Last week it was reported in the media that Tia, a girl of 14, gave birth to her daughter Gracie earlier this month. Gracie’s grandparents, Shem and Kelly, are now Britain’s youngest grandparents at 29 having become parents to Tia at the tender age of 15. A few years ago, the cases of Elizabeth Buttle and Sean Stewart came to light. Elizabeth Buttle was the 60 year old woman who was so determined to have a baby that she lied about her age and tricked a Harley Street doctor into giving her fertility treatment. Sean made the headlines by becoming Britain's youngest father at the age of twelve, when his sixteen-year-old girlfriend had their son, Ben. One baby was ‘blessed’ with a Father who hadn't yet experienced the angst of teenage life and the other got a Mother who could pick up child benefit and the old age pension at the same time!
Personally these stories horrify me for they illustrate deceit and the waste of one's teenage years – supposedly the best years of your life. To embark on parenthood is to embark on a lifelong commitment. To be a parent is a huge responsibility. Children need parents with energy, stamina, wisdom and common sense. In your teens, you are essentially still a child yourself and have much growing up to do. At the age of 60, do you really want to be pacing the floor in the middle of the night with a screaming baby?
Women traditionally start families in their late twenties, thirties or early forties, and this is no coincidence. It is at this time when we are at the peak of our personal fitness and so able to cope with the demands of having children. Hopefully at this stage we are able to accept that meal times are no longer peaceful, lie ins are a thing of the past and future shopping trips mean having someone constantly clutching at your hand. And this is just a preparation for the roller coaster ride that is teenage years…
Tia and her boyfriend Jordan will be young enough to go clubbing with Gracie, while it is not totally impossible that Joseph (the son of Elizabeth) may be visiting his mother in a retirement home on the way back from school. Wanting a baby for self-indulgent reasons can hardly be classed as fair on the child or the British public either. Young Mothers qualify for £20.30 per week child benefit, to which the public contributes. It could be argued that the public is paying for what is in effect, their mistake. A child upon entering the world should be given every possible chance and not be handicapped by his/her parents before this life begins.
I have no doubt, though, that there are many young and older parents who provide comfort, security, and, above all love for their children, enabling them to develop and grow up to become well balanced adults. Yet it can become a vicious circle with the children of young parents becoming parents at a young age themselves, because their role models (their parents) have deemed it acceptable.
Entering into parenthood is big decision and not something to undertake without great consideration. Having a family at any age, and taking responsibility for that family, is possibly one of the biggest challenges that any of us will ever face and it can mean making many sacrifices along the way. It demands tremendous commitment, commitment that I am not certain I am capable of giving.
Will the aforementioned all be stable parents? I hope so, yet arguably only time will tell, for in truth you never really know if you have been successful in your capacity as a parent until your offspring are fully fledged. Tia and Jordan represent the country's current trend but the bottom line is this: just because we can now reproduce at virtually any age does not mean that we should.