Martha Randolph Carr Martha Randolph Carr, 6/29/2008 [Archive]

Teenage Baby Mommas

Teenage Baby Mommas

By Martha Randolph Carr

In the small northern town of Gloucester, Massachusetts there are seventeen teenage girls who are about to become parents. Most of the expectant mothers are too young to be able to drive their new children home from the hospital or even hold down a job to pay for diapers without the newly-anointed grandparents' permission.

The neonatal increase is an amazing four times the amount of teenage pregnancies from last year and had local officials looking into the cause as early as last fall. The answer the school principal, Joseph Sullivan handed out at first was that almost half of the girls appeared to have made a premeditated pact to become pregnant. Most of the news coverage, which has been worldwide, has concentrated on whether or not at least eight of the girls chose motherhood as a solution to a problem. Later, when confronted by the unwillingness of town officials to believe that almost half of the girls were using misplaced management skills to ban together, Sullivan's memory became foggy, which required him to take a vacation and leave town.

The problem the girls said they were trying to fix was reported as a general lack of self-worth. Apparently the girls see parenthood as a way to at long last be loved. Boy, do they have a reality check awaiting them. Parenting is a daily exercise in Mom or Dad pouring out as much love as they can in the general direction of their children. Whether or not the children return the affection is never part of the bargain and honestly, there are plenty of days children not only don't gush over our abilities they carefully point out what we've been doing horribly wrong. Fortunately, we get that we're the grownups and we keep up our end of the bargain anyway. We do that because our love is genuine, and just as important, we know we chose this deal and the kids didn't.

Frankly, there are plenty of times we actually do feel sympathetic toward our children that they have to put up with our rudimentary skills as parents and human beings. But then our offspring stomps off, slams a door and starts emailing away about how harsh we are and we remember just how difficult it is to raise a small being into a competent, independent adult. It makes it a little easier to get up the next day and do it all over again. That awareness usually doesn't blossom though till you're well into your twenties.

Unfortunately, the Gloucester offspring don't have that kind of time. A vicious cycle is about to repeat itself and not just in Gloucester. Right now, all over America, there is a lot of poorly thought out teenage coupling going on that is going to have very long after-effects. Some of these children are going to become parents.

Gloucester town officials, who've been awfully busy making sure we all know there was no conspiracy, appear to be missing this point.

They have seventeen new citizens on the way plus the seventeen minors that are right in front of them. That's thirty-four children who are the responsibility of those same local officials. It's too late to do anything about the teenagers becoming mothers but it's not too late to actually give teenage parents everywhere what they were so misguidedly seeking and perhaps, give the same to their infants as well. That's right, I have a solution in mind and it's not an untested idealistic idea. This one has a long track record and is making a comeback with a few adapted twists.

Campuses resembling upscale boarding schools with wrap-around social services are being revived all over the U.S. these days. We used to call them orphanages but they are now known as residential education facilities and they've adapted to fit local needs. From these places more children are going on to college than from the general population, unlike foster care where fewer than half of the children who age out of that system will even graduate from high school.

Rather than handing teenage parents a patchwork of social services that have already been proven to fail miserably, we can create a place where both parent and child can live as a group and continue to grow and learn. We can use what's already working and adapt it to a special situation that could leave both parent and child with more options, better care and resources but without separating one from the other. Within this idea is the possibility for everyone to benefit including the generations who've yet to arrive.

© 2008 Martha Randolph Carr. Martha's column is distributed exclusively by Cagle Cartoons Inc. newspaper syndicate. For info call Sales at (805) 969-2829 or email Sales@cagle.com.

Martha Randolph Carr's latest book, A Place to Call Home about the reemergence of U.S. orphanages is available wherever books are sold. If you'd like Martha to come and speak to your group visit: www.newvoicespeakers.com. Author's email: Martha@caglecartoons.com or visit www.martharandolphcarr.com.

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