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Teenage Dads: Peter Pan No More
One guy lets us in on the joys and pains of being a teenage dad.
by Mark David Macsule as told to Marla Miniano * photo courtesy of Fox Searchlight Pictures (Juno)

I met Kathleen when I was a college freshman. We were classmates in Algebra, and I offered to tutor her after school since she was having a hard time. Spending all those study sessions together, we became good friends, and eventually, a couple. I was young and carefree, and I felt like nothing could go wrong. I had always been a very laid-back and happy-go-lucky kind of guy: I enjoyed going out with my barkada almost every night, meeting lots of pretty girls, and drinking as often as I wanted. I was doing fine as a Communication Arts student, and I was planning to go to law school after graduation. I believed I was having the time of my life. It was the classic case of the Peter Pan syndrome—I didn’t want to grow up just yet.

Eight months later, I found out that Kathleen’s period was delayed. She was pregnant. At 18 years old, I was going to become a father.

Our families were shocked. My mother was inconsolable. Kath’s parents even sent her away upon hearing the news, but fortunately, they were able to resolve things after a few days. My friends’ reactions were mostly negative. “It was really stupid getting yourself into something like this,” they told me. “You should have been more careful.”

I was lost and scared, yet I never considered having the baby aborted. It was never an option for us because we knew that the old saying holds true: two wrongs don’t make a right. With the decision to raise our child no matter what, we got married as soon as possible, and Kath moved into our house afterwards. She stopped going to school while I continued with my studies. Living together required a lot of adjustments. I had to get used to having a woman around the house, and a pregnant one at that. I had to learn how to deal with her mood swings, to control my temper, and to be more sensitive and understanding. I was really just a kid; I wasn’t ready for fatherhood and I wasn’t sure how to be a good husband. Suddenly, everyone expected me to act like an adult.

I had to give up a lot of things. I couldn’t join my friends on their gimmicks as often as I used to, and I couldn’t go drinking that much anymore. My free time decreased drastically, because aside from attending my classes and taking care of my wife, I also had to work as a part-time fitness instructor. Money became a big concern since we didn’t want to count on our parents for financial support. With all the expenses involved in raising a child, my plans of entering law school had to take a backseat. I had to put my family’s needs before my own.

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I knew I had to grow up, and I had to do it fast. I was Peter Pan no more. When my daughter Amanda Kyla was born, my emotions were indescribable. I can still remember how I held her in my arms as she opened her tiny eyes for the first time. The joy I felt was overwhelming. Two years later, God blessed us with another baby, this time a boy, whom we named Aedrick Tyrone.

Looking back, I can honestly say that I have no regrets. Parenting is a difficult job, but it does have its own rewards. What happened was a blessing in disguise. It made me more reliable, independent, and goal-oriented. It straightened me out somehow; it helped me become more disciplined and more patient. In a way, I guess it saved me. I learned that you have to be more careful with your actions, because everything you do has its own corresponding consequence. I learned that you have to deal with these consequences, that you can’t run away or hide from them. Most importantly, I learned that when you make mistakes, you need to get up, and rise to the challenge.

I’m happy with my life now. I have the support of my mother and my in-laws, and although I sometimes miss the constant company of my friends, I know I can still run to them when things go wrong. Spending time with my family gives me a sense of fulfillment in itself. Kyla will be starting school in June, while Kath will be enrolling again. I graduated last March, and I am now working towards moving into our own house within the next five years. Basically, I’m trying to be the best husband and father I can be, for the simple reason that I want nothing but the best for my family.

It’s ironic how I had to become a parent at such a young age in order for me to start becoming more responsible. Being a teenage dad brought about a lot of changes and required a lot of sacrifices, but I’m a better, stronger person because of it. And while Aedrick and Kyla are in the process of growing up, Kath and I are continuously maturing as well.

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