Friday, September 07, 2007

What Makes a Bad Parent?

There are two news stories this week about parents who have lost children, and the role that they may or may not have played in their child's death or disappearance.

For one of these parents, I have deep pity. For another, I have less. I am sure that where my sympathies lie, and do not lie, may run counter to what many others are feeling. But I can only relate to what I know as a parent, a single parent, a working parent... and a parent who puts the safety of my children above all else.

These are the parents for whom I do not have a lot of sympathy. I cannot, for the life of me, imagine leaving three tiny children alone in a hotel room, or apartment, for 15 minutes... nevermind leaving them alone while I go have dinner with my husband and friends. While I am not yet convinced that they played a role in Madeline's disappearance or sadly what may be her death, I hold them absolutely accountable for what happened.

In an attempt to portray them as intelligent, good people in the aftermath of them being named as suspects today, one news reporter pointed out that they are doctors. Who was it that said one can be intelligent without being smart? It may have been me.

I've seen them interviewed on The Today Show, and didn't hear any anguish over the choice they had made. Yes, they appeared to be distraught over her disappearance...but where was their deep regret for violating Parenting 101?

This is the parent I feel deeply for. I watched the video of her on the news last night, anguished and despondent over what happened to her child, and could barely sleep afterwards.

You see, this wasn't the case of someone who routinely left her kid in the car while she got her hair done, or while she shopped (like my parents did, btw). This was someone who was trying to do everything she needed to do, to be a good parent and good worker and good person, and she screwed up. Big time. When my son was a baby and I was taking him to daycare every morning before work, I often had to repeat over and over to myself that I had to drop him off before going to the office. My mind was applesauce, between a stressful job, raising two children, and having a husband who barely pulled his own weight. My biggest fear was that I'd drive to work one day and leave my son sleeping in the car, in the garage of my building, while I rushed upstairs to get to work on time.

And then I saw a news story about a woman who did just that, with tragic results. Like this woman did.

Honestly, I don't know how she will live with herself. But I also do not see why people are calling for her prosecution while pitying the McCanns. They intentionally and irresponsibly left their children alone. She, on the other hand, made a horrible mistake that will haunt her for the rest of her days.

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