You reach a point,” the expression goes, “where you just can’t take it anymore.”
Apparently, a woman in Omaha, Neb., reached that point with her teenaged children this past week. Her 14-year-old son was, according to her, smoking pot, sneaking out and beating up his younger brother without remorse.
So she drove him to her local police department.
And she left him there.
“I hope he knows I love him and I didn’t abandon him,” she told the news media. “I just felt I had to keep the other kids safe.”
Now, before you go getting any ideas, please know that while the police are, as they say, there to serve, this is not acceptable behavior, even in Nebraska. The woman was ticketed and faces charges in civil court.
Still, I wonder how many people read that story and thought to themselves, “You know, there have been times with my kids ”
After all, we have created a society where the temptations for teenagers are at an all-time high, and your disciplinary options are at an all-time low.
You smack ’em? Somebody reports you. You withhold their meals? Someone reports you. You yank them out of school? Someone comes knocking.
And heaven forbid you take away their iPods, iPhones, car keys, expensive sneakers or Internet privileges; they’re considered social misfits.
What kind of cruel parent are you?
An out-of-control situation
The idea of letting the police scare a little sense into your kids is not new. Once upon a time in America, cops or sheriffs would help you that way if you asked them. They’d come around to give your kids a talking to. A little tough love. Show them being a punk was not cool, it was stupid.
No chance now. Public officials are so handcuffed as to what they can say or do, they want no part of your family issues. Almost everything that is not specifically covered in the police officer’s handbook is now viewed through the following letters: L-A-W-S-U-I-T.
Which didn’t stop the Omaha woman from dropping her son at the local pokey. She was under the impression that police stations were covered by Nebraska’s new safe haven law, which allows parents to leave their children in certain designated hospitals if they feel they are in danger.
It was written ostensibly to protect abandoned infants. But so far, parents have dropped off high-schoolers and grade-schoolers. One father dumped nine of his children.
Don’t be so quick to judge
Now, clearly, this is not the intent of the law, and Nebraska legislators will need to quickly address it.
But the numbers – and the ages – do indicate just how rough it has gotten out there for parents, especially parents of teenagers.
Kids are bigger now. They are louder. They are more empowered, more sexualized and, thanks to computers and phone-texting, they often feel more connected with the outside world than they do in their own homes.
Combine that with the increase in single-parent households, and you can understand why a drop-off zone becomes a tantalizing idea.
“I was trying to do something proactive,” the Omaha woman, a single mother of four, told a TV station there. “I’m not on drugs. I have a full-time job. I thought it was hopeless.”
The woman will not face jail charges. But her son is in foster care. And she has become the subject of intense interest, from sympathetic parents who feel her frustration, to finger-wagging critics who label her a lousy mother.
I don’t know. It’s easy to tell others how to parent their kids. But until you’ve been in the home, heard the screaming, watched the behavior, felt the pain, you’re not entitled to a full opinion. So I can’t render one on this woman.
On the other hand, I do know Warren Buffett lives near Omaha. And he seems pretty good at relieving people of their burdens.
Maybe she can drop the kid at his house.
Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or firstname.lastname@example.org.