Saturday, February 11, 2012

CBC Mini Doc on Teen Dads


The Boy With The Past is a half-hour mini documentary that aired on CBC Radio's The Current on Thursday. It focuses on how being a teenage dad - a demographic I had never really thought about - affects the lives of young men.  
 
The documentary focuses on one teen's story. He got his girlfriend pregnant with twins at the age of 14 or 15. The girl's parents decided abortion was not an option, so when she gave birth to twins, the young couple - strongly influenced by their parents - put the two babies up for adoption.
 
Now a man in his thirties, the teen father takes us through his experience from his teenage perspective: the incredible fear of the unknown at the pregnancy. The terror of disclosing it to his mother, and the more terrifying double-family meeting to figure out the future. The discomfort at school, keeping secrets from his closest friends while rumours are flying through the hallways. He describes the strangeness of selecting adoptive parents by their anonymized biographies, similar to screening resumes, wondering if there is a right choice, and how that choice will affect his kids.
 
He shares his unexpected and immense feelings of pride, joy, and creation at seeing two babies he helped create enter the world - feelings that he cannot share with his family or his girlfriend's family. Underweight, the twins are kept in hospital for ten days and during that time, the teen father bonds with them - before they're taken away forever. He describes the emptyness and worry after that; a constant yearning and uncertainty, hoping that they made the right choice with the adoptive parents, hoping that his children know they weren't abandoned, that adoption would give them the best life. The whole experience is shameful for him - as an older man, it takes him years to tell his (future) girlfriend about his kids.
 
In the public's eye, there is compassion and support for teen mothers and none for teen fathers. Teenage dads are often villianized, chased out or ignored by the girl's family, or are a source of embarrassment and disappointment for the boy's family. This half-hour program was enlightening and perspective-changing - in reality, both teen parents are equally dumb, irresponsible and scared. As a man, I connected with the teen dad's feelings - I think I'd feel the same way, if I were in his situation.
 
A very moving and eye-opening listen. Check it out, if you can spare 25 minutes: http://www.cbc.ca/thecurrent/episode/2012/02/09/the-boy-with-the-past-documentary/