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“Before you cross the street, take my hand

 Life is what happens to you while you’re busy making other plans..

Beautiful, beautiful, beautiful,

beautiful boy…”

-John Lennon, Beautiful Boy

I like to think I’m a creative person.  I used to lay in my room for hours on end, on the floor with earphones on, music blasting, daydreaming.  I used to lay in bed at night long after everyone else was asleep, imagining crazy “What ifs”….  what if I’m lying in a coma right now and everyone and everything I see and know in my life is just in my imagination, one long weird coma dream?  I spent a lot of time in my youth thinking of alternate realities and outlandish ideas.

I have found that while I can imagine far flung scenarios and crazy hypotheticals, I can’t seem to imagine the most basic, impending life events.  I spend a lot of time trying to imagine the next thing, the next milestone, the next phase in my life.  When I was engaged I spent a lot of time wondering what married life would be like. When I was pregnant with my son I could not picture myself as a mom.  This baby that I so desperately wanted, was so excited to be having, seemed like a figment of my imagination.  I actually thought I would “wake up” and not be pregnant, not be in that life.  I almost expected it.  I almost expected to wake up and be in my childhood bed and realize that it was all a dream.

I did get married, I had my son and then two daughters. I didn’t wake up and have it all taken away from me.  Now I am the mother of a 13 year old boy.  I am the mother of a teenager.  Now I can’t imagine what this life is.  Not the future.  I don’t have time to consider him at 18, 25, or 30.  I am still trying to grasp the now.  I am still trying to reconcile the boy who is growing and changing and becoming someone new right before my eyes.

I am really proud of myself that I didn’t dissolve into an emotional puddle on his birthday.  I am usually pretty emotional on my kids’ birthdays.  I relive the days they were born…  This time, 10 years ago, my water broke…  This time 4 years ago, I wept with joy when they placed you in my arms….  I didn’t do any of that on my son’s 13th birthday.  We celebrated, we opened gifts.  I didn’t cry or get emotional.  I think that my brain was in protective denial mode.  I didn’t really think about the milestone we were celebrating.  My son’s first steps into teen-dom.  The beginning of him evolving from a boy to a man.  He is doing exactly what he’s supposed to be doing.  He’s finding his own way, finding his own voice.  He’s becoming his own person, separate for the first time from who my husband and I are.  He’s not emulating us or trying to be like us.  He’s figuring out who he is.

I don’t think anyone really prepares you for this.  You can read countless articles about parenting a teen.  The lamenting of the loss of innocence, the stress of keeping them safe from bad influences and dangerous situations.  You hear parents talk about the moodiness, the attitudes, the back talk.  Those are all things I expected to have to deal with.  I have been mentally preparing for all of those things.  How to squelch the bad attitude, how to prepare him to avoid danger and fight urges that are risky.  I really wasn’t prepared to see him differently.  He is still my baby, the little boy that would try to hold doors open for me as a toddler, the little boy who would climb on my lap and rest his head on my chest.  He will always be the little boy that was protective of me, who would often say, “Be ‘tareful Momma.”  The little boy who pointed out every god- forsaken truck we saw driving down the road.  In my mind he will always be that little boy.  But reality is smacking me in the face too.

I see him asking insightful and thoughtful questions about current events and injustices  around the world.  I see him taking interests in music and becoming a sports stats enthusiast.  I see him branching out and making new friends.  Friends outside our little bubble of a world that he has safely been cocooned in for over a decade.  He’s developing a whole life separate from my husband and I.

My natural instinct is to resist this, to keep him close to home, close to us.  But I know that I can’t do that.  It wouldn’t be fair to him.  He would likely rebel.  He would likely resent us.  So I find myself walking a on a very shaky tightrope.  Trying to grant him some freedom and independence while also keeping him completely connected to our family unit.  I want him to develop his sense of self, learn to navigate all of the tricky twists and turns on his own.  I am trying to do this while letting him know that we’re here to help him if he has questions about which way to go.

This is the hard part.  It was hard seeing him walk into the doors of Kindergarten, it was hard watching him take off to ride his bike around the neighborhood for the first time.  It was hard letting him go to his first sleepover.  But none of that compares to this.  Those were controlled situations.  I was able to be involved and monitor and manage all of those situations.  Now, I have to hold my breath and hope.  Hope that the last 13 years of us teaching him values will stick.  Hope that he will listen to his gut if he feels unsure about something.  Trust that he will make more right decisions than wrong ones.  And keep my fingers crossed that even though he’s going out into the world a little more and venturing into unchartered waters, that he’ll still want to hang out with us, that he won’t dread family time.

I know I’ll see him mess up.  He’s human, he’s still learning.  I know I’ll see him fall.  He’s going to get hurt.  It’s going to kill me to see that happen but we’ll be here to get him through it.  I haven’t even tried to imagine any of this.  I haven’t tried to tap into my creativity to think of the scenarios and try to prepare for them.  That would be a fruitless endeavor.  I have to let go of the reigns just a little and hand them over to him.  I have to let him have his own journey.  This is his time, not mine.  Not my husband’s.

I know that we’ve raised a good kid.  He is a sweet, caring soul.  He is smart and funny and I know he wants to make us proud.  That is the warm blanket of comfort I will wrap myself in as he makes his own way.  I still see that little boy when I look at him.  I still see the little boy I carried on my hip.  His eyes are just as big and brown and sincere.  He still has the same smile that can light up the room.  But I also see a young man.  A young man that will be taller than me in a matter of months.  A young man that could pick me up effortlessly.  A young man who seems capable of more than I’m willing to admit to myself.  I will let him go, just a little, because it’s what I’m supposed to do.  But I won’t stop mothering him and I won’t stop worrying.  When he walks out the door, I’ll still whisper to myself, “Be ‘tareful, son.”

“My pain is self chosen, at least so the Prophet says.  I could either burn or cut off my pride and buy some time.  A head full of lies is the weight tied to my waist”

-Mad Season, River of Deciet

Assholes should not be allowed to have kids.  Someone should stop them.  If they actually have friends, those friends should intervene before procreation occurs.  If they have no friends, maybe that fact alone should indicate that children are a bad idea.

For the purpose of this writing an asshole will be defined as:  A selfish prick who doesn’t care about anyone or anything of real value (i.e. family, kids, morals, etc.)  If you find you fit this definition, please do us all a favor and don’t have children.  Don’t even adopt children, as asshole-ness is likely more nurture than nature.

I’m not saying Ethan Couch should never been born.  But I am saying that the two assholes who are his parents should never have been allowed to have children.  Ethan Couch,16,  murdered four innocent people and seriously injured two others.  He drove at 70 mph into a group of people that were trying to help a stranded motorist.  He killed all four of them and threw two people from the bed of the giant pick up truck he was driving.  One of them is paralyzed and can’t speak due to his injuries.  Couch’s blood alcohol level tested more than three times the legal limit and he had valium in his system.  First responders said the accident scene was the most horrific they’d ever seen.  They compared it to an airplane crash, with bodies and body parts scattered all over the road.  According to reports, Couch was uncooperative at the crash scene and said “I’m outta here” as he walked away.

He was just sentenced to 10 years probation and lawyers are asking that he serve part of that time at a $450,000/year rehabilitation center.  People are understandably outraged.  The victims’ families are devastated.  A psychologist testifying on behalf of the defense claimed that Couch suffered from “Affluenza” and that his parents were responsible for his behavior.  First, let us point out that this psychologist either didn’t understand the definition of Affluenza or he intentionally twisted it to fit the ludicrous defense theory.  “Affluenza” is a term used to describe the obsession of wealth and materialism in our country.  It was intended as a social criticism, not as an affliction or condition of which one suffers.  Second, I don’t disagree that the parents are responsible for Couch’s actions.  But to suggest that he is not responsible is insane.

Fred and Tonya Couch are, by all accounts, pretty bad at the whole parenting thing.  They certainly seem guilty of neglect.  They bought their son a motorcycle when he was 4 or 5 years old.  They bought him a car and allowed him to drive when he was 13 years old.  According to friends, he lived in a mansion by himself.  His millionaire father gifted him the mansion during the two asshole’s contentious divorce.  Apparently Couch had many wild parties there, in this mansion with a pool.   A house that certainly was not a home, that was virtually empty except for a couch and a t.v. and an XBox.  Oh, and apparently lots of alcohol.  It sounds like this kid was living a pretty empty life full of things but not the one thing most kids want:  attentive loving parents, limits and stability.  Instead he got stuck with assholes for parents.  Even the defense lawyers and the psychologist will agree to that.

But here’s the thing.  Lot’s of people have assholes for parents.  Lot’s of people were neglected as children.  If you were hit as a child, it doesn’t mean you have to grow up and hit your kids.  If you were abandoned by your parents, it doesn’t mean you have to grow up and abandon any children you have.  We have all been given this thing called free will.  Just because you were raised by materialistic, narcissistic, selfish assholes doesn’t mean you have to get in your truck after downing some beer and valium and ruin so many lives.

Ethan Couch took four lives and ruined many others on that June night.  He expressed no remorse at the accident scene.  He apparently told one of the kids riding in the truck with him, “Don’t worry, I’m Ethan Couch.  I’ll get you out of this.”  He had learned by his indulgent parents and their tendency to throw money at a problem, that because of his wealth he would suffer no consequences.  Just a year ago police caught Couch with a naked, passed out 14 year old girl.  There are no indications that he suffered any repercussions.  What would have been an alarming wake up call for any concerned parent was just a foreshadowing of worse things to come.

I wish I could say that this situation is as rare as it is absurd.  Unfortunately, our country is riddled with stories of the rich getting away with all kinds of things.  Our society and our judicial system have given free passes to the wealthy for a sordid array of crimes and violations.  There are a different set of rules for the wealthy.  None of this occurs in a vacuum.  Our society supports assholes like this and their warped “money trumps all” mentality.  The heavy hand of justice is swift to come down on a poor black or hispanic male if he is suspected of committing a crime.  Change his ethnicity to Caucasian and that hand gets a little lighter.  Change his socio-economic status to wealthy and that heavy hand now becomes a mere slap on the wrist.

The psychologist who used the word “affluenza” to absolve Ethan Couch of responsibility has since said he regretted using that term.  He doesn’t regret the message, but he regrets that word.  He seems to think that word is what has everyone so worked up.  I would argue that that word is relevant to this story.  The judge in this case, Jean Boyd, seems to be the one who is guilty of the “affluenza” mindset.  Just last year she sentenced a 14 year old black boy to 10 years in prison for punching a bystander who subsequently fell and hit his head on a curb and died.  Boyd apparently thought this boy needed to be held accountable for his actions.  This boy was black.  Couch is white.  This boy is 14 years old.  Couch is 16 years old.  This boy killed one person.  Couch killed four and gravely injured two others.  Both boys should be held accountable.  Both should be punished.  Yet the judge saw a reason to give the older boy with more blood on his hands probation.  If you’re looking for a walking example of “affluenza”, you need to look no further than Jean Boyd.  (mental note, assholes should not allowed to be judges either).

Let me be clear, I’m not saying that all wealthy people are assholes or bad parents.  It just so happens that these two assholes are rich.  There are plenty of poor assholes who are awful parents.  Neither scenario is fair to the kids.  If you are an asshole in this vein, one of selfish neglectful tendencies, please do the rest of us a favor.  Don’t indulge yourself by taking on the biggest commitment possible.  Having a child is a really big deal.  It’s the most important thing you’ll ever do.  If you can step out of your delusional world of which you are the center for a moment, please recognize and acknowledge that this is an undertaking that is beyond you.  We don’t need more heinous accidents like the one caused by Ethan Couch.  We don’t need assholes raising more assholes.