Tag Archives: neighbors

Being a Bad Parent — continued

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People don't always notice signs.

I’ve had some people ask me about my last post. They want to know what set me off. Was it something specific or was I just railing against the general inability of some people to parent. Well, my post about poor parents actually DOES have its roots in a specific local family dynamic. Now I don’t want to hurt anyone’s feelings by naming names, so let’s call them, oh, I don’t know — my next door neighbors. The ones on the right hand side as one looks at our home. The ones with the blue car with the duct tape and plastic tarp side window. And the pile of trash on the back porch. And the yard strewn with debris. You get the idea.

These people do not look after their kids! Gentle readers, I don’t live in DisneyWorld. This is a lower middle class / upper working class “mobile home subdivision”, basically a trailer park but we have to take the tongues and wheels off the trailers and we don’t rent the spaces. Kids NEED to be watched after around here.

What makes matters worse is this is a particularly FERTILE couple. Is it just me or has anyone else noticed how the lower down on the intellectual level one goes in the animal kingdom the more offspring a given pair of animals produces? For instance, dolphins are super smart. Dolphins have ONE pup at a time. Two is a rarity. Frogs, though? Frogs will NEVER top anyone’s list of Einsteinesque fauna and they have THOUSANDS of offspring at once. The reason is obvious — the dumber the animal, the more offspring that are needed to ensure the species survives.

They are working on that principle right next door.

Happens WAY too much.

This woman has FOUR kids. The oldest two are both in the FIRST GRADE. They are only 10 months apart in age, and get this — they have different daddies! Let THAT math keep you up at night. These kids are 6 almost 7, barely 6, four, and two years old. The oldest is a girl and the rest are carbon copy boys.

Do these people not know what a TELEVISION is?

Anyway, they have this slew of kids. The dad lost his job in the downturn two years ago so he’s been working about six part-time jobs. I’m not sure if he works so much for the money or if he just wants to stay away from home. I know which one I’D pick. The mom stays at home with the brood until dad gets home at which point she takes the car to her job at McDonalds. I’d be worried about them financially, but when she was big as a barrel with the two-year-old she told Budge and me they were in good shape because of WIC, food stamps, and about six other government programs.

Now up to this point, you might think I’m just cracking on some poor white trash in an attempt to get blog hits. You couldn’t be more wrong. First of all, I hesitate to call anyone white trash. Too many members of my family have been branded with that particular moniker over the years for me to toss such a label around lightly. More than that though is the fact that I’ve seen other families in similar states be adoring and careful parents and raise some amazing kids.

No, I’m cracking on this bunch because of the UPS truck.

I was straightening up the house about a week ago when I heard a LARGE vehicle LOCK DOWN on the brakes. I looked up to see the four-year old staring at the grille of the Big Brown Truck. I know this UPS driver and he’s not an excessive speed demon. If he’d been traveling two miles an hour faster, that kid would have been road kill.

Just a matter of time?

If that was a one time deal, I wouldn’t be going to the trouble of writing this, but that kind of thing is the RULE in their house, not the exception. The three oldest kids stay outside from the time school lets out until dark. They have NO IDEA what it means to look before crossing a road. To date, besides the UPS truck, two school buses, the Charter guy, the water meter guy, and at least six cars that I have seen have nearly wrung the brake pads off the front of their cars trying to keep from turning one of these chaps into a human speed bump. They NEVER look where they are going. I’ve told Budge that it is just a matter of time before someone can’t make a last second stop and that’s going to be terrible.

I used to never lock my gates. Now I do because these kids have no concept of “that’s not yours.” It’s nothing for them to go across my yard — which I really DON’T mind — and get out toys belonging to my OTHER neighbors’ GOOD child and start playing with them even if no one there is home! I can’t imagine how long I’d have been stuck inside if my mama had caught me doing such!

Let me be clear though — it’s NOT THE KIDS’ FAULT.

Too late to watch over them now.

If a six, five, or four-year old child doesn’t know how to behave, it is not his fault. It is the PARENTS’ fault. Children are just that — children. By definition they are ignorant of most dangers, evils, and pitfalls and thank God they are. The horrible state of the world will catch up to them soon enough. Until then, though, it is up to MAMA and DADDY to RAISE them and that requires a little something called WORK.

Now I’ve seen a child run out in front of a car before, but every other time it was because he wasn’t listening to THE ADULT STANDING RIGHT NEXT TO HIM. The adult is attempting to provide a safe transit from store to car and the child isn’t listening. Most of the times I’ve seen this happen, Mama or Daddy will reinforce the lesson of the near tragedy by a vigorous application of the Board of Education to the Seat of Understanding just as soon as everyone reaches the car.

Not this family.

No one is watching these kids. We live on the busiest street in our neighborhood and Mom is nowhere to be found unless she happens out onto the porch to smoke. Granny wouldn’t let me play in the FRONT YARD of her and Papa’s house and they lived on a street full of nothing but old people in the quietest neighborhood in Fountain Inn. If I GOT ran over it would be due to Mrs. Johnson losing control of her power scooter and tearing through the wisteria bordering the back yard. Otherwise, I was safer than the gold in Fort Knox. Plus, this was in the pre-Adam Walsh days when we kids didn’t know strangers would kill us. Someone in a van could pull up, offer these kids next door candy, snatch them into the vehicle and be gone and it would be suppertime before Mom even noticed they were gone. That’s insane!

I don't want this scene in front of my home. Children deserve better caretakers.

If anyone is looking out for these kids, it’s ONE little girl who is about ten and seems to be the natural “mothering type”.

You haven’t seen irony until you see a ten-year-old berating a four-year old at top volume like R. Lee Ermey on crack because the kid didn’t look before crossing the street. If it wasn’t for though, these kids would be as rudderless as a capsized canoe in a whitewater whirlpool. I for one think the child deserves a medal.

BUT IT’S NOT. HER. PLACE. TO. WATCH. THESE. KIDS.

I am at a loss to know what to do. As a final thought, if one of the kids DOES get hurt, I’LL have to call 911 because THEY don’t have a phone. Correction, they have a cell phone, but instead of leaving it at home in case — I don’t know — the two-year old swallowed something and needed an ambulance, Daddy takes it with him on his “rounds.”

Talk about priorities?!

Any thoughts on this comedy of errors? I’m open to suggestions!

Take care, y’all and keep those feet clean.

Perils of Playing House

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Consider yourself warned.

In this country, anyone wanting to operate a car, truck or motorcycle must pass a test and be licensed. If you don’t have a license, you are not legally allowed to drive. You may spend years in schools obtaining a medical or legal degree, but if you don’t pass the tests for the bar or for the medical specialty of your choice, you cannot call yourself a doctor or a lawyer and if you are caught trying to deceive people into believing you ARE a doctor or a lawyer, you will go directly to jail neither passing GO nor collecting $200.

BUT, any one man and one woman can pair up and, as long as they possess the correct anatomical and God-supplied equipment, make a baby and bring that baby into the world. In doing so, they often deceive people into believing they are, in fact, PARENTS. They are not. They are a sperm donor and a very sophisticated incubator. Making and / or birthing a baby doesn’t make you a parent any more than putting on a lab coat or a powdered wig (in England at least) makes you a doctor or a lawyer.

Therein lies the source of a huge amount of the problems facing the country today. Too many people are running around PRETENDING to be parents when all they are really doing is playing a cruel version of “house” just like kindergartners.

Why yes, I would like to get her started in her mama's footsteps as soon as possible!

If you want to know whether or not I am talking to you or if you should be giving me multiple loud “amen, preach it, my brother” outbursts is simple for me to ascertain with ONE question. Have you ever worried that you were not being a good parent or actually thought you were being a poor parent? If you have dwelt at any length on those statements, you are NOT a bad parent or — at the very least — you are trying. Just the fact that you CARE if you are a good parent or not says volumes.

Two of my favorite former students married, in due time, produced a gorgeous little tow-headed, blue-eyed girl just as pretty as her mama and as much of a smartass as her daddy. Her daddy has gone from being a favorite student to being a dear friend and he has said to me on more than one occasion, usually with tears in his voice, “Coach, I just don’t know if I’m being a good daddy to Lisa.” I tell him every time what I just told y’all, “Mike, the fact that you CARE whether or not you are a good daddy means you are trying really hard to be a good daddy and that is all any man can do.”

Entirely too many incubators and sperm donors today seem –by their actions at least — to view their offspring as accessories like a watch or a chihuahua, or maybe the next logical step in some middle class fantasy plan. Others actually see their children as INCOME producers and keep having them until the government says they won’t pay for any more. Worst of all, however, are those poor fools who see their children as “friends” and not “children.”

Here is a story I have told often and it still flabbergasts me more than ten years later. It illustrates the perils of poor parenting.

My second year as a teacher, I was in on a meeting with a 16-year-old tee-tiny white girl, her mama, the AP, the guidance counselor, and a few other assorted teachers. We were trying to explain to mama that baby-doll wasn’t doing so hot in the academic realm. When it came time for the mama to respond, she didn’t get three sentences out before her daughter spun around and unleashed a torrent at her that turned the air of the conference room a Smurfy shade of blue. This 16-year-old slip of a girl called her mama every name in the book and actually worked herself into such a rage that she had to be restrained and taken from the room.

Mama’s reaction? She put her head in her hands and started moaning about, “I just don’t know what to do with her. I’ve tried so hard to be her friend and get her to like me.”

Even then I was not known for having either volumes of tact or great reserves of self-control so while everyone else in the room (the older, more experienced ones) sat staring at the table, I got up and sat next to the poor woman. I put my hand on her shoulder and she looked up at me with red-rimmed eyes and I told her, “Ma’am, my mama is my best friend in this world. I love her like I love no other. She is 5’2 and weighs 110 pounds in a full winter suit of clothes, heavy boots, and soaked in a swimming pool. She has bad lungs from smoking for years and working in cotton mills. She is a bit past her physical prime. I am 5’10, 250 pounds (I was then anyway) have wrestled, coached wrestling, and fought in full contact karate tournaments. I’m in the prime of my life, but if I — TODAY — let alone when I was 16, said HALF of the words your daughter just said to you to MY MAMA, I know EXACTLY what she would do. She would walk over, pick up that nice heavy metal stool and proceed to disfigure the metal of the stool seat with the bone of my head. Once she had beat me unconscious, she would call Bull Street in Columbia and tell them to come get her son because he had OBVIOUSLY lost his mind. Ma’am, your daughter doesn’t need another FRIEND. She needs a MAMA.”

Well, she got all pissed off and I got another letter in my file, but I stand by what I said to this day. My mama has said many things to and about me and we’ve had our disagreements over the years but at NO TIME has my mama EVER uttered the phrases “I can’t do anything with him” or “I just want him to like me.” Mama never gave one tiny tinker’s damn if I LIKED her or if she was my FRIEND or not, but let me assure you she ALWAYS knew SOMETHING to do with me and it was the thoughts of what she COULD do that kept me on the straight and narrow most of the time.

This doesn't REALLY say "Juicy." It REALLY says "Mom and Dad don't care that perverted old men are going to stare at my butt."

Remember this — You are a PARENT. You RAISE the child. Teachers, pastors, day care centers, and TV stars don’t RAISE your kids. It’s not their job; it’s YOUR job and if you didn’t want it, you should have given little Johnny or Jill or LaKwisha or Jaquan up for adoption to one of the thousands of infertile couples like me and Budge who would love to have a child to raise but can’t. EVEN BETTER, if you didn’t WANT the responsibility of being a parent because it might CRAMP your style, you should have stayed off your back or out of that hotel room or out of the back seat of that car. As I have told more than one young person over the years when they were facing choices about sex, drugs, or rock ‘n roll, “If you don’t want to go to Atlanta, don’t get on I-85 South!” Stay on that interstate long enough and eventually you WILL end up in Fulton County, Georgia. Guaranteed.

Hope I didn’t terribly offend anyone, but I’ve just seen some stuff this weekend that has made me question how our species has made it this far! Unfortunately, the ones who need to read this the most will never see it! ***sigh***

Love y’all anyway and keep those feet clean!