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We Reap What You Sow

September 18, 2009

Two news items in the past week: (Belleville, IL) A boy is severely beaten on a school bus while others look on, cheer, jeer, and take pictures.  (Coral Gables, FL) In front of dozens of kids, a high school student is fatally stabbed five times in the school courtyard by another student.

I’m mad as hell and I’m not going to take it anymore.

As angry as I am at these vicious kids, I’m even angrier at their parents.  Why?  Because I guarantee these kids don’t come from a stable, loving home where respect – for yourself and others – basic courtesy, and basic expectations of proper behavior are present.  Kids who are loved, who have been taught empathy and respect for others, who have high expectations for their own future, don’t beat or stab other kids (or stand around and cheer while another kid gets repeatedly punched in the head).

In the case of the school stabbing, according to a local reporter, “Miami police have been called to [the suspect’s] home 11 times in the past year. Most of the calls were reports of disturbances, such as loud music or arguments, but one call reported a simple battery.”  Parents who are doing their best to provide a safe, stable home for their children don’t merit 11 visits from the police in a lifetime, let alone one year. 

I would guess that the parents in both of these cases came from less than stellar homes themselves.  Did they start at a disadvantage to those who had a loving, stable family life?  Clearly.  Does that translate into sympathy?  Absolutely not.  Growing up with a bad start doesn’t excuse a lifetime of bad behavior and poor choices.  No one lives in a vacuum; you can see happy families relating to one another in a respectful, loving manner.  You can see people who are successful, self-sufficient, motivated.  And you can choose to ignore the fact that their life is happier, better, more fulfilling than yours; or perhaps to despise and resent them for what they have that you do not. 

It’s easy to choose the path of least resistance, to continue the pattern just because it’s familiar.  It takes a bit of backbone and determination to choose self-reflection; to take stock of your life and the effect your attitudes and actions have on those around you and to decide, “I’m going to give my kids a better life than I had.”

People do have a choice.  It is possible to change.  No one is condemned to repeat the patterns they grew up with.  Are they likely to continue to live as they were taught?  Of course.  But it’s not something over which they have no control.  People who aren’t interested in truly parenting the children they bring into this world aren’t interested in doing the hard work it takes to reset patterns, learn new ways of relating to people, and to demand that respect be an integral part of family life.  It’s bad enough that these people doom their own children to repeat their unhappy experience.  It’s infuriating that their lack of moral fiber dooms innocent bystanders, as well.

This is the stuff nightmares are made of for those of us who do work hard to provide the best, most uplifting home and family life for our children so that they can grow up to reach their potential and be happy, helpful, constructive citizens.  We’re doing our part to make the world a better place, and to raise another generation who will do the same.  Yet we find ourselves – we find our precious children – at the mercy of those who just can’t be bothered to give a damn.

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