Two things have happened recently to put Spring ISD in the spotlight in a very negative way. The first unfortunate incident concerned one of Ilaiasi's favorite teachers of all-time, who was arrested on multiple counts involving child pornography. It was a complete shock, and was truly a heartbreakingly awful situation for all involved. Then, as we struggled to recover from the shock of this event, another horrific crime rocked our community when a stabbing at Spring High School left one student dead and four more injured.
So, in this backdrop of turmoil and heartache, I have seen lots of different things pop up on my Facebook news feed, ranging from intense sorrow to gripping fear to passionate anger that borders on hate. I am a firm believer in the idea that feelings are a normal part of the human experience and that no one should be made to feel ashamed of their feelings, but I also believe that we do not have the right to act in any manner we choose, simply because of those feelings. I decided not to respond to many of the hateful and hurtful comments I saw on Facebook at the time because I acknowledge that many of the people writing them were justifiably scared about the events that transpired, and were likely not thinking as clearly as they might under normal circumstances. However, now that a few days have passed and people are (hopefully) a little calmer and more rational, I have a few thoughts I'd like to put out there.
More than once, I saw comments that went something along these lines:
- "What is this world coming to? The parents of that murderer should be put in jail, too. These things happen because of lazy parenting!"
- "...Stupid parents that can't monitor their damn kids!"
- "I was thinking the same thing about the stupid parents..."
And on and on and on it went in my news feed and in the comments of those posts afterwards. Like I said, I didn't comment on the posts at the time, because I know that sometimes in stressful situations people just need to vent. However, it's been eating at me all week, so I feel like I need to say something about it. This will probably make me even less popular than I am, and unfortunately I have never been the popular kid in my family -- my brothers and sister have always seemed to find their niche in the "popular crowd" no matter what the situation, but, alas, that is not so much my lot in life. But, I suppose that's a story for another time. Anyway...here we go:
As a parent, a teacher, and, frankly, just as a human being, I found the assumption that the parents of the child who did the stabbing were lazy, remiss, and stupid to be incredibly offensive. And infuriating on multiple levels.
Where do I even begin to approach this issue? I guess I'll start with myself. I know I'm biased, but, seriously, I have the world's most amazing parents. My mom is basically a saint and is good at anything she attempts. No lie. It's kind of ridiculous. Need a wedding cake? No problem...give my mom a minute and she'll whip one right up for you. Oh, you need a prom dress? Well, it just so happens that my mom is an expert seamstress as well. She also cuts hair, composes and arranges music, has unending patience, is calm and rational in emergency situations...the list never ends.
And, growing up, I had the dad that everyone else wanted. He was the guy that came to eat lunch with me and bought all of my friends ice cream. He made time for me and played sports with me and talked to me like I was a competent, capable person. Daily, I would turn away kids from the neighborhood who knocked on our door -- not for me -- but to see if my DAD could come out to play. (Yes, I was a selfish snot and turned them away. He's my dad. MINE!! Sorry I'm not sorry.)
So, obviously, we have now established that I have the most amazing parents on earth. But, guess what? Even with such awesome parents, I made big mistakes. HUGE. Ridiculously huge ones that impacted not just me, but other people as well. Just to put it out there for you so that you understand where I'm coming from on this, let me just say that my oldest son, Ilaiasi, was born out of wedlock while his dad was serving a 6 year jail term (yes, I was pregnant before he went to jail, so this scenario is most definitely possible). It made for an incredibly rough start to Ilaiasi's life, my parents had to step in and help me in ways that I'm sure they never anticipated they'd have to help any of their children, and I really struggled personally as a result of my actions. That said, I will never, EVER be sorry for that choice I made, as it brought me one of the five most important things in my whole life, but it definitely went against absolutely everything I was ever taught. Is that a reflection on my parents' poor skills? Does it make them stupid or lazy or unable to monitor their children? I'm going to say no, it does not. So, there's my first issue with that train of thought.
I also take issue with this argument, not just from the perspective of a child, but from the perspective of a parent. Let's face it...parenting these days is really hard work. I know that every generation says this of the one that comes after, but, truly, I NEVER had to deal with so many of the problems that kids these days face at an incredibly young age. It's really, really scary. As a parent, I think I can honestly say that I am doing the very best I can. Many of you know that after about four years of staying out of trouble here in Texas, and being married, and having four more children, Finau went back to prison at the beginning of this year, and will be there for several years to come. So, basically, I am doing this whole parenting thing by myself. If you were to look at my kids on paper, not knowing anything about our personalities, values, beliefs, etc., I wonder what you would see? I'll tell you: you'd see kids who are growing up in a single parent home, with one parent in prison and the other working to try to support a large family on a tiny income; you'd see kids who are receiving free lunch at school, going to daycare, being driven around in a car that doesn't even fit their entire family. Basically, on paper, my kids are trouble waiting to happen.
I'm sure you understand where I'm going with this, but in case you don't, let me just say that all of these strikes against my kids say nothing about who they are. I think most of you who have had the opportunity to interact with my children would say that they are normal, well-adjusted little people who are full of life and fun and mischief and happiness. Why is this, I wonder? I think it's because I was incredibly lucky, so THEY have been incredibly lucky. My kids are lucky that their mom has an extraordinarily loving and supportive family who took them in and is helping to care for them since she is a single parent. My kids are lucky that before our struggles, their mom was blessed with parents who stressed the importance of education, and pushed her to go to college and get a degree so that, should the need arise, she would be able to provide for her family. My kids are SO lucky that their mom has an exceptional support network that includes family, friends, church programs, and, now, government assistance. Without any one of these things, our story would be very different from what it is today.
So, what's my point? My point is this: even the best of parents need help. And even the worst of parents are most likely doing the very best they know how to do. When kids do stupid, horrible things, yes, maybe their parents played a role in the ultimate resulting poor decision, but, with many of these kids (and I've seen a LOT of struggling kids as both a coach and teacher), I feel like we as a society are failing their parents, and then blaming them for the actions of their children.
I was lucky. I was taught how to be a parent by loving, nurturing, caring parents. I learned what to value from moral people who were full of love and integrity. But, what of the many, many people who were not so fortunate as to have been born into such a home? Whose responsibility is it to teach them how to be good parents? And, should they fall on hard times like I did, who should they turn to for support if they don't have a family as loving as mine? Or awesome friends...or a great church family to rely on. You get the idea.
Truthfully, I don't have the answer to those questions. They are hard questions with no immediate answers, and I don't presume to know how to fix this societal problem today. But, with all the things I don't know, there are a few things I do know. I know that blaming parents -- whether that blame is warranted or not -- is an exercise in futility. I know that the world needs less judgment and more compassion. I know that there are lots of parents out there who are doing the best they can and are still failing miserably, and that having others point out their shortcomings will not better the situation in any way. I know that even the best parents can have wayward children. For my LDS readers, who remembers Lehi and Sariah? Last I checked, they had some sons named Laman and Lemuel whose actions most certainly did not reflect the values and teachings of their parents. I don't know...I guess this big rant is just to say that maybe we should give each other a break. I would imagine the parents of the attacker are grieving just as much as the parents of the victims. I can't even fathom what it would feel like to be them. Hopefully I'll never have to know how they feel. To those who were critical, may you never have children who embarrass you, who go against your teachings, or who fail to live up to your standards. But, if you do, I hope that others are kinder in their judgments and comments than what I witnessed this week in the aftermath of the sad events at Spring High.