Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston

Dear Bristol and Levi,

Jeez, you poor kids never stood a chance did you?

Let’s set aside recent history. The US Magazine cover story that took the place of a personal announcement to your families of your reconciliation. The erupting rumors that Levi was Johnston-ing all over Wasilla. The unresolved issue of custody of your son.

Let’s instead look back a few years and try to figure out where the moment of reckoning really took place.

I’m going to tell you a little story and then go ahead and engage in a little speculation here. The story is this: last summer, the president of the organization I work for announced that he would be taking all his vacation for the year at once and using the time to take a cross-country road-trip with his kids. He told his staff that his kids were at the cusp of their most difficult teen years and they needed him, his time, and his attention right at the moment. We all nodded quietly because what he said made sense. His kids needed him, so he was taking time to give them what they needed.

The speculation is this: your mothers never did that, did they?

Yeah, sure, Bristol, your mom flew you to the east coast for some business trips she took and put you up in a fancy hotel and probably took you shopping but somehow I don’t think her attention was undivided. I think you were probably wallowing around that luxury hotel texting Levi and going un-parented. Levi, meanwhile, was back at home with his mom who was actively dealing drugs. Yeah. Super.

The one thing I’ve learned in my two plus years of being a mom is that consistency is the biggest thing. Routines are key: they give a child boundaries, sensible parameters for his or her life. They teach limits and instill common sense. And they help a child feel safe because he or she knows what’s coming next. My toddler lost it in a restaurant the other night after daycare and repeated “I want to go home! I want to watch Wiggles! I want to go home!” over and over again because we had shaken up the after-school routine and he didn’t understand or like it. Routine is a blessing for kids.

What kind of routines did your moms have going on when you hit high school? Was there a rigid schedule of pain-killer procurement and sales and accounting that your mom stuck to, Levi? Did you have to make curfew at night or was she too busy with drugs to pay attention? Did she ask about school every day or was she just grateful you were out of the way during the day?

And Bristol, did you know where your mom was? Was she in Juneau when you came home from school, from time with your girlfriends, from dates?  Did she call home from wherever she was to check your homework when she was traveling? Did she check in during “study dates” with Levi to make sure your bedroom door was open?

Tripp would probably contend that she didn’t.

You two poor kids were apparently left to your own devices to figure out about sex, about relationships, about understanding responsibilities, about playing grown-up games without the rule-book to know how to play them without lifelong consequences.  That’s your parents’ fault. They should have told you about life’s rules, not just the rules for snowmobile – excuse me, I mean snow-machine – racing. They should have told you no, made you stay home, made you stay in school, made you adhere to some sort of routine until you were mature enough to know how to live life on your own.

But they didn’t. They did their own thing, legal and illegal. They followed their own paths, paths that skirted the beaten track pretty significantly. They did it at your expense. And now you’re too young to buy a beer legally but you’re trying to navigate parenthood, the family court system and the kind of sick voyeur-attractive notoriety that  spoils stronger souls that you two. Don’t believe me? Ask Robert Downey Jr.

I don’t even know what to say by way of advice to you guys. You don’t know enough about normal to crave it and you’re young enough to still think that adventure trumps everything else.  And the examples you have in front of you aren’t doing anything to deter you from that notion even though your baby boy would benefit from a quiet life with no cameras, no paparazzi, no reality tv, no speaking engagements or naked photo shoots. Especially the naked photo shoots. But, like most children, you two probably persist in loving your parents even though they dumped you into life with only half of an idea of how to live well, and you probably think that the way they do things looks pretty good. Especially Bristol’s mom with her stylists and contract riders about bendy straws and legions of fans.

But tell me this, what are those fans doing to help you? What are the accolades doing to support you? What is all the attention doing to improve your lives? If it’s bringing you as much stress as I think it is, think about what it will do to Tripp before you court fame for yourselves. And think extra hard about courting the kind of fame that will bring on the haters. Because they are just waiting. Just. Waiting.

Go home, Bristol and Levi. Go to college. Get jobs. Raise your little boy. Don’t try to be famous. Just try to learn the lessons your own mothers didn’t teach you.



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8 comments for “Letter to Bristol Palin and Levi Johnston

  1. August 2, 2010 at 9:42 am

    I do so love your letters.

  2. August 2, 2010 at 9:43 am

    I never thought about these two much (I try not to watch the news) but this makes my heart hurt for them & their potential & their baby boy.

  3. August 2, 2010 at 10:04 am

    Sadly the girl could take a page from MTV. Teen Mom could teach her a thing or two. Who would have ever thought MTV would teach a positive lesson to ANYONE.

  4. KLZ
    August 2, 2010 at 1:07 pm

    It’s hard to be parented by adolescents. I mean that all around the board on this one.

  5. August 2, 2010 at 4:45 pm

    This is a great letter. Say what you will about the Clintons, they sure seemed to do a good job with Chelsea.


  6. August 2, 2010 at 9:14 pm

    I agree, the Clintons did a PHENOMENAL job with Chelsea.

    I feel so bad for kids whose parents are not interested in parenting. It just keeps perpetuating until someone stops and says that’s enough. But very few people can say that.

    Great letter.

  7. November 17, 2010 at 10:42 am

    Brandi should have won that contest, hands down

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