A False Image of Solid Parenting

Taking responsibility for your children doesn’t work in silhouette

Notes from a Non-parent 8After 12-year-old Rebecca Sedwick threw herself off an abandoned concrete silo tower last month, her friends and schoolmates came forward in droves to tell police she’d essentially been bullied to death. Guadalupe Shaw, 14, and another girl (aged 12) were charged with felony aggravated stalking after Shaw posted a new message stating in no uncertain terms that she couldn’t care less that her cruelty had resulted in the girl’s death. Polk County Sheriff Grady Judd reacted to that arrogance swiftly. He has since been adamant in his intent to jail the two minors, and he’s not staying silent on the responsibility their parents should bear, either (“I’m aggravated that [they] aren’t doing what parents should…Responsible parents take disciplinary action”).

I won’t get into the particulars of the backstory since, for instance, the intimidating coercion by Shaw of one of Rebecca’s friends to join in the bullying is all over the Internet. But I will note that an examination of Rebecca’s computer revealed search queries for “What is overweight for a 13-year-old girl?” “How to get blades out of razors,” and “How many over-the-counter drugs do you take to die?” That’s a kicker that feels like it just hit your chest.

Parents of Alleged Cyberbully Blame Facebook Hack via Good Morning AmericaBut let’s get to the part of the story that’s still unfolding: The fact that Guadalupe Shaw’s parents now insist that their daughter’s Facebook page was hacked and that she’d never behave in such a terrible way. I call B.S.

I think Shaw’s parents knew she’d bring some atrocity or another down on their heads sooner or later. Their comically trite denials have come just a little too quickly. And certainly the hacked account excuse is a bit too born yesterday to be credible. Eh, not to mention it’s now a stunt double for, “I’m incapable of telling the truth.”

Sell it someplace else cabbage headIn stark contrast, the father of the other girl has admitted not knowing enough about Facebook to have monitored his daughter’s activity there, going so far as to say it was his fault. His daughter’s personal choices aren’t on him, but it’s encouraging that he is willing to accept responsibility for her environment at home.

Meanwhile, isn’t it curious that Shaw’s parents agreed to be interviewed by Good Morning America – but only in silhouette? Insisting that their little angel is anything but cold-blooded tells us exactly where the problem came from.

When I was arrested for robbing a series of bookstores and stupidly moving onto banks, one of the things that changed my life forever was watching my father stand up behind me in court to answer for his son’s actions. I’d had no idea he was present ‘til the judge addressed him.

When I turned to see my dad standing at military parade rest, the room began to spin. Every single neuron that fired off in my brain in those 45 minutes would never dim again. If I get Alzheimer’s, they’ll be the last to surrender.

Here was a brokenhearted father agreeing to let the system take his son, showing his faith in criminal justice procedures, and accepting formally that his own child had both acted criminally and behaved like a goddamned idiot.

I can’t imagine for one second my father instead choosing to put himself on parade for all the world to see, (in silhouette) only to defend what he knew to be hideous acts and portray a false image of solid parenting. Guadalupe Shaw’s parents, though, did exactly that. And they did it for no one but themselves.

The day I sat in that courtroom and was told I wouldn’t be going home for at least five years was one of the worst days of my life. Yet it was in those very moments that I actually felt lucky. Yes, I admit that it took several years and a lot of growing up for that sense of luck and pride in my upbringing  –not to mention in the man my father is–  to take shape. But now, as an adult who did get to learn from my mistakes, I value those things as much as I value my own life and freedom. My father, humbling himself before a federal judge on behalf of his dumb-ass son, gave me an hugely beneficial starting point.

CAUTION_Where Excuses Go to DieGuadalupe Shaw is 14 years old, and she has been robbed of an equally powerful lesson by her own parents, who lack the integrity to force their daughter out into the light of consequence.

Shaw’s starting point is much worse than mine was, and my next stop was a maximum-security prison.

UPDATE: 10/17/13
Raising the question of what to do about bullying, County Sheriff Judd is making noise about charging the parents, but is powerless to do so under Florida law. Still, fanning the flames of accountability and responsibility keeps the dialog hot and that’s preventative in the eyes of many teens who wait for things to “die down.” Didn’t you?