Monday, August 20, 2007

Where are the parents?

How often do you see that caption on a letter to the editor or on a posted comment following some news account of a crime committed by a minor? It may be a natural response from people who grew up in reasonably functional, loving households. But life is not always like that for everyone. When you work in policing, you learn pretty quickly that:

  • Not everyone has parents.
  • Some parents are barely able to survive.
  • Addicts are parents, even when they are totally consumed by their drug of choice.
  • There are a lot of ineffective parents. If there was an exam to become a parent, half of the applicants would score in the bottom 50%.
  • If you are a really bad parent, nothing prevents you from being one again, and again.
  • Some parents are in jail or prison. You should see the lobby on Saturday morning.
  • Parents aren't the only influence on kids, and compete with lots of other powerful forces.
  • Some children are themselves parents.
  • Some children would be better off if they had no parents.
I could go on a long time with this list. It might interest you to know that as of this morning, Lincoln police officers have investigated 1,688 cases of alleged child abuse or neglect in our fair City so far this year. Here are a few other things I've learned:

  • There are some really, really, miserable parents. It's easy to see how the child ended up the way he or she is, when the apple didn't fall far from the tree. There's no substitute for a good role model.

  • There are some seemingly decent parents who have children who fall the other way, through no apparent fault of the parent. Perfectly caring, loving, attentive parents struggle with out of control behavior by their kids. It's not always the parents' fault.

  • Lots of children survive abusive parents and dysfunctional families and yet prosper as productive adults with stable relationships and become great parents. Many children are incredibly resiliant.

  • Many kids with incredibly self-destructive behaviors in their teens and early 20s are responsible, buttoned-down adults by age 30. Don't ever give up hope.

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