OK ... now I get it, Mom

Friday, September 3, 2010
Jamie Barrand

In a job like mine, you meet a lot of people whose views and lives are much different than your own.

It can be a good thing and a bad thing.

I enjoy that aspect of my position because it allows me to look at things from so many different angles. I can think I know exactly how I feel about some issue, and then I'll talk to someone who thinks the exact opposite.

While I may not change my mind about the issue, it always gives me pause and gets me thinking -- and that's always a good thing.

On the other hand, I see things that are so far outside my realm of consciousness there's no way I'm ever going to wrap my mind around them.

Earlier this week, I visited with two young women who live at the ResCare residential facility in Greencastle. They were 15 and 17.

With startling matter-of-factness, they told me stories I couldn't believe.

Stories about parents using drugs and leaving them and their siblings for days at a time. Stories about parents supplying their children with alcohol (which eventually led to a battle with addictions for one of the girls, who ended up hooked on heroin). Stories of parents who didn't care whether or not their children went to school or had food, shelter or clothing.

I know these things happen, but to talk to teenagers who have actually gone through them is disconcerting, to say the least.

Of course, I complained about my parents a lot when I was growing up.

I had a very strict midnight curfew, and if I broke it by even a minute I got grounded for a week.

If I told my parents I was going somewhere, that was where I'd darn well better have been, or the you-know-what would hit the fan (and I lived in a small town where everyone knew everyone's business, so the odds that they wouldn't find out were slim).

I didn't get an allowance just for the sake of getting an allowance. We lived on a farm and both my parents worked full-time, so there were chores to be done and I was expected to do my share.

If I didn't, there was no allowance when Friday rolled around.

In retrospect, I realize my parents put these rules in place because they loved me. They did it because they didn't want to send a kid out into society who thought she could do whatever she wanted and that the world owed her a living.

These girls at ResCare -- and so many other children like them -- never got grounded. No one cared where they were or what time they were coming home.

To me, that is incredibly sad.

When I left the interview, I actually cried a little bit. In the hour I was with those girls, I started to care about them, and it raised my hackles to think that their own parents didn't.

As I asked questions of the ResCare staff, I gleaned even more sad facts.

There are children in those group homes who are my son's age -- he's 8 -- or even younger. Most of them are there because they've been abused or neglected.

And there are some of them that never get visits from anyone.

The girls I talked to have big plans for their lives ... and I hope with all my heart they realize their dreams. I believe they have it in them to do it, and I hope that they will have people they can turn to for help when they need it.

I think I'll call my mom tonight and thank her for the many weeks I spent grounded or mad at her because I didn't get my allowance.

Twenty-five years later, I realize why she did the things she did.

Jamie Barrand is the editor of the Banner Graphic. Her e-mail is jbarrand@bannergraphic.com.