[In which she is judgmental and foaming at the mouth. Be warned.]
I keep reading these stories about teens raping and recording, and I find myself asking the same question over, and over again.
Where are the parents?
Where are the parents when boys are carrying a dead weight, limp girl across town, to party after party?
Where are the parents when fifteen year old girls are drinking themselves into oblivion at a slumber party?
Where are the parents when boys are at a fifteen year old girl’s slumber party?
Where are the parents when text messages containing photographic evidence of criminal activity are being sent through phones paid for by those parents?
Where are the parents when those photos and videos are being uploaded onto personal computers within their homes?
Where were those parents when those children were developing social awareness and social consciousness?
Where were the parents when the truth came out, and why didn’t we see them on the news apologizing*?
These parents are people who should be about my age. Maybe a little older. Maybe a year or two younger. But these parents are from my generation. We are the jackasses who are responsible for what is coming up now, and I cannot fathom why we have allowed it. Then again, I didn’t have cool parents, and I certainly am not one.
Why, for one second, would you provide your teenager–whose brain is still developing–access to alcohol or drugs? Why would you provide an evironment that encouraged other children–CHILDREN–to come and indulge**. 16 year olds aren’t known for their excellent decision making skills, or their ability to self-regulate as it is. Why would you want to further impair their already under-developed sensibilities?! Why?! What do you expect will happen?***
Kids are stupid. That’s a fact. They can’t help it. This is why we don’t let them run for President. The worst thing about teenagers (and I say this having been one, and having known several personally) is that they think they know everything, and believe in their own immortality. They aren’t able to put two and two together to understand that rape, plus bragging about rape at 16 can mean being 46 before you’re out of jail. Teenagers under the influence of alcohol… Even worse. That’s what they have parents for.
We are supposed to be there to keep them inside the lines until their little frontal cortexes are developed enough that they can tell the difference between a good idea and something that sounded good at the time. We are supposed to provide them with structure and examples of good ideas so that they have a solid basis for comparison. We are supposed to punish them when they miss the mark so that they understand consequences, and so that they are less likely to make mistakes that would cost them dearly.
We aren’t their friends. We aren’t their buddies. We can’t be afraid that they won’t like us. We have to be the grown-ups so that they can make it through to adulthood. And when they screw up, we have to enforce the rules.
We have to love them, nurture them, treat them with dignity and respect, set expectations for them, encourage them, drive them, require that they meet standards of decency, be there to catch them when they fall and help them back up, and hopefully get them out of high school and into college with self esteem, self respect, respect for others, and a desire to be something more than they already are–no matter how awesome that “already are” is. ****
We have to own up and apologize to them when we are wrong, and set that standard of taking responsibility for them. We have to model the behavior we expect, which sometimes means having less fun than we’d like to. This makes me think of a poster that hung in the nurse’s office of my high school. It read, over a pregnant belly, “Having a baby is like being grounded for 18 years.” That is no lie.
We have to accept responsibility for our own actions, and accept responsibility for our own parenting choices, and not try to blame the video games (we bought them), the movies (we took them to see), the music (we gave the allowance that purchased), the television (we used to babysit them), or the government (we voted into office.) If our kids are sociopaths from birth, it is our responsibility to deal with them so that others aren’t dealt with by them. If we’re the ones who screwed them up? Listen: We brought them into this world. They didn’t ask to be here. We OWE them good parenting. We OWE them. It is our job to bring them up through this world. We did this to them, not the other way around.
*I know the answer to this one: They were following the advice of their defense attorneys. My kid would have already pleaded so guilty to get away from my wrath, that his attorney would have been begging me to go on the air and tell the world what hell I had wrought on him, so as to soften the jury’s hearts.
**Don’t ever try to lure or offer these things to my child. I will scalp you and wear your forehead for a hat. Try me. I look amazing in hats.
***No. Don’t go there. Don’t try to tell me that kids who are denied the ability to party at home, go nuts with the frat boys when they start school. I didn’t. None of my sheltered girlfriends did. My close guy friends didn’t. I think it depends on the kid, depends on the level of expectation the kid was raised with, and depends on how successfully the kid navigates stress and peer pressure–which has a lot to do with parenting. Which brings me back to this: WHERE ARE THE PARENTS?
****This is effing exhausting, by the way. And it never ends. Oh my god, it never ends, not even when you are trying to go to the bathroom.