PBB (no, not peanut butter & banana)

Soon after the Bee was born, my mom came to visit. We were having one of those ‘now you’re a parent, so I can tell you all these things I never told you before’ conversations, and my mom started telling me a story about how her perspective changed after she had kids.

There was a woman who lived in the next town over from where I grew up, who was abducted with her kids from a shopping center parking lot. The guy forced her into her own car at knifepoint, drove her to some abandoned house, and repeatedly raped her while the kids were in the car. My mom told me that, while reading coverage of the trial in the paper, she realized that her own life had changed entirely . Why? Because the judge in the case had basically implied that the woman wasn’t raped, since the rapist let her go to the car to calm the kids down in between bouts of raping her. The judge said that she should have run, and gotten the police to save her kids. My mom told me how outraged she had been that this judge could just expect a woman to walk away from her children while they were in danger.

I guess on some level I’ve been thinking about this story since checking out the Zero Boss’s new blog Parents Behaving Badly. I don’t have near the blogging energy that Jay does, but if I did, I think I’d be tempted to start a blog about Parents Behaving Bravely. Because while I appreciate a good cautionary tale as much as the next woman, I’m also interested in what motivates parents to do extraordinary things in the service of their children.

When it came right down to it in her own life, my mom did a really hard thing to protect her children. She became the first person in her large, Catholic family to separate from her husband, and the first to get a divorce. My dad was becoming increasingly irrational, drinking more and more, and behaving violently, and she decided that he had to go. In doing that, she risked not only the everyday troubles of a single parent, but also the likelihood that her own family–her own mother–was going to look at her as a failure. She told me that she went home five different times to tell her mother that she’d kicked my dad out, before she could actually get up the nerve to tell her. And when she did? My grandmother said, “I was wondering how much longer you were going to stay with him.”

I have no comparable story from my own life (knock wood). The bravest thing I ever did for my children was wait until I was in my thirties to have them. This is not to disparage young parents in any way–just to say that I would have personally been a terrible young parent, and would have ended up with a much worse father for my kids than the one I ended up with. I hope that if it ever comes to it, I can do something as brave as what my mom did.

For every mom pimping out her daughter, there are hundreds that go to bed hungry every night so that their own children have enough to eat. For every dad that beats his child, there are thousands working two jobs so their kids can have new sneakers for school next week. Why should the crazy parents get all the attention from the mainstream media?

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August 27, 2005. meta, thoughtful parenting. 12 comments.