A few years ago I saw an interview on local television (full disclaimer...I can't remember where I was physically located while I was watching this so it might not be the town I currently live in. Or it might be. I can't remember) in which a woman sobbed to the camera about about how her son was killed by the police. Murdered by them. Gunned down in the street like a dog.
It was tragic. It was horrifying. The woman, this child's mother, was destroyed. Heartbroken. Sobbing. Devastated. As a mother, heck as a human being, I really felt for her.
The rest of the story was that he was a drug addict, high on something, and trying to kill the police officers. That woman's son fired the first shot. While none of that makes the woman's story less tragic (probably it makes it more tragic), the whole thing has been on my mind lately because of other things that have been on my mind.
Like a kid who gets to be called the co-Valedictorian because, even though his grade point average was lower than the REAL Valedictorian, no one wanted his feelings to get hurt. Like the four-year old I saw thrust a Princess glass at her mother, snap her fingers and demand, "WATER!" and the mother who obediently filled her cup. Like the kids in my neighborhood who walk right out in front of cars driving on the road, assuming that the cars will swerve out of their way because they can't be bothered to look. Not them. Never mind the damage they could cause to themselves and others. Someone else can worry about that.
We're failing our kids, you guys. We really are.
I believe that my first job in life is to be a mother to my kids. I've always felt that if you don't have kids, you can do whatever the Hell you want with your life. If you want to drink martinis off someone's butt, help yourself. If you want to make reckless, irresponsible choices, have at it. If you want to sleep around, well, get to humping (as my dear friend Leah would say). But I think once you have a child, you don't get to screw up like that (voluntarily) because you have to be responsible for someone else. You have to put them first. I feel like if you voluntarily bring someone into this world, it's your duty to do your best to not mess them up. Not saying you can't have a life. I do and it's a pretty awesome one. A lot of it includes them and quite a lot of it doesn't include them. They still come first.
I know that grinds some people's gears, but I believe that when I became a mother I gave up the right to put myself first. I willingly and voluntarily gave up that right. That does not mean that I never do anything for myself and it does not mean that I spend my entire life doing things for my kids. It means, in my life, that what they need comes before what I need and they always and forever will get the last piece of bread, even if it's the end piece which I really, really love. It means I drag my ass to Tae Kwon Do when I'm exhausted and want to sit on the couch and watch "Maury" so I can see if Big Pimpin' Willie really IS the father (the answer: usually). It means I have long, detailed conversations with them about everything from miscarriage to the meaning of life, even though I don't feel like doing that because sweet Fancy Moses is it uncomfortable. It means that when I mess up, I admit it, live with it, and even apologize. And it means that when they mess up, they pay the consequences.
It's also not up to the Sunday school teacher or the Police Officer or the neighbor to show them compassion. I'm pretty sure if I'm a Police Officer and someone is firing a gun at me, I'm going to shoot back. That's part of the training they go through, I'm almost positive. You can't just let someone shoot you in the head. You have to act. Innocent people could get killed. Even more lives could be destroyed. You can't think, in that moment, about the momma who is going to be crying on the local news about her dead son.
It's tragic. Every bit of it.
I don't know if that momma did everything she could. I believe in my heart that a lot of parents do. I think they punish. They are loving, but firm. They pray. They send them to rehab. They ground them, they take away privileges, they scream, they cry and then they pray some more. They lose their minds with grief and they sometimes they lash out when they just can't take it anymore. They practice tough love even when it's killing them inside and still, for whatever reason, the kids don't turn out. I'm keenly aware that I can do everything in my power to raise decent human beings and in six years my children could be drug addicts or robbers or murderers or something even worse that I don't even know about. I'm aware that mental illness runs through my family tree and that my children could become people I don't even know at all. I know, quite painfully, how it feels to have someone you love turn their back on you. Reject you. Hurt you. I knew all this when I took on the role as their mother. All I can do is the best I can do.
I guess that's my point though. We (and I include myself here for a reason) need to do the best we can do. If our kid does something wrong and destroys someone else's property, we need to apologize and fix it, not scream in the homeowners face about how "my kid can do whatever he wants!" and whatnot. We need not curse repeatedly at every stupid driver we encounter (I'm looking inward on this one, I promise. Hard) and then act all surprised when our kid thinks everyone is a sucky driver but us and tells the pastor about it. We need to speak kindly to our spouses even when they are being a complete freaking dillweed and we want to stab them in the neck. Because we need to show them how adults treat each other so they can have some hope of having positive relationships in their future. And then we can stab our spouses in the neck in private. (No. Don't do that really)
We need to make our kids accountable. WE need to be accountable. Every one of all of us.
I'm going to do better. I'm not going to be perfect, ever, but I'm going to be better.
It's my responsibility. It is my privilege. It is my honor.