Thursday, January 31, 2008

Respect for children

Even the best parents make mistakes sometimes, there's no doubt about that.  I think, however, that most parents want only good things for their children.  I sometimes yell at my kids, or lose my patience with them in one way or another, and I do cherish the time I have without them. But I adore my kids and arguably give most of my time, thoughts, efforts, energy and heart to them and their well-being.  Before I had kids of my own, I spent a good deal of my time, and found a lot of my greatest joy, with other people's children.  I still do.  I watch other people's kids fairly frequently and I love it.  There are so many blessings that come from children.

And so I must admit that I have no empathy or patience in my heart for people who are consistently neglectful or abusive of their children, or simply so selfish that that becomes the end result.  I understand that parenting is hard.  What I don't understand are people who insist on making it harder for themselves.  I remember one set of foster kids we had that lived with us.  The first few weeks were a nightmare, but before too long they were all pretty nice little kids.  Then I met their mom.  She was polite enough and all, but she just creeped me out (I think I was only about 9).  Something inside me just told me she was a bad person.  Not too long after that, the children were sent home. I remember telling my mom, "You can't let them go back, their mom isn't nice."  Sometimes being with a natural parent isn't in the best interest of the child.  There are some parents who break their children--sometimes only metaphorically, sometimes literally--and I believe that those people will, ultimately, pay one of the heaviest prices of all when the time comes to stand and account.

Unfortunately, as I've grown up and witnessed more and more, I've come to realize that most foster mothers are not the woman my mother is.  Most foster homes are not like the happy, busy home I grew up in.   Most foster parents don't do what they do to serve a higher purpose like my parents did.  The sad fact is that many, if not most, foster parents view their charges as another check and cheap labor.  I find that rather disgusting to be completely honest.  But sometimes even that is a better option than the homes they come from.

Perhaps the most frustrating situation of all, however, is when there is a better alternative but everyone with the power to do anything about it is either too stubborn to see it or too incompetent to do anything about it.  I have witnessed several custody battles where an immoral, selfish parent keeps winning because the better parent refuses to use ugly, dirty, dishonest tactics.  Where is the justice in a good parent being passed over because he or she refuses to ask a child to lie for them even when they are up against a parent who does so without shame?  I have known parents who have lost battle after battle in a custody war because they refuse to set a bad example for their children in the approach they take toward the deceitful or vindictive parent.  How's that for an ironic tragedy?

The fact is, most of the bad parents were enormously selfish people before they reproduced, and never learned to be anything else.  But the rules change when kids are in the picture.  You aren't the center of the universe anymore, and that's ok--as a matter of fact, its a good thing.  We're all better people when we're more concerned about the welfare and happiness of others. I think so much of my children that is bewilders me how these people could be so selfish, even when it concerns their own kids.  My mother-in-law thinks its hilarious to hear me talk about any even theoretical violation of my child, because every hint of affability and mild-manneredness (which composes a lot of my personality) goes out the window.  It usually just comes out of her in a laugh with something like "Mama bear!"  Its true, though.  I admit it, I can be a bit of a pushover from time to time; I can be a little too diplomatic from time to time.  But even hint of walking on my children and to hell with you! The claws come out.  Everyone who knows anything about me knows you don't use my children--you don't screw with my kids.  Just doesn't happen.  So I simply cannot understand people who do it to their own children.  It makes no sense to me at all.

I just want to go and straighten out every misled or corrupt judge, every clueless or apathetic social worker, ever unfair arbiter in every custody battle or abuse case on the planet.  But why would they listen to me, if they won't listen to the good parents there trying to protect their own children?  Richard L. Evans once said that "We can't do everything for everyone everywhere, but we can do something for someone somewhere."  I have a hard time accepting not being able to do everything, but I'm still trying to figure out what that something I can do is in cases like that.

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