I went shopping yesterday (purchases: three birthday presents and a pair of headphones, plus some school bits) and was standing by the pens in Wilkinsons (yeah, I’m a student. 10 biros for 27p isn’t to be turned down) when an old man came over to me and asked if I knew where the glitter glue pens are. Now, working in retail, I’m used to helping people finding things, and as I wasn’t in a hurry, I said I’d help him find them since I’m nice like that. But then he says to me, “I suppose you’ve got children old enough to use them.”
Now I don’t know if it was because he saw me side-on that he thought I looked older than I am, or whether it was some sort of prejudice he had that meant he assumed all teenage girls had children. Either way, I’m only eighteen, and to have a kid old enough to use glitter glue pens would mean I’d have had to have given birth at fourteen or fifteen, at the latest.
I’m not really capable of looking after myself now, let alone a baby three years ago, but it got me thinking: is this what society’s become? People automatically assuming a random young lady they met in a shop has a kid. Even if he’d thought I was older, in my early twenties, say, then that still meant I would have had a kid at a young age.
A recent report said that teenage pregnancy rates have fallen. When I hear mates discussing how yet another girl in their old school is pregnant, taking the number in just their year group into the teens, it’s quite shocking. How many of them are old enough, or mature enough, to take on the responsibility of a kid? You see on the news how people are being seriously hurt or even killed by teenagers and sometimes even younger children, and you just have to wonder about their upbringing. How many of them were born to parents too young to know how to look after them properly, palming them off onto friends or relatives whenever they wanted to go out and giving the child a seriously unstable upbringing.
Now, don’t get me wrong, I’m not saying all teenage parents are bad at bringing up their kids, nor all thugs the result of poor parenting. Some just fall in with the wrong crowd. But it seems unlikely the two are mutually exclusive, given that teenage parents are often given social housing in dodgy estates because there’s nowhere else. But I feel that things are too far gone to try and turn around the prejudiced views.