Get to heart of matter: Teen father must take responsibility
Q: Our problem has many layers. Our 16-year-old son fathered a child. The mother is also 16. We encouraged her to give the baby up for adoption, but we were unsuccessful. The baby is now 3 months old, and we have seen him a few Saturdays in a row for several hours. He seems to be a very good baby and has been no problem.
Here are our dilemmas: Our son has no interest in parenting (he is not ready); we are in our late 40s and not really interested in being new parents again either; the mother would like us to have the baby each weekend from 1 p.m. to 8 p.m. both Saturday and Sunday. I can already feel resentment building. My husband and I don't want to spend our entire weekend caring for a child. I need to unwind and get things done around the house, and we are enjoying some freedom with a son who is almost an adult.
I know it is not the baby's fault, and I am not frustrated with him. My son obviously made an error in judgment and we are all paying the price. I feel like I probably can handle one day a week, and we are trying to set a good example for our son by being responsible. We feel that our son eventually needs to step up and be a father to this child, but I am concerned that if we force him to take care of his son, then he will resent his child.
Grandma Too Early
A: This is a one-layer problem: Your son needs to take responsibility for his child. The rest are qualifiers, subplots and distractions.
One such subplot is the mother of the child. She overruled the father/the father's camp, and so she can't expect to have weekend afternoons off. Call me cold, but just because the father should care for his child — and presumably is obligated to pay child support — doesn't mean the mother can expect him to, not after she acted unilaterally in her decision to raise the child. The moment she did that, it was on her. That needed to be said, but it's ultimately irrelevant. Because:
Another subplot is your and your son's stages of life. You're at midlife and grateful for some freedom, parentally speaking, and he's in his midteens, over-enjoying his freedom. Swell.
And, again, irrelevant, as you yourself seem to grasp. There's an innocent baby three months into many years of dependency on the adults in his life; those adults have a duty to act like adults. Technically you can decline to take the child because you need time to pick up your dry cleaning and weed the petunia bed, but morally you need to buy yourself a car seat and bring Junior along.
Sometimes. Your other moral obligation is to raise a contributing member of society, which means you can't stand conflictedly by while your boy chooses to contribute sperm and nothing else. Baby Boot Camp is officially in session, starting Saturday at 1 p.m.
This training course will involve grandparents accepting their grandchild into their home, hearts and lives — but not to let their randy son off the hook. Instead, they will demonstrate care, respect and prioritization of a son for their son, who will be in attendance not because you applied thumbscrews, but because he will be gently reminded that you and his father did this for him and so he will do it for his child, too, if he intends to regard himself as a decent human being. He refuses? Okay. Then his freedoms reflect his maturity.
Rearrange your landscape to include your new family configuration, then call your son over to take in the view. Someday, Son, this will all be yours. I'm thinking July.