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Saturday, February 11, 2012

On Parenting...

I am not a parent. I have no intention of ever being a parent. I don't want the responsibility of being a parent and, especially, I don't want the hard choices required of being a parent.

Two things recently passed through my life that started me thinking on parenting and the roles of parents in the lives of their children. These two things (outlined below), along with my own upbringing and my experience working in education have solidified my opinions on what parenting SHOULD be and how it should be done (to a certain extent). While I am not a parent myself I have had to assist in some parenting with some of the children of people who are close to me. I have seen, first-hand, how children can be the most wonderful thing in one's life but I have also seen how they can be spoiled brats who take everything that they have for granted and complain about having to do the slightest amount of ANYTHING that requires effort on their part. I have seen both extremes and I have seen the battles that people whom I care for have had to have with their difficult children.

I believe that the primary duty of a parent is to do their best to ensure the survival of their child. This means providing all of the health care that the child needs, feeding it appropriately, providing shelter, etc.
I believe that the secondary duty of a parent to its child is to prepare it to be a functional adult in our society. This means providing the child with education (and making them get it when they do not want to) through schooling and through learning responsibility through working (chores, job, etc).

The first of the two events that started my thought processes on this is the second lawsuit regarding a child abuse situation.
I do not know all of the facts regarding this lawsuit but I have done some reading on it as it affects the primary grouping of one of my hobbies and the larger organization of which that group is a part.
The facts, as I understand them are:
1-One individual who was a part of a local chapter of the group (far from where I live) ran some youth activities for his local chapter of the group.
2-This individual was 45 years old and lived with his parents.
3-When his parents were not home for a weekend he would host activities there and invite one or more of the group's youths to the house for weekend-long (e.g. sleep-over) events.
4-The abuse happened on these weekend events.
5-The abuser was brought up on charges and sentenced to 60+ years in prison.
6-The parents of the children abused have sued the corporate entity that regulates the whole larger organization for $7M over this.
7-The primary argument of the parents who have brought the lawsuit is that they feel the corporate entity did not have the appropriate safety protocols in place to prevent this type of action from happening.
8-The organization and the parents settled for $1.3M. Each chapter, to pay for the settlement, must forfeit 18% of their assets to pay for the portion of the settlement that the corporate insurance providers refuse to pay.

To me this speaks volumes about the lack of parenting done by the parents. By saying this I am not dismissing the actions of the individual who committed the acts nor am I condoning them in any way. He acts were committed by him and he should hold the responsibility for them. He made the bad choices that hurt the children and he must pay for them. What I am questioning is why, if you examine points one through four, would ANY parent feel that this was not a questionable situation?

If any of my friends had children and they wanted to send them to such an event I would clearly question the wisdom of sending their child to a sleep-over with a 45 year old man whom you may not know well who will be in a house, alone, with your child.

I do understand that many sexual abuses of minor occur by people that the minor knows and trusts well - often a family member or close family friend whom the parents know and trust. I understand that that happens. I also understand that those situations often don't have warning signs that would lead to suspicion until after the abuse has happened.
I also understand that there are cases where people feel comfortable leaving their children with a close friend or someone whom they, or their other friends, trust to properly take care of their children. The difference, however, lies in the way the situation if built.
When my friends ask if their child(ren) can stay with my significant other and I for some reason it is driven by the parents. The parents are the ones working with us to setup a safe place for their child(ren) to stay for a night or two. In the instance of this case, however, I understand that the perpetrator of the crime intentionally created activities and invited the youths to his house when he would be the only adult present. One of these scenarios is creepy and terrifying, the other is not. The parents who accepted this man's invitation for their children made a mistake. They failed to see the warning signs and they failed to properly take control of the situation and do what they should have done to protect their children.
Furthering this is point seven above. Point seven, to me, outlines that the parents want to blame someone else and that placing that blame elsewhere is more important to them than anything else (also: greed). Having worked in schools I have seen this distressing trend grow among parents over the span of my life and career. This entire concept is outlined in this comic (which I have seen attributed to multiple places and with multiple different dates on it - if anyone knows the TRUE author please inform me so I can provide proper attribution and links):

The second item that came to my attention is a YouTube video. This video generated a solid positive response from nearly everyone I know. There was, however, one exception. One individual I know posted a response to the effect that she was sickened by the wave of positive support for this video. She pointed out the level of humiliation that this video would have caused the child, Hannah, who is referenced in the video.
While I see the level of humiliation that this child would have felt I cannot empathize with it based on the contents of the video itself.
Are there additional circumstances to the situation that the video does not cover? Undoubtedly. Is the destruction of the laptop excessive? Certainly.

Is this the video of a man who doesn't know what else to do to properly parent his child (in his eyes) and prepare her for the world that she will soon be joining as an independent adult? Yes.

Here is the video:

The reasons I am in support of this video are:
- The father clearly outlines that his daughter openly disrespected her parental units on facebook once before and had been reprimanded for it.
- The father spent a considerable amount of time and money updating / upgrading her laptop for her.
- The daughter then, after the updates and upgrades, posted the letter read by the father, disrespecting her parents AGAIN.
- The letter itself was addressed "to my parents" and posted in a public forum that they shouldn't be able to read due to the permissions set by the poster. This was CLEARLY designed to provide secret humiliation toward her parental units through her peer group.
- The HUGE list of chores outlined by the daughter was not that large.
- The father outlined what the chores actually meant instead of what the daughter made them out to be.

In short, I interpret this video as a father who has tried everything he can think of to work with his daughter to ensure that she grows-up to become a functional adult and she, having grown up in the era that she has grown-up in, does not realize how little investment she has had to make in anything. I interpret that he does not know what to do to make her understand the importance of appreciating things that others do for her and respecting everyone for the person they are. Clearly the daughter disrespects her parents and the lady who does some of their housecleaning and the father is concerned that she will grow up to disrespect everyone and treat them horribly.

It is easy to judge others and disrespect them from afar. It is easy to do it when your have parents who absorb the backlash. It is easy to do it when you are rich and powerful. It is easy to do it when you have earned high-level positions within an organization. It is not, however, easy to get to any of those places by doing it.

I feel terrible for the father for having felt that this was the only response he had left. I feel bad for the mother of this girl and the step-mother of this girl for having to work with her. I feel bad for the lady who does some of the house cleaning for the level of disrespect that this girl directs to her.

While I am in support of the father on this, I also feel bad for the girl. Not because her laptop was destroyed but, rather, because she has no idea how little she is actually prepared for the real world. College will crush her (if she goes) and the real world will crush her even faster. I hope that she finds something in her life to help her learn how to work with people rather than against them. I hope she finds something to teach her how to appreciate her parents and respect them. I hope she finds the path to being a fully functional and productive member of society.

I also hope that the father finds (or already possesses) the wisdom to accept his daughter's growth into a fully-functional adult if/when it happens. I hope this for him as I know that the most damaging thing to his relationship with his daughter will be to treat her as a child when she has grown into an adult who can, and does, make rational and appropriate adult decisions.

These are my thoughts on parenting. I welcome commentary, chastisements, support, questions, etc.