Las Vegas Sun

September 17, 2014

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Columnist Tom Gorman: On being a premature grandparent

Tom Gorman's column runs Sunday, Wednesday and Friday. He can be reached at [email protected] or at (702) 259-2310.

A recent report indicates where in the valley we most likely will find the greatest number of new (and probably the most chagrined) grandparents.

The answer, if I'm interpreting the statistics correctly, is within the 89030 ZIP code in North Las Vegas. But you can find glum grandparents everywhere.

Actually, the report wasn't about grandparents. It was a study by the Clark County Teen Pregnancy Prevention Coalition, which calculated the number of women between 15 to 17 who had babies in 2004.

In ZIP code 89030, nearly 10 percent did.

By extension, their parents became grandparents (either for the first time or maybe again).

I assume most of the girls didn't want to become mommies. They probably still live at home, and struggle just to do their homework and keep their rooms picked up. They'd rather listen to Kelly Clarkson than colic.

So parents who long assumed they were past the age of raising newborns have found a crying, pooping, vomiting little baby at home.

"Mom, never mind that you want a life of your own; can you watch the baby a little longer today? After school I have cheerleading/soccer/band/etc."

Isn't life full of little surprises?

According to the coalition's calculations, 29 females out of 1,000 countywide, aged 15-17, had babies in 2004, compared with 35 in 2000. In the 18-19 age group, 79 women out of 1,000 had babies in 2004. Maybe some of those pregnancies were planned. Those figures also are down from 2000.

If you suddenly (and maybe depressingly) found yourself a grandparent, you might wonder who to blame.

You could direct most of your upset and anger, of course, at the pimple-faced kids for not keeping on their clothes. But hey, don't zits accompany raging hormones? You should have known they were frisky and have been talking to them. But that would be awfully, uh, personal.

It would be easier to blame your child's circle of friends, too. Peer pressure and all that. (But if your kid ends up going to college, you better share the credit with their friends, too.)

It might be easiest to blame the schools, but that is unfair. How can we criticize the schools for not being very good at teaching math, science, history and English and then expect them to be experts at sex? (If they are, sign me up for summer school!)

So who does that leave in the blame game?

It's back to you, mom and dad.

You taught your kid to walk and talk. You toilet trained your kid. You taught him how to chew with his mouth closed, to grasp a crayon, to say "thank you," to pray, brush his teeth, take a shower, clear his dishes, throw his underwear in the laundry hamper, toss a ball, answer the telephone and use hot pads when baking cookies.

At what point did you throw up your hands and give up being a parent? What makes you think you can get a free pass when the going gets tough?

And why in the first place would you want a stranger influencing your child's decisions to make babies and turn you into a grandparent?

Presumably, your children have seen you fight and hopefully they've seen you love. They've seen you touch, smile, cry. In the realm of human relationships, yours is the one to which they've been most exposed. You should be comfortable sharing your story, and your values, with them. Who better?

Still, if you are embarrassed or fret that you don't have the answers to their technical questions, there are people to help you deliver your message about sex to your kids.

Among them: the Area Health Education Center of Southern Nevada (318-8452) and Planned Parenthood (878-3622). These are local, free calls.

Or, in the alternative, you can become a very young grandparent.

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