Thursday, October 07, 2010

She Was A Sinner. She Was A Whore.

I don't have children. But I grew up around them.

I'm not a parent. But I grew up around them.

Is bullying someone's fault? Shitty children? Shitty parents?

When I was in junior high the girl down the street, Susan, got pregnant. The neighborhood buzz was that she and her parents were to be shunned. Her parents had done a miserable job raising this child. She was a sinner. She was a whore.

She was my friend.

And this is where the story splits in two and travels different roads until last year.

I remembered my mom told me to go to Susan's house and walk with her to school, just like I did every day. I always said I was lucky to have a mother who was not judgmental about that kind of thing. I also remembered that Susan's mother came by our house after dark one day and thanked my mother for her kindness. I'd repeated that story a million times.

Last year I was talking to mom about Susan. I wondered what could have happened to her. They sent her away to a girl's compound where unwed mothers, as they were then referred to, could have their babies. Susan's mother brought the child home and raised it as her own. We never saw Susan again.

I thanked mom for telling me not to avoid her.

My mother said she didn't believe she'd done that much. I asked her how she could think that and she replied, "Well, the day you came to me and said you were going to walk her to school, just like you always did, I realized that for you it was a matter of standing up for your friend and you really didn't care what anyone thought of you for it. So I didn't stop you. And when Susan's mother came by and thanked you for your kindness, I was very proud of you."

All these years I'd thought it was my mom who did the right thing, but it was me. She'd just agreed with my decision. Even if she hadn't I would have done it anyway. Throughout school I was always first in my class in the headstrong division.

Is a child born with an inner compass for right and wrong and even with their parents influence one way or the other, do they still feel that moral imperative? I believe there are good kids everywhere and some who aren't. I'm not sure parenting of any kind can help a natural born asshole.

End of chat.

20 comments:

  1. -->I was a bully for a week or so in sixth grade and even though I learned the hard way, I apologized to the girl when it happened. My parents never knew.
    Now I stand up for strangers in Target and the grocery store. My husband tells me I'll be "dead right" one of these days but I think it's the right thing to do.
    I do think that you learn a lot of your behaviors from your parents but it doesn't mean you're guaranteed to be like them - good or bad.

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  2. In my view, everyone has a moral compass inside. Even children. Whether we decide to go with or against it is another matter. And that's where parents come into play. Children are under a lot of pressure from peers to fit in. To be part of the crowd. It takes courage to go against the grain at that age. That's where a parent can help, as your mother did, to encourage you to follow your compass.

    Bravo to you for standing your ground, and being a true friend.

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  3. I do think we all have that moral compass inside, but for some of us it never worked because we had such incredibly shitty parents or we were born a psycho/sociopath.

    For those who have the moral compass but can't stand up to injustice, they just suck; and guilt and regret will visit them the rest of their days. I can attest.

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  4. i think that every person is born with the innate ability to be kind and compassionate, but sometimes have it beaten out of them by life and circumstances. children are children. i tend to blame adults when children are assholes.

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  5. My mom was VERY frank with me in discussions about sex (to the point where she told me that a way to a man's heart wasn't through his stomach but a little "lower") but the one thing that stuck out was that getting pregnant, while not ideal, wasn't a "sin." Killing someone was a sin. Having sex wasn't. That was always sort of awesome. (Even though it icked me out at the time.)

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  6. The thing that worries me is that we live in a culture where the cool thing is to make fun of people. Reality tv, facebook, opinion blogs, even a show like jon stewart (to a lesser extent) is about making fun of, and even at times being mean to people.

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  7. and so endeth the lesson.


    We are all a sum of our experiences. Some are good- some are not.

    But compassion and empathy? it comes from within.

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  8. I think parents influence their child's natural tendencies. And for three generations in my family, kindness and empathy have been modeled and passed down. My grandparents and parents may have been alcoholics and had serious mental health issues--but they were never, ever mean.

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  9. I have to say, I think perhaps people are born with a "moral compass". Take for example my sister and I. We both worked at the same office as our first real job in the accounting field. She embezzled from the company. I turned her in. It was the right thing to do, sister or not. After that she worked at a client and embezzled again, got another job as a cashier at a grocery store and was arrested for coupon fraud and selling liquor to a minor. To this day I cannot understand how she would think it was ok to steal, we had the same parents and lived in the same house after all.

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  10. Oh, nature vs. nurture. The answer is obviously both. This post reminds me of Jane Eyre.

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  11. Two kids can grow up in the same house and have completely different experiences. Parents *do* treat kids differently. Even if they don't mean to or think they do. And a kid a few years older or younger experiences different things in the family at a particular age than the other kids did/will.

    Example... my sister and I. She thinks our parents did a great job teaching us about how to handle money. I am very sure money was never talked about at all. Why? They never talked about money when I was growing up. Never. But I was in college when she was in high school so she saw all the budget meetings of my parents as they juggled a child in college and one in high school. Now, she's the saver and I have no concept of money.

    Same can be true of how people are treated in the outside world. And a great need for a sense of empathy towards those kids outside of our families who are irritating or odd and who maybe, just maybe, need some attention they aren't getting at home. Instead of teaching our kids to avoid them.

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  12. I have pretty low moral standards but I sure as hell don't blame that on my mother. She taught me right from wrong, I just choose to ignore it sometimes.

    Deep down I was a good kid but I think it's only normal to stray from the path a little.

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  13. Like Juli Ryan, I think it's both nature and nurture. Your mother had been raising you all those years, and she allowed you to be kind. So many parents squash down their childrens' natural curiosity and compassion for people who are "different," often because they fear God or the neighbors or whatever. I've gotten to see this firsthand as a woman in a same-sex relationship. We've heard parents warn their curious, friendly children away from us.

    It's great that you kept being a friend for whatever reason. Most teens just want to fit in. So even when a kid wants to stand up to a bully, they're afraid they'll become victims, too. It's normal but awful. No surprise you were a little better and stronger than normal.

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  14. I despise the word bully, it is an accepted term for people who commit atrocious crimes yet cannot be prosecuted to the full extent of the law because they are underage.
    A Rutgers University student recently jumped off the George Washington bridge here in Manhattan, they found his body two days later.
    The two assholes who drove him to this are called cyber bullies and their lawyers beg us not to judge them harshly, after all, the kid they tormented was gay.
    I am sick of the hate, we are turning into the country we are at war with, where it is OK to stone to death your wife for infidelity if she is raped.
    If you ever get preggers out of wedlock Suzy, I will proudly walk you down the street.
    X David

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  15. I don't know where it comes from. I have seen grown people be horrible to each other.

    I live in a small suburb where people haven't been very kind to me for whatever reason...my slight accent, being Hispanic, I don't know.

    And I've seen a bully make my middle son so ill from verbal taunts, that we had to pull him out of school and homeschool him.

    The parents reaction? "your fault for giving your kid a weird name."

    Oh, kay...so that's what your kids hear you say.

    I don't know where good or bad comes from, but it sure seems that somewhere, good kids have seen a kindness.

    Suzy, you are kind, and you are drawn to those who need a hand up.

    I've seen it.

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  16. You absolutely did the right thing Suzy, especially for that point in time. Parents of today should take lessons from you, my friend.

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  17. Bloody hell Suzy!! I never expected to be drawn to tears on YOUR posts. Maybe with laughter but whoah.

    I think the moral compass is somewhat learned and somewhat chemical. I think we start off as somewhat pure intentioned and we could be corrupted.

    I think the lesson of kindness is learned by example... and being kind to someone is somewhat of a gift to yourself.. it builds self esteem.

    I have had difficulties this year with my child starting school and falling under the influence of a child who has grown up in very unkind circumstances which are not her fault. Her mother has gone to prison and she's a very angry child. We reached out to her and her Dad and that felt good to do that.

    This child does have issues though and I found they were rubbing off on my daughter who had worries well beyond her years out of concern for her friend and becoming victim of the friends' emotional distress (violence) It's hard to know where to draw a line sometimes.

    Parenting is a tough gig sometimes.

    I think as a parent you do need to lead by example, be kind, and although it might not be reciprocated.

    Walk a mile in someone elses shoes, have compassion are key values I want to instill in my girls. I learned that from my grandmother. x

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  18. I think we are born with certain traits and can be swayed one way or the other.

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  19. I'm with Keyona. You could have easily been born with a strong moral compass but been taught to keep under the radar and never draw attention. You could have been raised in a home where people who associated with pregnant teens would get beaten by their dads or punished indefinitely. You WERE lucky that you were raised by a mom who encouraged you to follow your instincts and supported you in doing so. I hope that this is what I am passing onto my own kids...

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  20. well done, suzy, i`m proud of you as well :)

    as for assholes, the world does need a few, cuz some folk are born without one....

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