“My Son’s Got a Girl Pregnant!”
Harald Breiding-Buss talks to two dads whose sons became teenage fathers.
Becoming a granddad is a mixed blessing for many. Sure, there is the certainty that the line is being continued for another generation and the thought that your own hard work in raising your children hasn’t been completely in vain.
But aren’t granddads the guys who always drive painfully slow in front of you, bore the whole family with stories from the good old days and are on their third set of teeth? Am I really old enough to be a granddad?
For some, becoming a granddad comes at a time when they are still in the middle of parenting through one of the more demanding times in a child’s life: the teenage years. While exploring sex sonny has been caught out by carelessness or lax contraception. The girlfriend is pregnant and decides to have the child.
So no weekend visits to the budding family after which granddad can go back home and busy himself with his stamp collection from World War II. This time it’s all going to happen right under his nose.
I spoke to two such granddads about what influence they thought they had when it all happened, and whether they thought they made any difference in their sons’ ongoing parenting efforts. One of them is Jeff Cairns, whose son Jordan had his first child at the tender age of 15.
The other would prefer to remain anonymous, and will be called Mark here, with son Tony, who had his child at 18.
The news didn’t come easy to either of them. Both say they were ‘horrified’ on hearing about the pregnancy, and in Mark’s case it wasn’t even his son who told him – friends of the girlfriend phoned with the news.
“We would have preferred our kids to go down the traditional path of engagement, wedding, babies”, says Mark. ”At that stage neither of our kids seemed to be anywhere near a long-term relationship so this came out of left field.”
Some thinking had to be done. What to do with this one? “Being his father took over for me”, says Jeff, “I was trying to be supportive although I was a bit disappointed.” Nevertheless: “Had it happened any later, I would have been too old to enjoy it…”.
For Mark and wife it was all about the baby: “We were somewhat concerned by stories you hear where parents of the father in situations like this don’t have a relationship with the grandchildren.
Given the opportunity, my wife and I decided we were going to be very supportive of, and involved, with Alison [the mother] and the baby, no matter where their relationship went. We were pro-active in developing a relationship with Alison during the pregnancy independent of our son.”
Modern parents are often determined not to let their parenting be influenced too much by the old ways of their own parents, and grandparents often recognise that they have to take a step back, even if watching can be painful at times.
But with 15, or even 18, you’re still actively parenting yourself, setting your limits and boundaries. Jeff says ‘We’re still going through authority-challenging behaviour [but] I’m still [Jordon's] father.
He has to toe the line’ but in the same breath emphasises his supportiveness of the situation. He especially helped his son “to assert himself as a father and not be trucked over.” So far, according to Jeff, there have been no complaints.
Mark is less sure. Somewhat further down the line in becoming independent, Tony refused to be ‘preached’ to. “I still think it’s pretty difficult to assess what influences I’ve had.’ he says.
“We try to lead by example because I don’t think he’s open to ‘preaching’ even if it is a casual discussion! The invitation to contribute to this article was met with a firm refusal!
“[..]We knew we wanted to make sure we were there to help not to interfere – its more a ‘have you thought of’ suggestion(s) – keeping it low key.”
Both are slow to take any credit for the positive picture of their sons’ parenting they both paint. Jeff feels ‘very proud’ of Jordan after initially having been astonished how well he coped. Mark says “Generally, I’m pretty pleased with the way in which [Tony] deals with issues.
I guess we all learn best by watching others though – little about parenting comes naturally. I usually compliment him on that when I see it. I don’ t think I was that good with him when he was that age.”
And both granddads have the same message for their sons: invest the time! Jeff had at times been Jordon’s primary caregiver, but Mark has some regrets.
In his opinion, Tony could spend even more time with his daughter – and not so much on gaming… “In my [own] case as a youngish father, having two jobs, serving on a number of committees and involvements, my own interests reduced the amount of time that I was able to give my children.
To quote a tired cliché, “You don’t get a second chance at this.”
Next: Striving For Parenthood