Thursday, November 15, 2007

In Trouble's Living Room

A few days ago, the news here in the New York/New Jersey area was dominated by a story of the shooting death of a thirteen year old on the streets of Elizabeth, New Jersey. Click here: Shooting Kills a Boy, 13, and Wounds Another - New York Times One of his companions was injured—the other escaped unharmed. There are questions—many of them--about the incident, which remain unanswered. And at this writing, no definitive leads about who might have committed this shameful, hideous crime have been posited publicly. But this is not about the investigation status, or even about the crime itself. What happened is, sad. There’s no question about what a tragedy it is for a life –any life, to be ended too soon and thirteen is unquestionably too soon. But what we are concerned about (and under the circumstances as they now stand, it’s not an easy concern to address—but we have to go there) is what on earth a thirteen year old and his two thirteen year old buddies were doing on the street, on a bicycle at 12:40 AM?

We couldn’t help but feel for the anguished mother as she wailed into the camera, pleading for answers why this happened to her boy. “He was a good boy.” But we also couldn’t help but ask why this good boy wasn’t at home in the first place? What happened was wrong, and we’re not saying that bad things can’t happen at home. We’ve all shaken our heads after hearing stories about slain innocent bystanders, or the men, women and children who were in their own homes, minding their own business and fell victim to an errant bullet. But, that’s not what occurred here. This child—and we know teens don’t think of themselves that way, but this is not about what they think—was half a mile from his house, but “on his way home” as the mother stated. What’s up with that? What happened to curfews? Yes, it was the early morning of Veteran’s Day, so schools would be closed—you get to stay up late on a holiday, but not out in the street. Is there any circumstance when it’s OK for a thirteen year old—boy or girl—to be out alone after midnight? At night, trouble doesn’t have to go anywhere to find them—they’re out in trouble’s living room.

What happened to parents being in control? And we’re not just talking about two parent households, because the reality is that many of us don’t grow up in those—Donna didn’t. We admit that it may seem easy for us to cast stones—neither of us has children.. But even though we haven’t walked the talk, that isn’t the real issue here, and placing blame isn’t the point. Our question is when did the kids take over? And whether it relates to curfew, clothing choices, studying—the list goes on—when did the, “Because I said so,” rule get thrown out?

Neither of us can imagine a circumstance under which we would have been permitted (even on a holiday weekend) to be out on the street at almost one o’clock in the morning—not at 13, 14 or even 15. OK. That was back in the olden days. We know times have changed. The world has changed --in some ways for the better in other ways not. But is it ever OK (or safe) for a thirteen year old, even with a cell phone with GPS tracking (this is purely hypothetical--we don’t know if this kid had a cell phone or not) to be hanging out on the street that late at night? What is an appropriate curfew?
We know who’s at fault—the shooter. BUT don’t Mom and Dad share at least some of the responsibility here?

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posted by DeBerry and Grant at 10:04 AM


Blogger Juanita said...

I agree whole-heartedly, this is indeed a sad, sad story. I am the single mother of two girls, one 13 the other 9. One of the most unfortunate things that I see on a regular basis is that many of my daughters' peers are products of teenage pregnancy. Mothers are therefore raising these kids with little more capacity for sound judgment than the children they're raising. Don't get me wrong, I was a very young mother myself, I'm only 32 years old now, so you do the math. I just thank God that He allowed me to tap into the maternal instinct that has guided me through motherhood thus far!
My 13 year old isn't allowed out on the streets after dark let alone at nearly one o'clock in the morning! Yet she has friends the same age that are and although she often laments that I'm not a 'cool mom', I know that she knows (deep, deep down in the recesses of her sub consciousness) that keeping her safe from harm is my duty and one of the many ways that I show my love for her. Truth be told, even if I didn't think she knew that, it still wouldn't change my obligation to do it.
As an adult, I realize that the world HAS changed and the last time I checked, it was far LESS safe than it was when I was a teenager. Children aren't safe at home alone on the computer! Why on earth would we assume they're going to be safe unsupervised outside of our homes?
We often joke about the fact that we're not sent home with 'child-rearing manuals' when we leave the hospitals with our little bundles of joy. Maybe we should be though! What may seem to be common sense truths to some of us aren't so obvious to others! Someone should offer (or mandate in some cases) recurring training courses on the To Do's and Not to Do's starting with infancy up through late teens.
I honestly don't know what the solution is, but you're correct in your assessment of the problem. Parents need to take back the control or be held responsible for the consequences of the lack thereof.

7:24 PM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

i second that. as a nyc high school teacher, i am constantly confronted by children (in spite of what they think) who believe it's okay to drink excessively, smoke marijauana, cuss like no tomorrow, and generally have no regard for themselves. What do I do...i talk i tell them about my experiences living in nyc in th e70's as a teenager, doing what they are doing now, and hoping they hear me when i say live your life with integrity, courage and faith without the drugs, alcohol and foul language. As for being out until way past 8pm on a weekend nite when you are a pre-teen or teenager...why? Where are th eparents who are the parents as juanita stated they didn't get a manual, they don't have peers / extended family memebers to tell them any better...babies raising babies.

12:01 PM  
Blogger DeBerry & Grant said...

Thank you both for your comments. We are definitely glad to have our thoughts seconded by parents and teachers and to see that our take on this terrible situation is relevant even though we aren't around kids every day. Parent's can't allow let their children raise themselves. There has to be a final authority and that still needs to be Mom & Dad.

1:59 PM  

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