Keeping Mum

Dita De Boni looks at the trials and tribulations of being a parent.

Alfie's lament

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Last week the world was transfixed on the story of Nadya Suleman, the solo, IVF mother of fourteen babies and her bid to become a highly paid parenting expert and collector of many freebies. Oh, and appear on Oprah for $2 million.

This week, it's Alfie Patten's turn to be under the world's spotlight.

The 13-year-old British boy, all four foot of him, is apparently the father of a baby girl had by his 15-year-old girlfriend of two years.

Now it has emerged little Alfie is distraught because he may not be the father of little Maisie, as two other boys have stepped up to say they too had sex with her mother.

The freak-show appeal of this story is undeniable, but those who think Vicky Pollard, Alfie Patten and their ilk are a hemisphere away from any of us should think again.

The problems with the scenario are too numerous and too obvious to go into once more.

Teen pregnancy - and the open acceptance of it - is hardly news anymore. Only the very youngest, the very baddest stories continue to capture our imagination.

However, I couldn't help but feel physically ill at the sight of those two children cradling the baby on what looked like a hospital bed.

What disturbed me greatly wasn't little Alfie's cherubic face, although God knows that is quite enough.

For me it was the sight of that poor 15-year-old girl that turned my stomach. Chantelle Stedman sounds as though she would not have much of a life anyhow, before the further handicap of a child.

Where were her parents when she and young Alfie were off making babies? It seems more than a bit of teenage fun that left Chantelle knocked up, if the stories coming from the other teenage boys claiming paternity are to be believed.

She seems like a lonely, plain little girl desperate for a bit of loving attention.

She falls pregnant... Her "guardians" either don't notice she's pregnant until it's too late, or do and ignore the situation.

Ignore their tiny slip of a daughter getting fatter, feeling ill, struggling to catch her breath.

Ignore a bleeding obvious huge bump at the front of her.

In Britain, teen mums jump to the front of the queue for council housing. Was this a factor in ignoring this pregnancy, or letting it advance?

If all this wasn't bad enough, they've once more derelicted their duties by allowing Chantelle and her "boyfriend" of two years to front a nasty national media hungry for a gobsmacking story.

They probably think images of two children cuddling a baby on a hospital bed in an awkward embrace is enough to convince people that they can step up to the plate and be parents. But how can they, when they've had no decent parenting themselves?

Teen pregnancy, accidents, can happen to anyone and people from loving homes are not immune to them.

But most parents in a loving home view teen pregnancy with horror because they know it will likely be a difficult road for all involved.

I tried to imagine my daughter sitting on that hospital bed at the age of 15 cradling a baby and it makes me want to cry.

I can't hold her back from the usual shenanigans of usual teenagers, but I can hopefully be there enough so that she doesn't go looking for love and affection in the arms of a spotty barely-adolescent boy, and worse still, create another life that will more likely than not also be lived in a vacuum of hopelessness and despair.

- Dita De Boni

Pictured above: Alfie Patten, 13, and his baby daughter Maisie.

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