I’ve never had a strong opinion on a major subject changed so quickly. There was a woman in my small town of residence at the time who we’ll call C. H. It was one of those small towns where the interstate became a main drag through down before proceeding at high speed on the other side of town, a mile away. C. H. lived right off this road with her husband and their three kids. Her two year old was frequently seen playing in the busy road, or grabbed up after throwing rocks and sticks at cars, and carried back to the house. Everyone in town knew about C. H. Which is why, when she became pregnant with her fourth and fifth babies, twins, and rumors of her continued intoxication swirled, and then the boys were born at a respective one and one and a half pounds, very little money was dropped into the collection jars placed in stores around town.
I was raised a good little Christian girl. Long straight hair, Mary Janes and panty hose. People frequently asked if my sisters and I were home schooled. Despite being an apple that fell quite far from the withering tree, that little girl will pops out from to time. And it was her who reacted, at work at the gas station, when C. H. came in. She’d just left bingo at the legion and come to buy smokes and lottery tickets with her winnings before proceeding to the hospital.
“Yeahhh, ” she grumbled,” I gotta fuckin drive to town cuz one of the kids died. I had to leave bingo. ”
Tears pricked the backs of my eyes, but the sweet little Sunday school girl politely handed C. H. her change and mumbled condolences. She left and I ducked into the back room to cry. Little did I know she wasn’t even a unique sort of horrible. Women like her are a dime a dozen.
Maybe a month later, I’m at my other job, and the sweet little child is back to fiercely stand against my coworkers in a debate on abortion. “Poor, innocent babies” is my platform. And then someone says it, the most obvious truth : “So C. H.’s kids are better off alive ?” It hit me like a ten ton truck. No one engaging in the debate had that smug look of having shut down an opponent. No one was proud to have changed my mind.
And since then how many children have I met whose mothers’ thoughts I can only assume were not fully formed regarding the genesis of the lives in their care. There was baby S. While pregnant her mother was regularly heavily intoxicated. I saw her when she was two months old and her drug addled father forgot her food before being driven way out into the country with her, to a house in a place with no stores open late at night. He asked me to rock her to sleep so she would stop crying. I was a teenager, freshly out of my parents’ house and naively in the wrong place, with the wrong people. I didn’t know who to call and I couldn’t drive. I laid the baby on my chest and cried with her. The next day I declared a social work major, but my school cut the department, in the middle of a semester no less. I dropped out.
I should have realized it was a bad decision anyway. You know what a whole slew of good social workers have in common? They quit. They go in wanting to help and find themselves overloaded, hands tied with red tape, unable to do the things they came to do. I should know from my own childhood, after having it gently explained to me by one such social worker – there are so many kids who have it worse than I did. The ones on the brink of starvation, or being hurt badly enough to be hospitalized or draw attention from teachers are the children who get tossed into the gamble of foster care and group homes. While people like my father, from his twisted mind to his testicles, rejoice in the freedom to behave as they please, because the powers that be are busy.
There’s R. He’s five now. He still poops in his pants. When he was two something happened, but no one will ever know what. He started aggressively touching other’s private parts. His suburban grandmother vilifies the other children. “We can’t punish R forever. Just let the others play with him.” His mother stays proudly silent, saying things like, “Yeah, I was waiting for you to talk to me about this,” when other parents come to her about what her son did to their kids. She’s lost relationships, been kicked out of homes, R has been kicked out of day cares. R’s mother is not seeking help for him, dragging him from one place to the next, going from one boyfriend to the next. R has begun hurting and violating animals. He’s gotten smarter with the other kids. Instead of being violent now he calls it “Playing Privates,” and he asks the other kids to go somewhere secret with him so he can see them.
There are a startling number of girls I was friends with in high school who became teen mothers. I know every once in a while, despite everyone’s best efforts, there’s a kid who just won’t live like they were raised, but isn’t it safe to say good parenting could probably cut down the number of teenage parents, maybe even significantly? Instead I see all these girls’ parents thrilled to become thirty five year old grandparents, offering jobs, free lodging and babysitting, even watching the kid/s while mommy goes out daddy shopping and comes back knocked up by someone else. A lot of girls follow the teenage mother m.o., as indicated by the cutesie “look how creative I am” names they give their children (maybe a subject for another post. This is a topic that Really gets me), the cute little outfits and the complete and total lack of effort exerted to do any actual parenting.
One girl in particular from my hometown has three children, two of them born before she was twenty. They may not have matching fathers, but you can tell they’re a set by their cute matching names. All she ever talks about is herself, using relationship after relationship to seek validation without considering the effect it has on the small humans who have no choice but to strap in for the ride. The youngest is four, the oldest not quite nine. They have seen at least four men they knew as “daddy” come, stay for a while and then leave. Her middle child makes me think, in the next ten to twenty years we will see a name for the condition so many children now live in- being the only truly fatherless child in a batch where the others leave for visitation, but they’re always at home with mom and whoever she’s dating now, watching Thomas the Train wondering if anyone will ever come give them a second Christmas, or take you away for a weekend.
I could go on and on and on like this with one horrible example after the other, from the women I met in Washington who talk, in front of their three kids, about the other three they “adopted out,” but here they are, trying again, despite no change for the better in their circumstance, to the quiet little suburbs where “nice men” do meth and don’t talk about being molested as children, until their wife gets so drunk she accidentally brings up how that might be the reason her son demonstrates some odd behaviors. Oh, the Silent Suburbs make me sick. Below the poverty line there’s little to no hope. You’re generations deep in lack of education or opportunity, having grown up from one of these children I’m talking about, into an adult who creates more of the same. But the p.c. white ladies who give their children pills to make them behave and think they’re good people because they have jobs, while their husbands hide out in the basement watching internet porn and dreaming of a time when they thought life was full of possibility, those people I out and out hate. They have a choice. They know better. They could do something.Maybe after this drink, or after Ellen is over.
I want to see change. I want to see people respect themselves and therefore be capable of healthy relationships where they wait until they know what they want and with who to procreate. Creating little human accessories you get bored of once it quits being easy is unacceptable. Ladies, birth control is FREE if you have no money! Do I believe death is better than many of these kids’ lives? You bet I do. The only time anyone wants to talk about “sanctity of life” is during an abortion debate, not throughout a child’s actual life. Does this mean I think abortion is the answer? Fuck no! I think a little forethought is the answer. Just don’t get knocked up, for child’s sake!
I want to see people step up. I want to see people fight for an actual education for their children and stop this, “Don’t make the slowest kid feel bad” crap. I want the standards to quit being lowered and parents to rise to the occasion. I’ve said before and I’ll say it again, all the world’s problems could be solved by good parenting. No one can stand in for a parent. I’ve had a long and miserable journey to that realization. Being failed by your parents leaves a permanent gap in your soul and any and every thing can happen as people grapple with and try to make up for that. Lots of people will repeat the very cycles I’m talking about just trying to get the family they never had, so motivated by desperation that they don’t slow down to see they’re creating another layer in the same mess they sought to escape.
Now I’ve been a lot of places, and met a lot of people from all walks of life, and the more well-to-do always seem shocked by my examples, as though this can’t be the majority. I assure you, I have not seen only one side. And, believe it or not, I don’t really like to stir the pot. (Insert catchphrase here: This is why I live in a bus.) I choose to change my reality drastically so as to raise my family as apart from the madness as possible, because I am painfully aware of my limited ability to enact large scale change. But how can you stay silent when THE CHILDREN ARE AT STAKE? Everyone’s future.
I was riding the city bus one day with my children and a man said to me, “You know, if you think about, the way you raise your kids affects the future.” I stared at him for a moment, agape. I said, “If you think about it? The children ARE the future. The way we raise them is EVERYTHING.” Do you know that? Do you realize there is nothing more important than your role as a parent? It seems our culture is moving farther and farther from this realization. Is it because, in this country (U.S.) the state will cradle you in its arms and carry your family, feeding them and paying for the doctor so you don’t have to work as hard? The decision to take on more children then becoming less of a burden for parents to shoulder? Not to mention, multiple fathers will just owe you multiple child support checks. Is there a way to offer help to those who need it without enabling bad, no the Worst, decision making? If you do well for yourself the government will just take a bigger slice of your pie, make you pay for overpriced services and accommodations yourself, making it nearly impossible to survive, leaving you with the choice to strain and fight to climb as close to the top as possible, knowing you can never make it all the way if you weren’t born into it and aren’t willing to fellate the right rich guy, or just give up altogether and live on the wealth of hand outs.
How did we even get here??? Again, this is why I live in a bus. This madness makes me hurt from my head to my heart to the deepest reaches of my soul. And we all know. The humor in family sitcoms now is all about how married people hate each other, kids hate their parents and everyone just wants to get laid. Everything else is about mindlessness and/or fear. We all know what’s happening. It’s right in most of our faces in some way or another but we just don’t deal with it. It’s rude to confront people. It’s painful to confront yourself. It’s hard work to shape up and fly right. We bounce between self loathing and the self perpetuated failure cycle, and telling ourselves to be confident until we’re just brazenly arrogant because we didn’t take the steps to have something to be confident about.
And, though I rant on and on, there’s one more vital bullet point. Child molestation is rampant and I have seen first hand far too many shame faced, tucked away secrets. Secrets that were tucked away by people they did not belong to! Mothers who don’t want to admit their failure. Fathers who would rather blame mothers. A string of boyfriends who can’t find a decent girl who hasn’t already been used up by thirty other guys and the only clean girl is his new girlfriend’s little daughter. I was raised on horror stories of little girls plucked from their front yards or routes to school and found in dumpsters and ditches. You know where I met monsters? Hiding inside a quiet old man hired to substitute by the principal, whose former school district just quietly let him go when he was found having sex with students; at my great uncle’s house when my mom took me to visit; at the neighbor’s when my dad couldn’t be bothered to wake up to take me to school so my mom left me next door when she left for work; and, as is incredibly common, in my own house, under my father’s wild, flickering eyes.
Do you know the three most important words here? DON’T BE QUIET! Children, demand to be listened to! Shout, cry, tell everyone until someone listens. Parents, listen! Be aware, ask questions, CARE. They say it takes a village to raise a child, but I’ve yet to find a village I trust. If you’re still reading, thank you. I know this is disgusting to muck through, but it’s one of two things I care the most about and I’ve wanted to find some way to reach out for a long, long time. I don’t really know what I can do, other than live my life in the light, but it starts here, with my “voice.” What can we do?