An Uphill Battle

“Give someone a good childhood and you give them a good life.”

– Mike McCardell

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It’s unfortunate more parents do not realize the truth in Mr. McCardell’s words, even if he should have added a disclaimer of saying you give someone more opportunity for a good life if you give them a good childhood.

Even though it does not guarantee it, a good, fair and consistent upbringing certainly prepares a child for having a happy, solid and productive adulthood.

For some parents, it is all about appearances: what their friends think, how their children’s school perceives them, what their co-workers believe.  Their perfection is but a thin veneer that cracks easily when not under public scrutiny.

Take, for instance, the call I went to a few years ago.  A neighbour called in about a loud verbal argument in the next apartment, and my partner and I heard the name calling, rude language and shouting between the parent and the teenager.  It was disturbing how the parent was screaming and swearing at the teenager.

The shouts were cut off when we knocked, and the father was smiling and gracious when he opened the door, as if he hadn’t just been telling his son how useless he was and how he wished his son would get out of his sight. The father was very good at concealing his emotions, but his son was making no effort to hide how he was feeling, and he glowered from the other side of the room.

The father went on with how everything was fine, that we did not need to be there, that they were having a discussion over his son’s grades.

But how do you think the fourteen year old son felt, having his father scream at him that he was f****** useless?  I heard the dad yelling, and he really sounded as if he meant it.

Aren’t parents the ones who are supposed to be able to maintain their cool and take a step back if they feel themselves losing it?  Maybe this was a one-off for this father and son, but something about the way they were both acting led us to believe this sort of communication was a regular occurrence.

Or look at what I witnessed this morning, on a day off, as I was out for a walk with my dog.  A mom was loading her kids into her van and couldn’t find her keys nor her travel coffee mug.

She immediately blamed her older daughter, saying, “You little f****** bitch, what did you do with my mug?  How the f*** am I supposed to get you to school on time if you keep taking my f****** keys?”

She did not realize I was coming up behind her and that I could hear everything.  It was a bit awkward when she turned around at the sound of my footfalls, and she immediately gave me an icy smile to let me know she had everything under control.  Okay, maybe her daughter routinely takes her coffee mug, or maybe it wasn’t the first time her daughter misplaced her keys, but to call her daughter a ‘little f****** bitch’ is taking it a bit far.

I can only imagine what the family dynamics are within their home, when they are secure in the knowledge that no one else is looking.  It makes me cringe.

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There are many more examples of poor parenting, some far worse.  As a police officer, I’ve responded to calls where children have been beaten, sexually assaulted, abused, neglected and even killed by their parents.  Those are the more extreme cases.

But even the two examples I just gave you, where the parents lost verbal control and belittled their kids, have a lasting ripple effect.  It might start out as a small insult, a tiny dart of true cruelty or a moment of loss of control, but chances are the kids will not forget it.

I’m a parent.  I know I have made some mistakes along the way, but I have never disrespected my children like this, and perhaps that is why I find this behaviour so disturbing.

As for the mom in the van, she acts like this on a regular basis as I’ve heard her before.

Does she strike her kids?  Not that I know of.  Does she not feed them or fail to provide a roof over their heads?  No.  By some standards, she is doing all she needs to do in raising her kids.

My opinion, though, is this mom failing to provide her children the stability and security they need to be confident, self-aware and emotionally capable.  She is not setting fair boundaries and is flying off the handle when the kids fail to stay within the ever-shifting family limits.

Raising children is hard and is the single most important job parents have.  There are an unknown number of obstacles between a child and their future well-adjusted adulthood, and it is up to parents to make sure their children are equipped to deal with those challenges.

I’m not trying to turn this post into one on child-raising, but so many of our societal and criminal issues could be improved if parents did a better job of parenting.

What do you think?

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