Thursday, October 9, 2008

Just Walking Away

Most of y'all know I have a son.

I love that little dude. Watching him grow from an infant to a toddler has been one of the most awe-inspiring things ever. My wife and I shower him with love and affection, although I do find the time to add in a little discipline every now and then. In fact, I joked with my wife the other day that our son is going to have the shock of his life when he has to fight for attention with the new brother or sister he's supposed to get this spring.

Because of the amazing love I have for my son, it's difficult for me to understand the actions of the parents in this article in the New York Times. Extremely difficult.

The story talks about a nascent problem in Nebraska where parents are taking advantage of a new law that was designed to give new mothers the option of leaving their babies at safe havens if they can't provide for them instead of abandoning the infants in a dumpster. Problem is, Nebraska allows parents to drop off children up to age 19, not just infants.

I know children can be trying, after all, I was once a trying child. As a child, I once cut a girl with a knife on a school bus because she scratched me with her fingernails. I repeatedly stole from stores. One time at a family reunion, my brother and I took turns hanging from a second story balcony and dropping down to the first floor because we thought it would be fun. Another time, I bear-hugged my brother so hard I made him black out and split his chin open so wide that blood was gushing through his fingers like water.

I was no angel.

However, I wasn't a stereotypically bad child. I obeyed most of the time, even if I did have a penchant for challenging my parents to make logical arguments. I also got good grades in school, never really got into smoking or drinking and didn't do drugs.

Throughout my childhood my father would tell my brother and I that if we didn't like the rules in his home we could hit the door. He also told us that if we called protective services, or "the people" as he called them, we'd better be prepared to spend the rest of our lives with them because we couldn't come back home.

But, despite all his bluster, my pops never threatened to throw me out just because he was tired of dealing with me. (Although I did discover from talking to my mom later that he got pretty close at certain points. Thank God for the persuasive powers of Mommies.)

I say that because I wonder at what point does a parent give up on their children. Sometimes I wonder how I would handle it if my son became a thieving drug addict who was a threat to my wife or me. Would I just cut him off? Could I sleep at night knowing that he was in the world suffering, or if I didn't have any information about him at all?

It's always dangerous to judge other people without seeing the world from their perspective. Yet, I find myself judging parents who give up on their child, parents who are willing to have the state take over their parental responsibilities. We all know that the government cannot raise a child, so what does it say about a parent that they would place their flesh and blood in the state's care?

I don't know what it says. I really don't know.



Anonymous said...

I also struggle with not judging parents that make those types of choices. I look at my two kids and what can I say, they are 2 people that I would not blink to lay down my life. My youngest at 3 is a challenging girl, precocious, rambunctious, what can I say... some days she challenges me but never could I imagine walking away or giving her away. To do such a thing would be akin to cutting off my own leg.

I can only think that parents that do such a thing must be deep in darkness to not realize whatever they are facing is temporary.

You sound like you were a funny kid, I was a good girl who went bad in high school and most certainly challenged my own folks. When at 14, I discovered the joys of weed and Southern Comfort and decided that getting high every day was preferable to going to school. Thankfully my folks weathered those storms.

OG, The Original Glamazon said...

Well Big Man not all the “drop offs” were due to unmanageable children, in the case of the man who drop all his kids off, his 18 year daughter was on the Today show. She said her father drop them off because he could no longer afford to take care of his kids. She was on with her grandparents and they were very sad that he didn’t come to them for help. Anyway, I think in this economy that we will see more of this, I mean if you had to choose of your kids suffering and not eating and being homeless, I think dropping them off at a hospital might be a better parental decision. You know same kind that mothers who give up their babies for adoption are faced with. So in that case I get it.

In the case of manageability, well I don’t have any kids so really I can’t speak on that, although I was sent to live with my father when I was teenager. Well I asked to go, but that was because my mother and I were doing the typical mother/daughter teenage angst thing. I think every situation is different for every parent and sometimes the things that we want to do are not the things that are best for our children. I mean if I was faced with having my children live in shelters and what not, maybe I would think living with foster parents might be ok or better than exposing myself to the dangerous of other homeless unbalanced adults preying on them when my back was turned at a shelter. I dunno it’s just a hard answer. Gotta love this economy. I wonder if there were high numbers of orphans during the Depression (from suicides and cases like this where parents just couldn’t provide)


Rob said...

Serious things to think about, Big Man. I have a very good friend-- in fact, he's also my pastor-- who struggled with a son who was just "out there." Drugs, drinking, fights...eventually he was shot twice in broad daylight in a local park, and that was just 10th grade. This kid came from a two parent household, both parents have masters degrees, and he has never remotely lived in "the hood," yet he subscribed to the hood mentality. Eventually, his parents had to say "no more" and told him he couldn't come back to the house. It's been two years now, and he finally is in an intervention program that appears to be working, but I wouldn't wish those circumstances or decisions on anyone.

Darth Whitey said...

I admire your fortitude Big Man, I don't have it in me to take care of a little helpless human at this point in my life (and I'm older than you!)

You were a pretty bad kid though ;) I was a very good boy, I got thorough whoopins whenever I strayed ever so slightly heh.

Deacon Blue said...

I think there are times when parents need to walk away, though those cases need to be vanishingly rare.

Mrs. Blue and I know of a woman out here who was raising her granddaughter (mother was hopeless at it) but finally had to have the girl institutionalized because she had mental health problems that were out of control. Given what we know of this woman...and her background in social services...I can't imagine she gave up easy on that. She seemed like the type that would have toughed it out for her granddaughter.

But you hear stories sometimes of children who threaten to kill their families and have be caught in the bedroom brandishing a knife...

Like I said, rare cases. Very rare. Because short of needing to preserve life and safety in my household and having no other options, I would not give up (or give up on) my son or my daughter.

Anonymous said...

I’ll admit up front; I have no business w/ an opinion on this subject. I’ve never had to raise a child.
But I think that when folks choose to “turn in” their kids, it’s the result of one, or two things.
First, they failed to heed the Bible where it says “Bring up a child….” Obviously, these kids have become more than the adult can handle.
And/or they (the adult) don’t have the skills, fortitude, patience, etc that is required to raise a child.
On the first point; I was raised by a single mom. Because she had to work to support me and my brother, we were pretty much on our own, most of the time, from the time I was about 11-12. We were what you’d call “Latch Key” kids. But as far back as I can remember, she taught us right from wrong, how to make decisions because we were responsible for the decision and any ramifications of those decisions. She taught us to respect others; that we weren’t the only one, and the world didn’t revolve around us. She also taught us that the world isn’t fair, and being treated unfairly didn’t entitle us to anything. She taught us the value of education. She also instilled the fear of God in us. Indeed, I would rather deal w/ the po-po, rather than her, when I was in trouble. (Compared to you, I was a BAD kid!)
But the bottom line is; she RAISED us. To this day, my brother and I have never been jailed. We’ve not been involved in any serious crimes. (Even despite my short foray into gangs.) Those lessons are deeply ingrained into us, and indeed, serve as a moral compass, even today. A few months ago, I mentioned to my bro that I was considering a tat. His immediate response was “Mommy said we couldn’t get tattoos.” Never mind that we’re both in our fifties, or that mom passed a couple of years ago. What mom said some 40 years ago still stands; No tattoo. (I don’t have one, yet.)
On the second point, I say you can’t teach what you don’t know. If you weren’t subject to discipline, you won’t know how to discipline your kids. If you were never taught to think for yourself,(Yes, thinking is a skill that must be taught, just like swimming or cooking.) or take responsibility for your actions, you can’t teach it to your kids. If you can’t cook, do laundry, clean house, etc, how can you possibly teach your kids these skills? And when kids don’t have these abilities, they are gonna be a handful to raise.
One of the wisest sayings I ever heard about raising children:
“Raising children is like having a garden: With a lot of hard work and love, you can have beautiful flowers. Or you can do nothing, and get weeds.”
Looks like we’ve let too many weeds come up. Now folks are abandoning their gardens.

Gye Greene said...

Hard questions.

re: NB, I suppose it's better to be dropped off than to abuse them. (Yeah, I know that's a false dichotomy.)


Raving Black Lunatic