I read an article this morning on Slate, blaming the Boston Marathon bombers’ parents for their accused crime. I read it with two minds; one that would agree that parents directly, strongly influence how their children respond to the world, and another mind that forced me to think about my own son.
I met my son, and his mother, 14 years ago. He was a 5 year old shock of brilliance to me; full of wonder and innocence. We built things together, went on movie dates, read Harry Potter before bed, played soccer. I took him skiing and went camping with him and his scout troop. We spent countless hours at the kitchen table doing homework and school projects, and went on day trips to D.C. to explore the museums and monuments. I encouraged him to try new things, and tried to help him not be afraid to fail. We were the best of buddies; for a while. Something went wrong.
My son is now 19 years old. He is a drug addict. We have had many stuggles over his drug abuse; multiple arrests, failing grades, lies upon lies, an assault that left me broken, boot camp, running away, and in the end, his departure from my everyday life. About 2 years ago, I had to give him an ultimatum; live in my house and follow my rules, or leave. He decided that he would rather live with his other mother’s relatives in Illinois, rather than stop the drugs. I have not seen him in 2 years.
While reading that article this morning, I wondered if those people who know my son, blame me for his actions. Do they blame me for his drug abuse, his crimes, his deceit and abuse? What is it that I could have done that would absolve me of this blame? Is blaming me just an easy way of finding an excuse for what he has done? I don’t know.
What I do know is that sometimes, kids break. Sometimes, no matter how hard we try, we can’t save our children from themselves. My son became his own person, and although guided by others, and he chose to change his perspective about what I had taught him regarding right and wrong. Once his perspective changed, my ideas began to leak credibility, until he no longer saw the validity in my words, and he felt he knew more about this world than I did. I taught him to stand by what he believes is best for him, only to watch him choose something that will probably destroy him. He is in serious trouble now. I’m sure he didn’t see himself ever in a situation where his freedom might be taken away as a result of his actions, and I can only imagine what he must feel about the broken nature of his life right now. When he was younger, he used to tell me, “Carolyn, you have magic hands. You can fix anything.” I wish that were the case this time.
So, am I to blame for my son’s perspective on the world? No. Do I hold guilt in my heart about what he has done, and what his life has become? No. Will I accept the blame for the decisions he has made that have hurt others? No, I will not. Why, you ask? Despite all of my efforts, I was not able to fix him; but I know in my heart, I did not break him.
I leave you with this question: When bad things happen, who do we blame; the person committing the act, or the one who raised them? I don’t have the answer to this question for everyone; only myself. Just keep in mind that a parent’s influence can only guide a child so far in life. At some point, the child has to own the choices they make; and acknowledge the person they have become.