It is a rotten little cliché isn’t it? Charity starts at home. I believe in that. I don’t think you should go save the world if your family needs saving first.
For me, it is a very localised, immediate thing. It is about making sure those around you are okay, before lending yourself and your energy to something else.
This came home for me recently. By chance I read about a parent of a kid I grew up with, who worked with disadvantaged teenagers, out on the streets of a sprawling, metropolitan city near our home town.
This parent was almost like a second parent to these teenagers on the streets. They hugged these kids, made them tea, took them out in their little car as they zipped hither and thither along the seedier, scarier areas of that city. They helped to change so many lives and was described in a piece of writing I read recently, as quite a character. The writer lamented that what the youth of today needed, was an army of people like this person. Coming in, saving the day and sorting out the lives of the poor and the forgotten.
But this person had two kids. Both of them needed their absentee parent as they grew up. This parent had married the other parent of one of them and then, after shacking up with another person, booted their partner out. This was much to the everlasting horror of the youngest child, whose parent had been chucked out and a stranger dumped in their place. This parent spent many nights away from home, not really caring that the teenager was looking after the younger child. It was legal, right? And not *all* the time. What was the harm?
A teenager did NOT want to hang about that dark, dismal little house with their whiney little sibling. They wanted to be out causing havoc with their mates and seeing what they could get away with. With no one to stop this older kid, they had a carte blanche to lash out at their own abandonment.
Then there was the kid I had grown up with. This kid had, unbeknownst to anyone who really cared, which numbered very low, a predisposition to mental health problems. All that was needed to turn those genes on was the right environment, just in the same way bacteria grows well in heat.
Their mind warped and wefted with a new version of normal, distorting their view on everything from gender to how to look after themselves.
This kid would grow up to be one of the most despicable human beings I ever knew.
The warning signs were there whilst this kid was still under 18 years old and very much legally their parent’s problem – they were blatant.
Yet instead of busting out all these amazing humanitarian moves on their own little one who desperately needed them, this parent simply ignored them.
I remember that parent throwing that kid out on the street on several occasions, not giving a damn what happened to them. It could have been because of a fight, or insolence or not doing chores – but that was that kids roof too – their safe place. That parent robbed that kid blind of all the things they needed in a parent, especially as reality dripped away from that kids mind, drop by languid drop.
The kid became a brute – a monster. I do not wish to dwell on the thing they became and the lives that they destroyed in their wake. I am simply happy to have survived.
Yet the question I am looking at answering is simple: why? Why did this parent make the conscious decision to ignore the skill set they had and used on a daily basis as a means to make a living. Perhaps it is more in line with how we picture the parentage of the scallies, the thugs and the vagrants who cause bother and end up in the clink as being devoid of a grey matter. Perhaps it helps us feel better about ourselves to think that they were Jeremy Kyle fodder themselves and therefore, their offspring had no chance.
Yet – how many have risen above a humble and disadvantaged upbringing? How many have refused to dine out on their life story and instead made what they did with their lives DESPITE their past define them?
This kid I knew had a parent more than able to deal with them. The parent deliberately chose not to. They deliberately chose not to step in when this individual had a child of their own, to ensure the child was safe and did not want for anything.
This parents duty of care towards their own children failed them – brutally failed them. They decided to do that though – this parent weighed it up and decided it was okay.
I cannot fathom this mind set myself because I love the bones of my own four babies and would rather die than see harm come to them. I just cannot understand why anyone would just cast their own children to the wind and then go off and save everyone else’s.
I am confused and perplexed and probably a bit cross.
I wonder, if this parent had employed their ample skills and determination into the saving of their own child, if the destruction, misery and horror the kid cleaved into the lives of those they encountered would have been so gargantuan.
Now, I am not for a moment condoning that kids behaviour or excusing it. This kid is an adult now and knows the score. Choosing to perpetuate such destructive behaviour and even cultivate it to the point of being thoroughly demonically proud of it is vastly more disturbing.
I know one can be the most amazing parent known to man and still end up with a terrible child who consciously goes off and causes harm. However, with this case, we will never know if being an amazing parent will ever have made a difference. I like to think, optimistically for sure, that it would have. That the nightmare haunted child I knew and young adult that person became, would have been better – happier – able to focus and keep themselves well. At least those who through everything they had in them to give at their kid and tried their damndest to save them from themselves even can at least hold their head high.
I also don’t think a parent should blame a child for how they are. It smacks of a bad workman blaming his tools: “oh you messed up – so it is your problem and not mine” or “Oh you messed up. See? This is why I can’t ever love or respect you? It is all your fault I brought YOU up wrong”. It is a desperate self-validation of why the parent failed – a worthless justification. Yes, kids need to take responsibility and learn from it, however, there is a point that the damage you do to your children has to be accounted for and you simply cannot go off and blame them. You have to be just as accountable too.
It is crass, lazy and pathetic at best. Sadly, something I have seen before.
The bottom line is, we will never know.
This parent can save all the down and outs and drop outs they like, but it won’t ever pay the cost of what it did to the kids that should have mattered more than any of them, times a million: their own.
We reap what we sow I suppose and that is what I guess this is. I suppose I find the hypocrisy nauseating and intolerable: hiding behind a veneer of do-gooding when you failed and continue to fail your own. I just cannot comprehend that.
Anyway… back to the writing coal face I trundle and my rant put to bed.
I hope that if you have ever been affected by anything I have highlighted, then you find some warmth, light and peace soon, if not already.