So, long-time followers of the blog may remember that one of the things we’ve committed to doing is paying college costs for DH’s relatives (5 kids, though technically we’ve only committed to the two oldest) in the hopes that they’ll be able to break out of the cycle of poverty that happens when you have several generations of rural teen pregnancy.
Unfortunately, the matriarch of this family branch is about to be a great-grandmother at the age of 56. Our connecting relative is to be a grandfather at the age of 38. The great-grandmother is, in fact, expecting three bouncing baby grandchildren this fall and the grandfather two. His second oldest is having twins. (An 18 year old step-cousin is having a singleton.)
This is a real shame, because the second is smart and has a solid GPA and solid ACTs. She could easily have started a regional state school in the fall with money and would have gotten into the flagship had she applied (though probably not much financial aid there based on her scores). She’d decided instead to commute with her sister to the community college for a year and then transfer– at that point, with college credit from high school she’d be a junior psychology major.
Instead, she recently found out that she’s heavily pregnant with twins and due in October. We don’t know if she suspected earlier but was in denial or if she’s been lying– she had a surgery 3 weeks ago on her face that she should not have had if pregnant.
It’s too late for even considering an abortion and she doesn’t want to give the babies up for adoption (she did not think of it as an option).
They’re high risk in many ways– she is 17, she hasn’t been getting prenatal care (wasn’t even on vitamins), lives in a house with a smoker, she and her sister were both premature, twins… twins are an expensive proposition even when the circumstances are perfect. Chances are these kids could have special needs, though we will hope they don’t.
One thing she has going for her that her parents didn’t was that even though she’s not marrying a boyfriend (hopefully they will work out paternity, hopefully the guy will pay support), her parents aren’t kicking her out of the house. Her biological parents had to set up shop on their own when they were 16. Unfortunately the previous matriarch who provided free child care passed away last year, and the current matriarch is still working.
There’s a supportive environment, possibly the more-so because the situation is so common. The relative tells us that his other three kids and the extended family (on the step-mom who raised them’s side) have baby fever in anticipation. They’ve been hitting up garage sales for baby things.
The oldest is still doing fine. Her first year at community college went well and she’s proud she passed (with a B) her super-difficult science class even though most of the class dropped. She’s still working her part-time nursing home job and the proceeds from that go towards her car so she can commute to school. At 19, she’s broken the family not-getting-pregnant record.
The grandfather-to-be has no money. The (step-)grandmother-to-be is finally working again, but as a waitress, so no time but not a huge income either. The bio-grandmother-to-be has no money and owes years of back child-support. The great-grandparents-to-be are also in huge amounts of debt– the husband is on disability, they own a farm (that they bought on credit from a scam artist… long story there) that costs them tons of money each year, the kids they decided to have in their mid-30s (instead of say, not kicking their 16 year old kid and his pregnant wife out of the house) are still living at home and not contributing to the family household. There’s really nothing. Nothing but family with no money and perpetual hands sticking out. It’s terrifying.
If we didn’t have our own babies to consider, we’d do more. As it is, we reminded the grandfather-to-be that we’d still be paying those college costs, so he doesn’t have to come up with $650 in tuition for the oldest or $200 in books. Or $1000 for the second if they can make her going to school work. (I think he’s not used to family members keeping promises, so he’s never thought of our offers as more than one-time deals.)
What this really makes us think about is how glad we are that we didn’t have children in our teens. That we waited until we were out of school and had jobs that paid a good salary and a house and precautionary savings and an emergency fund. We can handle emergencies. We can send our kids to private school. If, God forbid, one of our children becomes a parent in high school, we’ll be able to help without sacrificing our other child(ren). We’d even be able to pay for daycare for twins if we needed to. It will never be a question of who gets to go to school, or do we get to keep Netflix, etc. Our children have a lot more second chances.
I love being upper-middle-class. I wish everybody had the opportunities that we can give our children. I wish it were easier to break out of cycles of poverty. I wish we could do more, but we never know what to do, and there are things we could do that might make things worse. And sacrifices we don’t want to make, not with us living on one salary and having a baby of our own.
Any suggestions for a 17 year old about to have twins? Or a 38 year old dad who doesn’t understand why his kids are making the same mistakes he made, even though he’s tried his best to keep them from repeating the cycle?