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Carolyn Hax: Parents of teen dad wonder if they’re the ones making mistakes

1 week ago 33

Dear Carolyn: My son got his girlfriend pregnant last year. They were both 17 and just finishing up their junior year. My husband and I and our son all hoped the girl would choose to terminate. She thought about it for a long time but continued the pregnancy in the end.

As soon as she gave birth, she told my son she never wanted the baby. She said her parents strong-armed her and threatened to throw her out of the house if she had an abortion. We thought they’d go for adoption then, but my son said he couldn’t bear to lose his daughter; he already loved her too much to give her up.

So now our granddaughter lives with us. Her mother has not been to see her once since she gave birth.

I have to admit that it still feels unreal to us. We’re proud of our son’s resolution about raising her, but we’re scared for him, too. We feel so sad, like we must have failed as parents. We were always open about sex but stressed how important it was that he wait until he was mature enough. So, we didn’t provide condoms like some parents do. I still wonder about that choice.

Sometimes we get so upset at the mom’s parents. If they had stayed out of it, then my son wouldn’t have this burden on him so young.

We are careful to keep those feelings from our son. We want to support him, and we want him to continue his education, so we’re doing a lot of the child care.

We do love our granddaughter, but my husband worries we’re doing too much for him, shielding him from the consequences of his decision. I don’t see any other way.

Are we doing too much? Or not enough?

— My Teenage Son Is a Single Dad

My Teenage Son Is a Single Dad: Well, those “consequences” are a person, so maybe gently suggest to your husband that it’s time to worry less about raising your son now and more about collectively raising this baby.

As for whether you’re doing “too much” or “not enough” in that regard, I can’t possibly tell you. I can’t see what you’re doing from here, plus I have no objective standard of measurement.

There is one thing I can see more clearly from here, maybe. You spell out the complicated and wrenching turns that brought your teen son’s child into your care. You mention the coercion and threats — horrific — and the paternal attachment — touching — and your parental second-guessing, all valid elements of a few normal rounds of what-ifs. But when you’re talking about a baby, the how and what and why are instantly irrelevant. The baby’s here. Now. Square 1.

So: What does the baby need? It’s incredibly simple from here. For all three of you.

In addition to the things every child needs — love, food, shelter, hygiene, health care, more joy than sadness — this little girl also needs her young father to grow as strong, mature and self-sufficient as he can. If getting him there means you and his dad do “too much” of the child care for a while, then so be it.

There’s no need for either of his parents to put extra bricks in his backpack for insurance: Wonderful, stressful, everything else, she will be his consequence for the rest of his life.

She will be a baby in her profoundly formative years, however, only once.

Whatever you’re all doing to ensure she gets the most loving care possible sounds exactly right to me.

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