One of my teenagers, N., has been dealing with mental health issues that have cropped up in the past year or so. As a parent, you’d think that when our kids have problems it would be obvious that we would do everything we can to help them deal with them. At least I thought so recently I was deeply shocked and disturbed by something that showed that it isn’t so obvious for everyone.
He wandered out of the house late one night to take walk to clear his head. After getting lost and walking through a snow storm with just a light hoody, he finally found his way to a gas station. He forgot his cell phone and couldn’t remember our phone numbers or his address. He ended up at a youth shelter.
We were asleep and had no idea he’d left. At 3:00am we were called to come get him. We immediately rushed across town to get him. As we sat talking to the coordinator, he said to our teen, “You are really lucky. Your parents came right over to get you. I have 5 or 6 kids upstairs who’s parents wouldn’t come get them if I paid them $1000.”
That line stuck with me since that night. I just couldn’t fathom how any parent could just abandon their child like that. I suppose that I can’t really judge. I don’t know those kids. I have no idea what their parents may have done up to this point to try and help them, but the feeling I got from the coordinator is that they didn’t do much at all.
The idea that a parent could just abandon their child like this is so alien to me. Wrapping my head around that idea is like trying to explain the color blue to a blind person. There is just no common point of reference.
Now, I don’t know these kids. I have no idea about their lives and stories. Still, these kids are obviously living very difficult lives right now. They know that they are not wanted. What must that do to a person, especially one who is still basically just a kid?
People who don’t want the responsibility of raising kids shouldn’t be having kids. I realize that there situations where there are extenuating circumstances, where unexpected events can wreak havoc in peoples lives.
According to the U.S. Department of Justice:
14% of all men in prison and 36% of women in prison in the USA were abused as children, about twice the frequency seen in the general population. (1)
Children who experience neglect are almost 9 times more likely to be involved in crime. (2) This is a tragedy that doesn’t have to continue to happen, but it does, and it will as long as people continue to have children they don’t want.
We live in a society where something as simple and sensible as accurate sex education that stresses the use of contraception is fought at every turn for so called “moral” reasons.
The cost to our society pales, however, in comparison to the moral cost of each hurt and broken abandoned child. Each is a life that had just as much promise and potential at birth as any of us.
This experience has made me even more sensitive to what my children are going through and feeling. N. knew by the time we got him home that night that we loved him and valued him because we told him so.
It sounds so simple and trite, but just saying, “I love you”, or asking, “Are you OK”, really does make a difference. I see my children’s eyes light up, even just a little, when I tell them that I love them. Even as stubborn, rebellious teenagers, just hearing that they are loved, that they are important, can mean so much.
(1) 14% of all men in prison and 36% of women in prison in the USA were abused as children, about twice the frequency seen in the general population. — Harlow, C. U.S. Department of Justice, Office of Justice Programs. (1999).Prior abuse reported by inmates and probationers (NCJ 172879) Retrieved from http://bjs.ojp.usdoj.gov/content/pub/pdf/parip.pdf
(2) Children who experience child abuse & neglect are about 9 times more likely to become involved in criminal activity. — Long – Term Consequences of Child Abuse and Neglect. Child Welfare Information Gateway.Washington, D.C.: U.S. Department of Health and Human Services, 2013. Retrieved from http://www.childwelfare.gov/pubs/factsheets/long_term_consequences.cfm NOTE: This site has been having intermittent connection issues, but seems to work most of the time.
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