by | Feb 25, 2009 | Detroit Free Press | 0 comments

You give them life, they try to kill you.

That sentence should never apply to your children. But it does in the sad case of a Maryland teenager named Cory Ryder, who tried to hire a hit man to kill his parents.

According to reports, Ryder, who was 16 at the time, met with a man he believed to be an assassin – but who was actually an undercover police officer – in a hotel room last June. During their conversation, Ryder offered his stepfather’s pickup as payment for the kill.

“Two bullets is all it takes,” he allegedly said.

He was arrested and charged. Nine days ago, he admitted in court what he had done. He will be sentenced – as a juvenile, not an adult – later this month.

According to the Washington Post, his mother, who was at the proceedings, spoke privately with him afterward for nearly 35 minutes – as he wore handcuffs and leg shackles – and in the end, she was hugging him so hard that the officers had to pull her away.

“I didn’t want to let go,” she reportedly said.

The son who wanted her dead.

Conflict in the household

By all accounts, Ryder was a troubled kid, but hardly unique to the teenage world. He lived in the suburbs with his mother, his stepfather (who married his mother when Cory was in kindergarten) and two younger sisters.

He had bad grades in school. His parents tried to do something about it. They grounded him. They took away his music. They took away his PlayStation.

Over time, his mother told the Post, they tried everything until there was nothing left in his room to take. In one angry outburst, the son threatened to cut his mother’s throat in her sleep.

Eventually, the parents threw him out of the house.

Now, I am not naïve. I doubt this was some “Brady Bunch” household that happened to get stuck with a bad teenaged apple.

Nor will I wring my hands and say “this never happened when we were kids.” Dysfunctional families have existed for centuries. They just never had the label.

But I do know that we are living in strange times. There are forces that suck our kids away from us that our ancestors never had to face. It is no shock that Ryder was into rap and video games. I am not blaming them. I cite them as things that are wall builders in families. Parents never get them. They can’t penetrate them. Kids slouched on the floor locked in some killing game, the noise blasting in their ears, is not something Abe Lincoln had to deal with.

And yet, despite all that, despite all the arguments, the discipline, the trouble, despite a potential murder plot, here was his mother, being a mother, saying in a courtroom she just wished things could go back to the way they once were.

“I miss him being at home,” she said.

Always a generation gap

Something about that really struck me. I see it in so many families. Parents wondering where the “once were” days have gone. How does a child, under your own roof, grow so far away? How does a kid go from someone you feed and hug and kiss goodnight to someone who wants to kill you?

Why do the teenage years so alienate children from their parents? A little trouble, sure, you expect, but why does it sometimes seem that you are speaking two different languages, living on two different planets, breathing different air? Why is the simplest communication -“Hello, how are you doing?”- turn into angry snarls and sullen looks?

Luckily, most of us don’t have to face our children talking murder. But we battle in our own ways. In Cory Ryder’s case, something snapped. And now his parents, who will likely see him put away until he is 21 – the maximum under juvenile law – must wonder if their son, when released, will do them harm.

You give them life, they try to kill you. How can anyone explain this story? The truth is, once you give them life, they are yours but they are also their own, and they are part of the world, and the struggle never ends.

Contact MITCH ALBOM at 313-223-4581 or Catch “The Mitch Albom Show” 5-7 p.m. weekdays on WJR-AM (760).


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Mitch Albom writes about running an orphanage in impoverished Port-au-Prince, Haiti, his kids, their hardships, laughs and challenges, and the life lessons he’s learned there every day.

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