Everybody's Job

>  Three college age kids were “executed” yesterday at a school in Newark, New Jersey and one more seriously injured. So far, it was for no apparent reason. Newark is a city plagued by murder, 60 so far this year. While much could be written about gun control or stricter sentencing, I prefer to write about the responsibilities of being a parent.
   One of the murdered young men (there were two males and one female killed) was Dashon Harvey whose father James has been quoted as saying about the parents of the killers, “If you raised your kids better, this would not happen.”  While that’s no guarantee, James Harvey is on a very important point. 
   I practiced family law for 13 years and had a lot of empathy and compassion for parents going through divorce. I thought I “got it” when it came to raising children. But I can tell you in no uncertain terms that you don’t “get it” until you “do it.”  
   Perhaps it’s because my husband and I are older than the parents of our daughter’s friends, or perhaps it’s just because our values are different. Our daughter watches no more that 2 hours of television a week, and we know what it is she is watching. We never used the TV as  a babysitter in order not to be bothered by her. She has limited access to the internet. She has been encouraged to read since she was able to read. We have one day a week when we turn off all the technology and make our own fun with boardgames, cards or being out in nature. All of this is in direct contrast to how her friends are being raised. 
   This is not to judge the other parents’ choices. But I will tell you this. Her friends love us and it makes her crazy because all teenagers think their parents are “not cool” and she can’t understand why they like us so much.
   I have a theory. 
   They like us because they know we care. They like us because we are involved. They like us because we are around. They like us because when we talk with them they know we’re really listening. They like us because we set boundaries. They like us because they know our daughter is our first priority.  And they miss that. 
   We live in an affluent, educated, suburban, New Jersey community and there’s more than enough abdication of parental responsibility to go around here. No, we don’t have execution style murders of children…but we do have ongoing drug, alcohol and suicide problems.
   Now imagine Newark, where the inner city is teeming with the lure of drug dealers and poor quality education and single parents and absent parents and hopeless futures. Who’s caring about those children? How much more neglect are they experiencing that my suburban neighbor’s kids? The answer is self-evident.
   Kids need the presence of loving, involved adults to steer them in the right direction. No, it’s not a guarantee that everything will turn out fine. Things can and will, occasionally, still go awry. But without such an environment it’s a guarantee that things will go as wrong as they just did in Newark.
   So Mr. Harvey, who grieves the loss of his son, is right. 
   And so was Linda Marcoccia….a pretty smart friend of mine and family therapist who said to me 20 years ago, “A society that abandons it’s children writes it’s own obituary and fails to survive.”
   I am not a pessimist. I believe in the human spirit and in turning things around. But we will not get this one right until we step up and take responsibility for the children and care about what is happening to them…because what is happening to them is the future. 
   And the future is now.

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