Rodney Rikai tries to pinpoint when and why teenage and young adult pregnancy became so accepted in his community.
For some reason in my community, more so than others, people think that bringing a new life into this world without being ready is an awesome thing. It’s completely the norm now to have a kid without any semblance of a stable relationship between mother and father. I mean, who really cares that the two of you barely know each other’s last name, and that you never met his mama, or that he’s unemployed. The time is NOW for you guys to procreate…
I’m not speaking from a place of judgment, I myself bought into the notion that having a kid at a young age wasn’t a ‘big deal’. I had no type of stability and was literally a nomad during a two-year stint living in Atlanta, GA. The only thing I had to my name at the time was a 1999 Ford Explorer (that my dad gave me). And yet here I was at 22, about to have a damn kid. I can recall thinking to myself “Having a kid will help me get focused quicker. This is going to be the driving force for my success”… Yes, I too was once a f*cking idiot.
I REALLY rationalized that having a kid would somehow bring out some dormant, job-landing super power that I had yet to tap into. LMAOOOO… You really have to learn to laugh at yourself. It makes the pain of your stupidity so much easier to deal with.
I’ve been trying to pinpoint when and why teenage and young adult pregnancy became so accepted. And I honestly don’t know. The why could be a number of things, such as: Is it a byproduct of major corporations marketing schemes that so often grossly overexploit sexuality? The more sex that happens, naturally, the more pregnancy will occur… Or maybe it’s a result of a terrible economy. An economy where parents are too tired or too busy, from working their ass off to keep their households afloat, that they don’t have the energy to instill the values, morals and life lessons that had the African American community thriving prior to the crack epidemic… Or could MTV’s ‘16 & Pregnant’ be way too entertaining of a show?
The when is a lot more challenging to figure out. At the age of 17 the greatest woman I’ve ever known, my mom, became pregnant. The biggest difference between now and back then is when she became pregnant at 17, it wasn’t celebrated. There were no baby shower and congratulatory balloons. No shopping for cute pregnancy outfits and there DAMN SURE wasn’t any (urban) model pose photo-shoots. It was “Damn Shirley, we expected more out of you. What are you going to do now?” Fast-forward all these years later, and it doesn’t feel like it was too long ago that that sentiment was still around. It feels like one day the world just up and decided to change its policy and make young women feel good about making babies too damn early.
The act of bringing a life into this world is a miracle, truly God’s gift… But it really should only happen when you’re capable of providing for that child in a way that supersedes the way in which your parents provided for you. The goal of EVERY parent should be to raise a child in better conditions than they themselves were raised. And for their child to be better and have a better life than they ever did.
I’m speaking about MY community, and I have to be honest when I say this: So many of us act as if simply feeding and housing the life we created is enough… If your only mission is to make sure your child isn’t hungry and has a warm place to sleep, get a plant or a puppy. Parenting is about leading, passing wisdom and teaching your child how to succeed in this world to the best of their ability. How in the hell at age 20 have you accrued enough knowledge and experience to provide those things to your child?
I can sit here and honestly confess that I’ve done my son a huge disservice by bringing him into this world when I was so young. My son is beautiful inside and out. An angel of a child, with a temperament that is far too mature for his 5 year old self. It is because of how great he is, that I feel even more guilty about the circumstances under which he was born. He deserves any and everything he desires, and flat out, I can’t provide all of those things right now. He doesn’t want for food and clothes. His private school tuition is paid in full. But when he sees something on TV and points to it and says “Daddy I want that!” it hurts to have to sidestep his request or act like I didn’t hear it altogether.
Recently I switched career paths. I left corporate America and have fully committed myself to pursuing my dreams of being a Host/Actor/Personality/Event Curator. It’s an oversaturated, painful and heartbreaking industry. But for some reason, I’ve been blessed to have way more success and opportunities than a lot of my peers in a very short window. Could my success be a result of desperation, as I have this other life totally relying on my decision-making and success? Maybe. There really is a possibility that Dylan is the reason I have become relentless in the pursuit of my dreams.
But dreams, if you’re dreaming the right way, should be wild, outrageous and almost seem somewhat unattainable. The time, effort and ENERGY it takes to make your dreams come true will exhaust you beyond what you thought your body could bare. There are so many ups and downs, emotionally draining moments… Now imagine you have to manage TWO sets of that. It’s really an almost impossible task.
A part of me is afraid that if I make it the way I’m dreaming it, people will look at my life and say “that guy made it with a kid, so can I”. And it’s true, you can. But why make your journey so much more difficult than it has to be? When you get a call for an audition but your kid is sick and has to go to the doctor’s, what are you going to do? This shit sucks.
I don’t know if I’ll be successful. And I am risking the future of my own son if things don’t go as I hope. I’m a bastard for that.
Photo: Flickr/lou & magoo