Every day is Mother’s Day

Every time some juvenile delinquent gets his or her ass arrested, we are treated to jaw-droppingly naïve protestations from the mother or father of the darling little angel.  Something to the effect of “my child is to be canonised shortly and would never even think of doing such a thing”.  I used to think that the parents of these delinquents were themselves delusional, but after many years of observing my own (and other) parents firsthand, I have come to the conclusion that parents in general are delusional where their offspring’s positive qualities are concerned.

Here’s a quote from the mother of a defendant:

The mother of one of the teens charged with animal cruelty and other offences in the Camrose case said her son is “mortified” about the killing, and insists he wasn’t directly involved with the animal’s horrific death.

“He was there but he was not involved with the cat,” said the woman, who can’t be identified because her 15-year-old son is a minor.

The woman said one 15-year-old boy, who routinely carries a knife, instigated the break-in and it was his idea to kill the cat. Her son and one other teen left the house during the crime because they were upset, she said.

…”I’m definitely going to be getting some professional help because I don’t want to be naive in this and say, ‘Oh, he didn’t do anything.’ I think it’s pretty morbid. He thinks it’s morbid. He’s pretty mortified.”

She said her son has had many pets – a dog, cat, hamsters – and has never treated them with cruelty.

“He’s been around animals his whole life and he loves those animals.”

— Jodie Sinnema, “Police shut down Facebook site naming accused cat killers“. Edmonton Journal, January 6th, 2008.

The young lad wasn’t upset over break-and-entering, first of all, nor that this was his second B&E at this particular residence.  But he was, apparently, upset about animal cruelty.  Just not upset enough to intervene and deck the guy cooking a cat alive in its own bodily fluids.  A light-hearted B&E presumably only becomes worrisome when cat-nuking enters the picture.

I wouldn’t describe myself as an animal lover, per se.  But I can tell you that had I found a compatriot attempting to microwave a cat, I would have been highly “upset”, so to speak.  Upset enough to have beaten the perp to a pulp, regardless of the priority or urgency of other B&E-related criminal activity.

Then there’s this woman, who may (or may not) be the same individual:

Of all the questions raised by the horrific killing of a cat in Camrose, Alta., late last month, the most important was uttered by the mother of one of the four teenage boys allegedly responsible.

In an interview with the Edmonton Journal, the woman said people are asking why she didn’t stop them. “How do you do that?” she said. “That’s really quite difficult.”

— Siri Agrell, “Teen animal cruelty: ‘Take it seriously’“. Globe and Mail, January 8th, 2008.

The funny thing is, although she has been pilloried in the comments for not having omniscience regarding her offspring, she is largely correct.

I have no doubt that the four animal-torturers did not tell mom and dad that they were going off to revisit the scene of an earlier break-and-enter.  Moms and dads tend to frown on this sort of thing, or anything that might cause damage to life, limb or property.  Which is why kids invariably never tell parents absolutely everything they get into.  You eventually might hear a lot of stuff, even tales of criminal activity, but I guarantee you will never hear it all.  How, exactly, is one supposed to divine what’s going on in a kid’s leisure time 24 hours of the day?  The only way I can see it being practical is to have more than one kid, so that each acts as a rat or tripwire for the other.  But for an only child like myself, keeping your covert activities under wraps is pure simplicity—don’t open your big yap in front of Mom.

I can’t even begin to tell you the number of times I snuck out of the house after midnight to conduct explosive chemistry experiments in vacant fields.  Or get kitted out in camo, helmet, air rifle and crackling radio to play a more dangerous version of airsoft through the ravine next door.  Or race “blacked out” cars—with headlights/navigation lights completely extinguished—along an unlighted, unpatrolled stretch of highway.  (I’ll leave out the shadier stuff because I’m too lazy to look up the statute of limitations on them.)  Point is, I got up to a lot of life-endangering no good when I was younger, and my mom was clueless to it.  Mom didn’t even realise I owned air rifles as a kid, until she found them in my old closet long after I left home and moved into the city.  Despite all this, she thinks I was a great, well-behaved kid.  And I was, in daylight.

Were these stupid activities?  Sometimes, absolutely.   Rest assured though, every child will get to adolescent stupidity in its own way.  And you as a parent will frequently be oblivious to it.  To this day, mom has no idea I did most of these things.  In her mind, I was asleep, not doing idiotic things that might get me (or worse, others) injured or killed.  The people I was with aren’t going to mention it to her, and they certainly weren’t going to mention it to their own folks, either.  By day I was a bright (but lazy) young student.  By night I was considerably less responsible, doing things I wouldn’t even dream of today.  Unless something goes horribly wrong—as in the cat-nuking case—what chance does a parent have to find the gross stupidity their kid gets up to?  If they are like me and observe strict communications discipline, and never discussing these things on the phone, or within earshot of anyone else’s parents—what chance do they have?

These days, if you are not a trained and qualified network administrator, your kids have plenty of avenues to discuss things far from your prying eyes.  Yes, there are tools that will supposedly let you snoop on their activities.  Don’t be fooled.  Unless you are more computer-savvy than they are—and most parents are not—then you’re seeing what they let you see.  When I was a kid, I had far more knowledge about the computer than my mom ever did.  She didn’t have the first clue about DOS or how to even load a program.  The most she ever did was use WordPerfect 5.1, and not half as often as I did.

I pity parents that think they have a perfect handle on what their kids are doing, because they will either 1) find out much later on in life just how much shit went on behind their backs, 2) will never find out because their kids are still resentful, or 3) will never find out because their kids are evil geniuses who see no reason to spoil the perfect crime by admitting guilt.  I fall into category 3, by the way.  This is not to say that parents shouldn’t attempt to keep a weather eye on their offspring’s stupidity, just keep in mind that every kid will, on their journey to independence and wisdom, do stupendously dangerous things.  And for a small, unlucky few, there will be tragic, life-altering results.

A parent cannot be everywhere, all the time, nor should they be.  The best you can hope for is to have imparted sufficient wisdom and understanding for your kids to survive and thrive under their own self-discipline.  If they can’t, we’ll be seeing them on the news sooner or later.

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4 Responses
  1. Kateland says:

    You nailed down pretty much what I consider the secret of my success as a parent – three cannot keep a secret – EVER. One can, even two can but three -no. Alliances shift to quickly and secrets spill because someone is always left out.

  2. Chris Taylor says:

    I was thinking about you specifically when considering the optimum number. I have friends who had one sibling and that usually results in a “partners in crime” scenario where neither rats out the other. But three (or three-plus) seems to work out better — sometimes.
    Still, don’t be surprised when, in their mid-to-late twenties, the kids fess up to some embarassing, dangerous things. They won’t be worrying about parental opprobrium then, and will look back with adult ruefulness on their younger recklessness.

  3. Flea says:

    I doubt the parental statute of limitations has run out on my former misdeeds and so I say nothing.

  4. Chris Taylor says:

    Generally the wisest course of action. =)