June 17, 2004
Oh Parent Where Art Thou?

I don't presume to know much of anything about raising children, as I myself have never been a mother. I do however, consider myself to have reasonable amount of common sense and good judgment. That said, there are certain things I just don't understand.

Yesterday, I read an article about a Los Angeles woman, who after losing her 18-year-old son to a drug overdose on painkillers purchased via the internet, became a crusader for stricter law enforcement around drug/internet relations. She's claiming that if it hadn't been so easy for her son to buy vicotin on the internet, he wouldn't have overdosed.

Okay, yes, I realize this is a very sad and unfortunate situation, but let's not play the fool. Do you really expect anyone to think that this is the first time your son had experimented with drugs? News stories like this just remind me that we have work to do. This is the type of blame shifting that irks every bone in my body.

When something as tragic as this occurs, the first thing people jump to do is blame the government. Granted yes, the FDA could do a better job at a lot of things. But let's face it, they're wicked. So I wouldn't even bet my lunch money that anything fruitful will come out of her efforts. Plus, this is the world wide web we're talking about here. How on Earth do you intend to legislate what people are doing in Auckland, New Zealand and beyond? It is a pipe dream.

Somewhere in this equation, a parent lost perspective of their child. And yes, teenagers have their own mind, will and emotions. I know I had mine. The trouble is, we have a problem in this country. We don't like the words, "personal responsibility". In addition, the whole goal and aim of parenting seems to be distorted. If parenting is really about shaping, guiding and molding an infant into an adult, I'd say we are in great danger of having some terribly messed up adults walking around the Earth over the next twenty-five years.

It always amazes me how people disassociate themselves from the behavior of their children. It's as if their "children" are these autonomous beings who just so happen to have their DNA. When their five year-old utters a four-letter expletive, they look in horror as if to say, "how on Earth did you learn that word?" Duh, from you dummy, so clean up your language before you produce another potty-mouth such as yourself. Case and point. I'm grown and live on my own, and though I have great admiration for my mother, I fight every day not to be just like her. Usually my efforts are futile. Every morning, while completing my morning routine, I watch the Today Show. I do it every day and I have no valid reason as to why except to say, "because my mom did it". Kids are impressionable. No parent can afford to just sit back and let society raise their child.

But back to the things I don't understand. How can a boy be building a bomb in his bedroom and his parents not know about it? We have all read the interviews or heard the news reports. These aloof parents go on national television and say things like, "We just didn't know he was into that kind of stuff". Please. Dylan Klebold and Eric Harris, the murderers from the attack at Columbine High School, somehow managed to have parents completely oblivious of their thorough and well thought out plans to kill their entire school. To be completely honest, I used to chalk this up to the "rich, white suburb mentality"; something I made up to help myself cope with dwelling amongst some of my troubled classmates in high school. These are the same classmates whose parents bought them alcohol for parties under the premise of "I'd rather have them doing it around me than somewhere else". It was under this same premise, that they allowed all kinds of madness to take place under their roof. There were guys whose parents let their girlfriends spend the night in their bedrooms. According to some parents, sex under their roof is better than sex on the school roof. I was fully convinced "my people" just didn't do things like this. After all, none of my black friends parents actually bought them liquor. I now realize, this was a very ignorant judgment call. The downfall of parenting has less to do with color than I first thought.

Bill Cosby's comments about lower-class black parents failing to hold up their end of the bargain were only the beginning. In lower-class neighborhoods, it manifests itself as working parents struggling to make ends meet, and leaving the television and crappy after school drop-off centers to baby-sit their kids. For them, education often takes a back seat to material things. As a result, gang activity, teenage pregnancy, drugs, violence, and low test scores can be inevitable. As so many pundits have come on record to state, this is not always the case. There are parents who despite their circumstances have made their children a priority in every way they know how. I salute them. They are probably responsible for raising some of the upstanding citizens we call our leaders today.

One of the biggest mistakes we've made in examining this whole issue of bad parenting is that we've only applied it to a specific cross-section of the population. You see, the above example is not that much farther from what you might see in many upper-class families. It translates a bit differently, but the through line is there. Instead, you get horribly twisted teenagers taking part in all kinds of jail-worthy activity via the internet and teenage pregnancies we never hear about because they're aborted. Caveat: don't be fooled for one moment to think that teenage pregnancy is a bigger problem in urban communities than suburban. I can't tell you how many rich white girls I knew in high school who had multiple abortions. It's all in the cover-up.

I once read about a mother who said that she had no idea her 14-year-old daughter was six months pregnant. Just what type of hypothetical dream world are we in here? When my mom was growing up, her mother kept track of all five of her sisters' menstrual cycles (sorry to be so graphic) on the back of the laundry detergent box. Now that's an involved parent. And you mean to tell me you can't figure out that your adolescent daughter is pregnant? I just don't get it.

I think sometimes people act as though children are some curse thrown into their lives to make them miserable. Don't be mistaken. It's tough. But what were they expecting, a Sunday brunch? If so, then they were entertaining illusions of grandeur because from what I'm told, parenting is one of the hardest jobs a person could ever have.

I am convinced that some people should have just gone to Toys 'R Us and bought a "Baby Feels So Real" to get that "baby-bug" out of their system. I hear it "poops" and "pees" too. This is a rough climate, and we need some parents who are going to do their job, even if it means sacrifice. A good step in that direction would be for parents to start taking more personal responsibility when it comes to the rearing of their children. Who knows, maybe I just need more compassion.

Posted by Ambra at June 17, 2004 12:31 AM

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