It takes a village idiot…

stock-illustration-25264645-diversity-tree-hands-illustrationI like that my kids go to a diverse college, one that seems to represent the real world as much as a college can. They may choose to spend a lot of their time with people who are a lot like themselves in values or views or interests, but they also have friends, acquaintances, and every day exposure to those who differ in everything from religion to politics, birth countries,  socioeconomic class, and of course, ideas. They encounter the carefree, the hardworking, the entitled, the entrepreneur, the liberal, conservative and everything in between. There is the genius, the artist, the geek and the environmentalist. Kids who want to change the world and those who don’t know how to change a set of sheets.

There are some brilliant professors and some overworked teaching assistants, some lazy students and driven go- getters. This is a big school and like the real world, whatever you look for, you will likely find.

Including jackasses.

Generally, I don’t like to focus what I don’t like, but sometimes it takes writing it down in order to just let it go.

stock-illustration-26038210-car-accident-at-the-pathway-going-to-farmMy two daughters had the car that they share vandalized. Now technically, this is still my husband’s car since he bought it used, in good condition, put a lot of love and care into it to make it better still, and handed it off to our daughters to use at college. In fact, he had just put four new tires on it, a water pump and battery and did some front end work. It was the car our graduating daughter would be launched into the world with.

Then in the dark of night, on campus, possibly as an April Fools celebration, someone decided it would be amusing to stomp on cars  in the large parking lot, and this particular car was totaled. Large footprints on the rooftop, which is now caved in, multiple scratches and dents all over the car, a damaged hood. It went from being a nice car to a wrangled mess. Totaled.

I assume the perpetrator was not alone (how much fun would be without your buddies laughing along with you?) I am also assuming he was not sober. (I say he based on the size of the footprints; of course I could be wrong, but I’m going to use the male pronoun here).

Let me just say that I do have this in perspective. It’s just a car. No one was hurt. Everyone is alive and well and no one’s life has been altered, not even close.  It was just a senseless, random act of destruction. And if there was other damage that night, those victims-of-vandalism will recover as well. I am looking on the bright side here. We’re talking cars, not people. Vandalism, not assault.

Having said that, I want to indulge in a vent. It peeves me when parents raise delinquents without realizing it. Or they realize it but don’t take action to correct it.

Parenting can be difficult. I get that. I also get that things happen beyond our control. Biology and circumstances and a million other things can conspire to make raising a child very challenging. Many parents are struggling to raise happy and decent kids when the tide is against them. Add to that the fact that we all make mistakes. And our kids make mistakes.

Things can go wrong. I have empathy for this. I really do. I also understand that decent kids can do dumb things in college and still grow up to be good and highly functioning adults.

But when kids blatantly do bad things to other people, you’ve lost me. stock-illustration-8895909-fast-carNow I know deep down this Car- Stomping-Delinquent has lost touch with his worth. He sees himself as someone who destroys others’ property for kicks. And so he is. Or maybe he was so drunk that he doesn’t remember the incident, in which case he sees himself as someone who drinks to oblivion. And so he is that.

Did his parents think shipping him off to college would solve the problem? Or just solve the problem of getting him out of their house? I don’t really think that any amount of academics will correct his character. Or his substance abuse. Or his acting out. Or whatever this is. College is an expensive way to cross your fingers and hope your kid will grow up and out of their dysfunction.

Yes, I know it takes a village to raise a child.  But unless utterly incapable, parents are the first and most consequential part of that village. Yup, that’s right, I’m blaming the parents. They brought a person into the world and it was their job to recognize how things were going. And to correct things along the way if need be. Sure, he’s no longer a minor and ultimately responsible for his own behavior. He’s society’s problem now. Good luck to the village.

My kids were taken aback by the vandalism. It was an unfortunate and unfair event. Sometimes that happens in life. Sure it was inconvenient to stop in the middle of a full day of classes to fill out a police report. And take photos to send their father. Yup, here it is, Dad. This is what your project looks like now, after probably four minutes of someone’s intoxicated fun.

He’s over it now as well. Our insurance will even cover the cost of the damage. But somewhere out there is a lost kid, without a consequence (he wasn’t caught). Perhaps the best hope for him is that he is caught after his next offense, or the next or the next, and the consequence is severe enough to force change. I don’t know.

I think kids generally live up to what is expected of them: decency, effort, play nice with others. Contribute to society or at least do no harm.

The village is trying, it really is. Parents have got to do their part. Let’s all do our part to help kids know their worth and reach their potential, because this crazy, wonderful world we live in needs a lot of things, but another village idiot is not one of them.

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2 thoughts on “It takes a village idiot…

  1. Ugh, I’m so sorry that happened to you. I feel the same way about senseless acts of violence, cruelty, whatever. And I do think it’s worse when people from supposedly *good* backgrounds do things like this- at least when kids are raised in a culture of poverty and violence they may have some excuse, other kids, not so much.
    I think the parents are sometimes bad themselves- maybe they hide it, but there’s something wrong inside them. Sociopaths are more common than we’d like to believe. Maybe there are parents who really don’t care about teaching their kids values. Maybe they’re oblivious- I know my 13 yr old tells me things that he sees other kids do and sometimes it’s a little surprising. Kids can be messed up and their parents just don’t know- do they not want to know? Or do they just not get it?
    I don’t know. Big questions here.

  2. Bravo!! It seems to be seen as politically-incorrect to blame the parents for a child’s bad behaviour. But my question is always the same as yours – who raised this kid? When you choose to bring a child into this world (and it is a choice), it is your job to raise that child into a decent human being with a strong moral code. If the parents don’t do that, the gap is too big for others to fill and only a miracle will create a decent, contributing adult.

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