Anyone with a modest appreciation for the offbeat will have encountered at least a handful of deliciously mind-boggling articles on 13-year-old child-father Alfie Patten by now. Like a Chuck Palahniuk novel, the popularity of Alfie’s disturbing fatherhood rests solely upon its shock value, for though he just barely clocks in as a teenager, Alfie, standing at a mere four feet tall, developmentally looks more like the face of a Kraft cheese commercial rather than the poster child of teen pregnancy.
Of course with this case, as in all stories of teen pregnancy that I’ve come across, there has been a significant segment ready and willing to rush to the fore, for the purpose of making the trite argument that this incident demonstrates that sexual education around the world is woefully inadequate. But personally, I think the adults who stand behind scapegoat claims need a refresher, because there’s really not that much depth to sex education — it teaches you that abstinence is the only foolproof method of contraception. Other than that, it offers no societal salvation, it reveals no truths worthy of pilgrimage.
Maybe I was blessed with my monitored upbringing under strict parents in an upper-middle class environment, but the fact still stands that I underwent sex education in middle school in a bottom-five state (education-wise) and still managed to acquire the general sentiment that becoming pregnant as a teenager is an undesirable situation, to say the least. Dumping the blame for teen pregnancy on inadequate sex education is just an easy answer, and it almost never manages to explain why teenage pregnancy occurs.
Alfie Patten’s case of teen pregnancy clearly didn’t arise from just a simple lack of knowledge concerning methods of protection — birth control was used — and Alfie has made disturbingly innocent comments like, “I thought it would be good to have a baby.” While sex education’s responsibility is to teach students about contraceptive methods and the health implications associated with different decisions, it’s still parents’ and societies’ duties to teach children about the actual responsibilities and impact of sex and parenthood. Alfie and his girlfriend have revealed that, though they knew enough about sex to use birth control, they knew nothing about the actual ordeal of pregnancy and parenthood on the other hand aside from the hunch that, “you just think your parents will kill you.”
This simple, misguided statement reveals deplorably punishment-oriented, communication-challenged parenting. According to the Telegraph, Alfie and his girlfriend, 15-year-old Chantelle, routinely spent the night together in Chantelle’s bedroom — with her parents’ consent. It baffles me that Alfie’s father still has the audacity to even attempt to maneuver past any culpability by claiming to be just as surprised as anyone — as if the pregnancy that resulted from Alfie’s sleepovers was a ludicrous idea unworthy of even slight contemplation.
And while Alfie shows his determination to be a good father at the age of 13 by remaining by Chantelle’s side, his own father clearly reveals his immaturity by casually pointing out that Alfie could have, if he were so minded, ignored his duty as a father and “shrugged his shoulders and sat at home on his Playstation” — an infuriating comment that seems to suggest that simply because the father is 13 it’s all right to check out.
As this was going on, Alfie’s mother was busy hanging up a sarcastic sign in the window of their house reading, “I’m horny.” The adult parents in this situation just aren’t taking the pregnancy seriously, regarding it as more of a media sensation, like the rest of the world, than an actual family hardship that’s personally relevant to them. To me, it’s clear that the maturity and parental influence of the actual adults involved in this case — and maybe even their grasp on simple biology — are even more appallingly sub-par than those of the teenagers involved.
Not only are Alfie and Chantelle burdened by the difficulties of raising a child at such a young age, they’re also hounded by needless media attention. Alfie’s father is reported to have abandoned him and his mother for a 19-year-old, fueling speculations that Alfie is taking the blame for his father. Other sources are following a slew of teenage boys’ claims that they could also be the father of Chantelle’s baby — as well as a statement from a close family friend casting doubt on Alfie’s fatherhood — convincing some that the Alfie’s role in the pregnancy was simply a money-making conspiracy concocted by Chantelle’s mother to strike deals with the media.
Even if these controversial claims aren’t true, the fact still stands that Alfie and his girlfriend have to live with their images plastered all over international news. It’s simply unbelievable to me that their parents have such little regard for their well-being and future that they have no qualms about how the amount of media attention might affect them.
At the age of 13, I was still eating Go-gurt and riding around my neighborhood on a scooter. It makes me feel like an old person to say this, but I just don’t understand kids these days. But at the end of the day, having sex or not having sex, Alfie is just a 13-year-old. It’s simply unbelievable that he is going to have to raise a child — and yet, what’s more upsetting to me is that in his first year of being a teenager, Alfie has already demonstrated more promise as a parent than any of the adults involved in this case.
Asst. Editorials Editor Catherine Cai is a College freshman from Atlanta.