Friday, August 23, 2013

Parenting is not like gardening

As people are discussing the murder of Christopher Lane, the Australian student murdered in Oklahoma, a lot of blame is being assigned without a lot of investigation and next to no evidence about the murderer's families lives. Mixed up in this are stereotypes of race, the lack of ethical journalism that runs rampant in this country, and ideas about parenting that aren't always sensible.  Professional opinion writers are happily casting blame on the families of the murderers, but there  is a lot missing from the conversation.

I also have to point out something about parenting that should be obvious: we aren't creating people, we're trying to shape them, but they are, from the moment they are born, at very least,  individuals with their own will. Some of them won't be shaped they way we might hope, for good or for ill.  Parenting may be a lot of training and pruning of personality traits to keep them under control, but unlike a plant, children react to every single attempt at these, and not always the way we expect.  This is why a child from a broken home with abuse will sometimes go on to be a champion for the abused, while others become abusers.  It's the reason some of us buck generations of family tradition and leave the faiths we were raised in.

Society, the environment in which we exist, in which our morals and ethics and understanding of the world is never discussed in terms of the reality of it when terrible things like this happen.  It's glossed over, flattened into mere background, and stereotyped.  Yet, it is among the greatest influences on our development.  We don't talk much about why our art and media and music is full of violence.  It's deplored, momentarily, but it's ignored next time a violent, high budget blockbuster is released int he theaters.  We don't talk about how the rising cost of living has changed the shape of parenthood, and not always for the better.  We don't talk about the fact that poor have very few opportunities for mental health care.  We ignore the fact that schools are underfunded, and children in some areas miss out on opportunities to express themselves through art, music, and physical activities.  There are few jobs for young people right now, so they are bored, feeling hopeless about their futures, and falling further behind economically.  If we're going to blame parents for what their children do, we should blame ourselves, too.

Child rearing isn't done in a vacuum. There is no magical formula that allows us to churn out perfect people as parents, and there never will be.  It's a function of personalities and environments and opportunity.  Next time the media begins to pass judgement on the parents of criminals, I hope you stop and think about what dialogue should be about rather than just buying the conversation that is framed.

No comments:

Post a Comment

Please feel free to comment, share or ask questions, but please, keep comments in good taste and respectful.