I sometimes wonder what feeds into the decision to become a parent? I know that in some cases, the pregnancy is unexpected, but they still go through with the birthing, thinking the bundle of joy will be a pleasurable addition to their lives. In other cases, the parent’s philosophical beliefs oppose abortion so they also go through with the birthing, whether or not they really want to be parents. There also are those people who say they didn’t realize they were pregnant until the baby showed up saying, “Hi momma.” I have a hard time with that one, but since I can’t walk in their shoes, I’m forced to take them at their word.
Then of course, there are people who carefully plan out their child’s birth. They wait until they are at a certain point in their lives or have a certain amount of money in the bank, and some will even try to plan it carefully so as to try to have the actual birth on a specific date, like New Year’s Day, or their grandmother’s birthday, or some other day that has a special meaning for the family.
What got me to thinking about this is a conversation I overheard between two teenage girls on the subway. The conversation went a little something like this (as they looked over adoringly at a 30-something woman rocking her baby to sleep):
“I want a baby so bad.”
“Yeah. My cousin just had a little girl, and she’s adorable, and I want one too.”
“Un huh. I want to dress her and do her hair and pick out her shoes. I know I’d make a good mother.”
“I know. I really wish I had a little girl.”
I won’t go into the rest of their conversation, other than to say they swiftly shifted their dialogue to talking and giggling about some “cute” boy in their geometry class. I was wondering how these young ladies expected to take care of a child. Obviously there was no planning or forethought being put into it, other than to say they wanted to have a baby. A baby isn’t the same as a doll you can just put up on the shelf when something comes along. What happens if they were parents and that cute guy they were drooling over wanted to go out?
These two teens aren’t unique. According to the Centers for Disease Control, generally about 300,000 babies annually are born to teens in the 15-19 age range. That’s startling. When I was 15-19, I could barely look after my own self. There’s no way I would have been prepared to care for a baby. Not only do most teens lack the emotional maturity to be a parent, but they also likely lack the financial stability that is required.
It’s hard enough when everything falls into place just the way you want it. I can safely say even when you plan for it, there never will be the perfect time. But I can also safely say that with a little planning and preparation, it will make the experience much better, particularly for the child. After all, once you become a parent, it’s all about the child at that point. Some people forget that. I hope those teens on the train were just talking. I recall a school exercise on the TV show Family Ties and a similar one on The Cosby Show and Saved by the Bell that paired students up with a faux spouse and they had to plan their household budget, grocery shopping list, and meals, and all the things that go into caring for and managing a family. That exercise can be very eye-opening. In my high school, it was given in Business class, an elective. I’ve heard of it being part of home economics, another elective. It ought to be required learning, no matter what class it is part of. Perhaps more schools should add this sort of thing to their curriculum, because I don’t think a lot of kids think about what parenthood entails.