Thursday, March 6, 2014

Bitch, please!

Have you heard the story of Rachel Canning? She is the New Jersey teenager who is suing her parents. Rachel is 18 and has moved out of her parents home of her own accord. She wants them to give her $650 a month in child support, pay her attorney fees (her attorney, by the way, is the father of the friend Rachel has moved in with), pay her private school tuition, AND pay a handsome sum in college expenses. You can read more about the story here.

As my cousin said recently, no matter how flat you make a pancake, there are still two sides. Rachel's parents claim they are loving and supportive parents who are raising a spoiled brat. Rachel claims she has been abused and her parents have contributed to her eating disorder and pressured her to get a basketball scholarship. I'm guessing both sides are partially correct, but that is really neither here nor there when you consider the danger of this lawsuit.

The first hearing resulted in the judge warning that this case could open the floodgates for similar lawsuits in which children sue their parents for Xboxes and iPhones. He couldn't be more correct. In our already embarrassingly litigious society, this case could set a precedent for even more ridiculous cases of parents vs child in the "You're so mean/You're such a brat" category.

Consider this: there are no laws saying parents have to pay for private school tuition or are obligated to send their children to college. In fact, as long as a child has a roof over their head, food to eat and clothes to wear, a parent's obligation is fulfilled. Of course they should also be loving and supportive, attend to their child's needs, provide advice and supplies, and nurture their child, but choosing to pamper a child is exactly that - a choice. And it appears Rachel's parents excelled at it.

A child who is given everything will never stop wanting. A child who isn't handed everything learns to value things. They also learn gratitude and patience.

But let's face it. Most of us been indulgent parents at times, and most of us have had spoiled bratty moments with our kids. I still hear about how "everyone" has an iPhone because none of my kids do. So, they like to remind me. Often. And I don't give a rat's ass. They all have phones, so they're luckier than every kid who doesn't have a phone. My kids were never fortunate enough to attend private school. Even in preschool we did co-op because we couldn't afford what amounted to a car payment for them to play with blocks and eat graham crackers twice a week. My poor children were/are the products of public school and in-state college. Eh, good enough.

I've been told my house is a "hell-hole" and it's torture to live in it. I've engaged in many a screaming match with an angry teenager (a very dangerous creature), shouted until I was hoarse about gratitude and respect, and cried many tears over where I went wrong. I've been told I'm too critical, a mean mom, that I hate all their friends, that I'm bitter because I didn't follow my dreams. And I'll be the first to admit there's a shred of truth in all of it.

On the other hand, my kids have been viciously mean to me and their siblings, have hurled insults that stung, have been bratty beyond belief, rude, disrespectful, and exhausting. I've told them they're spoiled, inconsiderate, mean, obnoxious and rude. And there's a shred of truth to all of that, too. And still, at the end of the day, we're all on speaking terms and no one's hired an attorney. Yet.

But the case of Rachel Canning (or "Cunning" as the case may be) appears to go beyond that. It's a sad reflection on the ultimate breakdown of love and respect between parent and child. It's a testimony to how things can get so out of hand, so beyond resolution that neither side can see the forest for the trees. No matter what our parentage, ultimately we are all responsible for the kind of person we become. We can blame our upbringing or our economic circumstances or the abuses we suffered, but how we choose to overcome them is really what defines us and makes us the individuals we are. And we can never truly grow up until we get rid of the scapegoats and take responsibility for ourselves.

Maybe Rachel Canning is telling some truths. Maybe her parents are the victims. But they are all losers in my book. The parents have lost their chance to enjoy the adult daughter they worked hard to raise. Rachel has lost her parents' support and guidance. They've all lost respect by dragging their dirty laundry through the court system. My advice to Rachel is to get a job and foot the bill for her own college tuition. Her parents should enjoy a nice vacation with the money they'll save. And I'll keep NOT buying my kids iPhones lest we end up in court.

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