One of the prompts from Cricket’s Slice Of Life this week is The Light of Reason.
I have wracked my brain for a couple of days trying to come up with a moment in my life where reason prevailed, but all I could think of were examples of my unreasonableness.
Today was one of those moments that I put down to happenstance where stories from the past and stories from the present collide.
It is very hot in Sydney today. 38 degrees C and counting. One of those days where the bitumen smokes beneath your feet and restlessness fills every sinew. The birds droop in the trees and the butterflies shudder under flowers, panting for shade.
I was bringing in my bins from the back lane and saw my neighbour wiping her face with a tissue. At first I thought she was feeling the effects of the heat, but then I realised she was crying. I thought that maybe I shouldn’t intrude on her grief but she saw me and came over.
Her 15 year old niece has run away from home. She’s been gone for five days. She hasn’t contacted her parents once. If her friends know where she is they aren’t saying.
I felt like crying myself because I have met Libby and she is a lovely girl. Very quiet, small in stature, makes her own birthday cards full of wonderful scenes from nature. I couldn’t imagine her spending five minutes on the streets, let alone five days. She would fall prey to all sorts of unimaginable horrors.
Officially, her father, my neighbour’s brother, is saying Libby ran away. Unofficially, he has admitted that he threw her out.
I cannot imagine what sweet Libby could have done to warrant being thrown out of her own home. My mind rushes to an array of scenarios – the worst of which is that she was being abused; the least of which is she was caught stealing booze from the drinks cabinet.
Drugs, drink, underage sex, running with the wrong crowd, shoplifting, smoking, or just out and out cheek and defiance. These are vices your average teenager may succumb to at some stage. I think it is unforgivable for a parent to throw their child onto the streets for any or all of the above. Or for anything else that I haven’t listed.
A parent is responsible for a child until they are at least 18 or able to fend for themselves financially. I’ve seen a lot of kids thrown out of home. I used to volunteer with a group of teenagers who were homeless. And every story broke my heart. There is no excuse for throwing your child out of home. That is your child. Your own flesh and blood. I believe such an act is tantamount to committing a felony.
You may think I’m ranting a bit, but because I have seen the misery that results from what is often a temper tantrum by the parent, I feel very strongly about this issue.
And I have experienced the brunt of it up close. In my own life….
[Image by RunWhiteRabbit at deviant Art.]
As a teenager, my sister Shelly was a real rebel. Wore eye make-up so thick you needed a trowel to get it off, Doc Marten boots instead of the regulation school shoes, black nailpolish. She loved Debbie Harry from Blondie and had a hairstyle exactly like hers – platinum blonde at the front, black at the back.
The nuns viewed her with distaste, keeping her at arms length as much as they could. I always remember with pride the day where Sister Assumpta told my sister having dual coloured hair was unacceptable and that she should dye it back to its natural colour. ‘I can’t remember what the natural colour is,’ Shelly replied, sending Sister Assumpta into one of her famous turns where she frothed at the mouth and spoke in tongues. It was the talk of the school for weeks.
Despite this look of rebellion, Shelly was actually a very good kid. A gifted artist, top of the year in Ancient History and Art Theory, she was a conscientious student, and back in the day before it really was fashionable – a staunch environmentalist.
That’s why I laid down my life for her. So to speak.
When Shelly was 15 she got involved with a biker gang. Well, it was one guy with a Honda 250cc, who was 17, but he did have a cool leather jacket. And some of his friends had little pretend motorbikes too. They got up real momentum on the hill that led down to the beach.
That bike made so much noise, I swear it had a two stroke motor in it. Robbie’s arrival was always heralded by a series of backfires and a plume of foul-smelling smoke. He started picking Shelly up after school. The other girls laughed. The nuns clutched their crucifixes and uttered curses under their breaths.
Then came the letter from the principal, stipulating that Shelly had to stop being picked up from school by that unsavoury character, and had to change her appearance or she would be suspended indefinitely.
My Dad hit the roof. Literally. I can tell you for a fact that white men can jump. He told Shelly she had to stop seeing Robbie immediately or else.
Or else she would be thrown out of the house.
Mum and I thought he was joking, but after another letter from the school confirming Shelly’s suspension, we came home to find a line of suitcases by the front door full of Shelly’s things. Mum and Shelly panicked, dropping onto their knees in tears. I called the Department of Youth and Community Services thanks to a heads up from my friend, Mickey, who later went on to become a human rights barrister; telling them my Dad was throwing my 15 year old sister onto the street with no money and no place to go.
A social worker came over that night and talked my Dad out of it. If looks could kill I would indeed be just a figment of your imagination now, but thankfully, unless you are Superman or another superhero with lasers for eyes, humans do not have that power.
My Dad always thought my sister was the rebel, but I was the one who was rebelling on the inside – a much more dangerous proposition than punk attire and a cheeky attitude, if you ask me. I thought I was going to throw up, wither into the woodwork, but I had to stick up for my sister.
Things were awkward for a while. I convinced Shelly to fix up her hair and to get Robbie to pick her up around the corner from the school – so her suspension was revoked. My Dad eventually started talking to us again and things were actually better than before. The air had been cleared.
I hope little Libby comes back. I hope that whatever lies between she and her father is salvageable. I hope she is getting enough to eat and is not afraid. I hope, I hope, I hope. For no child deserves to live on the streets.
We’re going back nearly fifty years … but I once found a workmate had set up a bed in the sail loft of the boatyard, where I had a holiday job.
He explained his parents had thrown him out because he wouldn’t give then all his pay-packet, although he just wanted to keep a couple of pounds for himself.
I don’t believe he’s spoken of, let alone to his parents since that day, but it did have a happy ending of sorts … the owner of the boatyard gave him a home with his family. And, he now owns the boatyard!
Every time I come here my friend,
I am moved by your grace, your tenderness and your humanity…
Every single time
I am glad to live in the same Australia,
The same world
So glad it worked out for him. I am a sucker for a happy ending!!
Well, that goes double from me to you. I am still stunned by the beauty of your song. What a gift you have!!
It’s so sad that parent feel their kid’s behaviour is bad enough to warrant throwing them out. I hope Libby is found and returned to home safely and soon.
That’s your true story Selma..??
Nice to meet you…
This brought back memories of my eldest daughter leaving home at 15 … it leaves scars for everyone. I hope you have good news of Libby soon – there’s always a solution. I hope her family can find it …
I’ll keep you posted, Vic. I really hope she goes back home…
I’m afraid it is true. I have watered it down as the entire situation was much more volatile than that. But all’s well that ends well, right?
I’m sorry if it brought back painful memories for you. The other side of the coin, of course, is that sometimes the kids don’t want to come back and the parents aren’t to blame. I have seen that too. Either way, it is painful.
That poor little girl and when it comes to living on the streets, that’s what she is. I can’t imagine how she will survive. Let’s hope she is either allowed to go back home or some kind soul will take her in or at least see that she gets fed once in a while.
Good for you for sticking up for your sister. I would have done the same thing. I remember when there was a very real chance my youngest brother would go to jail for breaking and entering. I was filled with fear for him because he would never have survived it. It’s not the same thing yet the fear is still very much present, just for different reasons.
Poor kid. It’s always the dads it seems. Maybe they are the disciplinarians. God my dad could be awful. He’d freak out. (And I was the good kid… just didn’t play the politics very well. Still don’t.) I learned a lot from him on how not to parent.
Poor kid has got to be scared… hope she finds her way to safety.
I’m just now figuring out that you’re the kind of person that people feel they can confide in. That’s a quality I admire greatly.
Not Fade Away was Buddy Holly’s take on your title, by the way. The Grateful Dead used to cover that one all the time. Just thought I’d add a little irrelevancy here…
“Drugs, drink, underage sex, running with the wrong crowd, shoplifting, smoking, or just out and out cheek and defiance. These are vices your average teenager may succumb to at some stage. I think it is unforgivable for a parent to throw their child onto the streets for any or all of the above. Or for anything else that I haven’t listed.”
I could not agree with you any more. As my own son is fast approaching his teenage years and that type of phase, I am DREADING he may experiment with any of those things. But, I WOULD NEVER throw him out on the street! That is an AWFUL terrible thing for a parent to do to a child. I certainly pray that Libby finds her way home. SAFELY.
And, can I just say, “You are THE BEST SISTER in the world.”
I’m with you about the breaking and entering. I would have hidden my brother away, I think. So many people fall into crime as a result of poor choices or bad luck, but they’re not criminals, you know? I hope they find that poor wee girl, I really do.
You are spot on with that one. It does seem to come down to the Dads. I learnt completely how NOT to parent from my Dad. He is the ultimate control freak. I don’t think he’s ever really forgiven me for the social worker incident. But if Shelly had been thrown onto the streets and had died I would never have forgiven him. So I guess that makes us even. I really love my Dad but he needs to chill.
It does happen to me a lot. Some of the stories I hear – unbelievable. I think I got you on the title of this post. I was hoping I would. It’s from a song by The BoDeans called ‘Fadeaway.’ It goes –
don’t you fadeaway till the morning light.’
My son’s heading to that age too. l just hope we can always find a way to talk about things. I would’ve done anything for my sister. She really was (and is) a good person.
i do not understand what allows parents to believe that they have that right… mine did it too,, back then no one got involved in family affairs,,, but today i think there is recourse,, and i believe that the parents should be jailed and or fined for such “unsavory” behavior……
My parents never threw any of us out, although Dad threatened. In fact, he talked like I was the trouble maker (the oldest) but it turned out I was tame compared to two of my sisters. The reason I was threatened? I talked back.
Could you imagine?
I hope she comes back too – it’s so hard to repair relationships once they get to that point. I had friends and other families that would have taken me in. I did walk out one day and walked 10 miles to a friend’s house in the sweltering SE Texas heat to a friend’s house – my parents showed up just after I did and Nancy, my friend’s mother, wisely suggested my Dad let me stay overnight to let things cool off. He did, and the next day it all worked out. Let’s hope Libby has a Nancy in her life, that’s taking care of her during transition, but gently encourages her to go home.
I’ve said it before and I’ll say it again….Your goodness shines through each and every one of your posts Selma. The world is a better place because you are here. I wish you weren’t so far away from where I am though…I could use more “good people” in the immediate area and you dear Selma are one of the best!!! 🙂
I’m sorry it happened to you. You were only a kid. I do think the parents should be charged in such instances. They aren’t upholding their responsibilities. There is always a solution. Always.
I do hope Libby has a Nancy in her life. Your story illustrates how fraught the teenage years can be but if someone objective intervenes things can usually be sorted out. Glad it all worked out for you!!
Ditto, my dear friend. I don’t know if I’m necessarily all that good (I have some really black thoughts, believe me) but I do believe a little bit of kindness and consideration goes a long way. It’s not that hard to do, really. Thanks for your kind words!!!
Being a parent can be so difficult. Being a teenager is even more difficult. I have known several situations in which a parent has ordered their child from their home for disobedience. In all cases the parents believed their child was beyond helping. The children left because they believe their parents were beyond reasoning with. Being the bystander, I could see where both sides were wrong. It is really sad to see such turmoil, with both sides not being willing to just sit down and talk out the problem. You were very wise at an early age Selma.
More stubborn than wise, I suspect, but I have always tried to come from a place of fairness. You’re right about the ‘beyond helping’ bit, unfortunately. I think we see that inability to see something from the other’s perspective in so many ways these days. If only we could all walk a mile in someone else’s shoes things might be different.