Sarah Sands: The teenage parents might have the last laugh

Related Topics

It is not certain that Alfie Patten, aged 13 and looking about seven, will be a disastrous father to his daughter Maisie Roxanne. So far he has been good-natured towards the baby and keen to support her with his occasional £10 pocket money. His father, along with newspaper commentators, has expressed sentimental regrets about Alfie's loss of childhood. "He loves computer games and Manchester United," said Mr Patten. This does not actually set Alfie apart from the adult male population, who manage to squeeze in fatherhood around these twin passions.

A feature of early adolescent boys is that they are comically varied in physique. Some are almost six feet tall and hairy. Alfie is four feet and, according to some reports, his voice has not yet broken. I hastily checked the facts on the biology of male puberty.

What this dazed-looking father needs is some direction and guidance. His girlfriend, Chantelle, 15, has the authority and energy of a young Wife of Bath. She looks as if she could knock him out if he ever tries to play the stroppy teenager card. Chantelle may fit the pattern of the fertile, feckless underclass, but her aspirations are noble and poignant. She faces up to her behaviour in The Sun: "We know we made a mistake..." and takes the consequences. "We will be good, loving parents." She says that she has embarked on a "church course" and is looking for "work experience helping other young mums".

The odds are so stacked against the couple that you desperately want them to pull through. What a triumph if they ended up as smug, second-life, empty-nesters just as their worn-out, middle-class critics were dragging themselves off to antenatal classes.

Before we all start wailing about irresponsible teenage pregnancies and guest fathers, we might inspect the state of grown-up parental relationships. At least Alfie and Chantelle have the mitigation of youthful naivety when the relationship breaks up. What is Ronnie Wood's excuse?

When I showed the photograph of Alfie, Chantelle and Maisie to my veteran 16-year-old son, he accorded the boy some respect. "Imagine: you can't get a drink but you can say that you have to get home for the babysitter." he said. While the old rockers evade their responsibilities it may take the chrysalis generation to embrace them.

Of course I am being deliberately jaunty about this set-up. It takes more than a certain sweetness and hope to be a good parent. One needs patience and equilibrium and determination to provide. None of these qualities is noticeable among teenagers.

Yet Alfie and Chantelle are not Hansel and Gretel alone in the adult forest, fending for themselves. They went ahead with the birth of their baby as surrogates for a suffocatingly omnipresent parent: the state.

Within hours of the birth the judiciary waived its right to prosecution and bustling social services were promising support. Meanwhile, Alfie moved in with his in-laws, Chantelle's father, who is unemployed, and with her five brothers. The finances of bringing up a baby are irrelevant to the young couple. And since taxpayers are already supporting several banks, a little nipper isn't going to make any difference to the bill.

Unfortunately, Alfie and Chantelle have been immediately championed by the talking-dirty brigade, which sees sex education as the answer to everything. Alfie may look clueless but he worked out, first time, how everything functions. What was lacking for him and for Chantelle was not sex education but simply education.

Sarah Sands is editor in chief of British 'Reader's Digest'

React Now

  • Get to the point
Latest stories from i100
Have you tried new the Independent Digital Edition apps?
iJobs Job Widget
iJobs General

Recruitment Genius: Customer Service Executive

£18000 - £22000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: This is an exciting opportunity...

Recruitment Genius: Retail Buyer / Ecommerce Buyer

£30000 - £35000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: Working closely with the market...

Recruitment Genius: Sales Executive - CAD Software Solutions Sales

£20000 - £50000 per annum: Recruitment Genius: A reputable company, famed for ...

Ashdown Group: Client Accountant Team Manager - Reading

Negotiable: Ashdown Group: The Ashdown Group has been engaged by a highly resp...

Day In a Page

Read Next
'Unbiased': Former M&S boss Sir Stuart Rose  

So, the people who always support the Tories... are supporting the Tories? Has the world gone mad?

Mark Steel
Crofter's cottages on Lewis. The island's low population density makes it a good candidate for a spaceport (Alamy)  

My Scottish awakening, helped by horizontal sleet

Simon Kelner
War with Isis: Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria's capital

War with Isis

Iraq declares victory in the battle for Tikrit - but militants make make ominous advances in neighbouring Syria
Scientists develop mechanical spring-loaded leg brace to improve walking

A spring in your step?

Scientists develop mechanical leg brace to help take a load off
Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock: How London shaped the director's art and obsessions

Peter Ackroyd on Alfred Hitchcock

Ackroyd has devoted his literary career to chronicling the capital and its characters. He tells John Walsh why he chose the master of suspense as his latest subject
Ryan Reynolds interview: The actor is branching out with Nazi art-theft drama Woman in Gold

Ryan Reynolds branches out in Woman in Gold

For every box-office smash in Ryan Reynolds' Hollywood career, there's always been a misconceived let-down. It's time for a rethink and a reboot, the actor tells James Mottram
Why Robin Williams safeguarded himself against a morbid trend in advertising

Stars safeguard against morbid advertising

As film-makers and advertisers make increasing posthumous use of celebrities' images, some stars are finding new ways of ensuring that they rest in peace
The UK horticulture industry is facing a skills crisis - but Great Dixter aims to change all that

UK horticulture industry facing skills crisis

Great Dixter manor house in East Sussex is encouraging people to work in the industry by offering three scholarships a year to students, as well as generous placements
10 best compact cameras

A look through the lens: 10 best compact cameras

If your smartphone won’t quite cut it, it’s time to invest in a new portable gadget
General Election 2015: The masterminds behind the scenes

The masterminds behind the election

How do you get your party leader to embrace a message and then stick to it? By employing these people
Machine Gun America: The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons

Machine Gun America

The amusement park where teenagers go to shoot a huge range of automatic weapons
The ethics of pet food: Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?

The ethics of pet food

Why are we are so selective in how we show animals our love?
How Tansy Davies turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

How a composer turned 9/11 into her opera 'Between Worlds'

Tansy Davies makes her operatic debut with a work about the attack on the Twin Towers. Despite the topic, she says it is a life-affirming piece
11 best bedside tables

11 best bedside tables

It could be the first thing you see in the morning, so make it work for you. We find night stands, tables and cabinets to wake up to
Italy vs England player ratings: Did Andros Townsend's goal see him beat Harry Kane and Wayne Rooney to top marks?

Italy vs England player ratings

Did Townsend's goal see him beat Kane and Rooney to top marks?
Danny Higginbotham: An underdog's tale of making the most of it

An underdog's tale of making the most of it

Danny Higginbotham on being let go by Manchester United, annoying Gordon Strachan, utilising his talents to the full at Stoke and plunging into the world of analysis
Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police

Steve Bunce: Inside Boxing

Audley Harrison's abusers forget the debt he's due, but Errol Christie will always remember what he owes the police