We Are All Responsible for Hadiyah
Years ago on a train ride to work, I read a disturbing story about a father beating his two year old son to death for wetting himself – I stopped reading the newspaper. The recent stories of youth and gun violence in our nation, and Chicago in particular, are making HGTV’s “Love It or List It” re-runs at 10:00 pm my show of choice in that time block. But the recent story of the shooting death of Hadiyah Pendleton has left me in a state of disbelief and glued to the mid-day, evening and 10:00 news. Now, Chicago has the dubious honor of being the Murder Capital – ending the 2012 year with more than 500 murders – mostly young people but all senseless. And each of those senseless deaths taking a little bit of life out of all of us. But seeing Hadiyah’s smile, seeing her in her majorette uniform and watching her mom’s gut wrenching sorrow as she described her daughter, and even seeing the faces of the two boys responsible for her death just made me realize that this sweet girl’s death represents every parent’s worst nightmare.
When I do parent workshops, I always say to parents that I have never met a parent who did not want the very best for their child. That no parent wants to raise a child to be a bully, a drug addict or a murderer. Every parent wants their child to succeed and be the best that they can be. The Pendleton’s were no different, but I would guess neither were the parents of the killers.
Now, I am not sympathizing with these boys (who we are calling men but at 20 years old, they are still kids in my eyes), but I am speaking from the perspective of a parent to determine what is our role in this culture of violent youth. And yes, we all play a role.
The Pendelton’s did their part: they raised a beautiful, well spoken and empathetic young lady. That is evidenced by the throngs of friends who talked about the wonderful impact that she had on their lives. They made sure that she valued education, enjoyed being a teenager and knew that she was loved by her family. They did their part.
But what about the parents of the boys responsible for her death? What about all the parents whose children are out wrecking havoc on the rest of the community? And who are these parents? Could one of them be you?
Now, I understand how difficult it is today to know everything that our children do when they are not in our presence – I had a teenager in my house not too long ago – but being difficult doesn’t give us a pass. Its our role as parents, aunts, uncles, god-parents and family friends to do what it takes to make sure that we are assuring that our children are growing up to be healthy and productive members of society. It is our job and responsibility to know what our children are involved in at school and in the world. We have to do the difficult jobs that don’t always make us popular with our children but assure that our children are doing the right things – or suffering the consequences and repercussions by not doing them. We have to ask our children questions about what they are doing and who they are doing it with. We have to have real conversations that don’t start and end with the first or second question and answer because in my experience, you don’t even begin to get to the truth until after the fourth question.
How many of us are going to the schools to speak to our children’s teachers not just about their grades but about their behavior too? Now, before you say “I do” let me remind you that I know the parent involvement numbers at almost every school in Chicago and the surrounding communities and most of you are not going. How many of you are monitoring your teen’s Facebook page, Twitter or Instagram accounts? How many of you go through their book bags and text messages? How many of you actually talk to your children to find out how they are really feeling? Now you can say that that is an invasion of privacy, but I say “ain’t no privacy in my house for someone who ain’t paying no rent.”
We are raising a culture of violent young people and there is no room for passive parenting. It can’t be enough that we aren’t getting calls from the school to make us feel comfortable that our children are doing okay. We have to engage in active parenting – that level of uncomfortability that makes us tired by the end of the day and glad to see them go when they grow up and leave. We have to know where they are and where they’re going. We have to pay attention to how they look and how they act. We have to pay as much attention to what they are not saying as we do to what they are. And we have to do this with all the kids in our world – not just our home or our family or even our community – but our world. And if we don’t, we too are responsible for what happens to every other child that dies a senseless death and for the child that causes it.
Did I piss you off? I hope so.