Tag Archives: responsibility

When love goes awry…

“And you know what? To protect my kids, I’d lie, too. I’d lie on a stack of Bibles.”

Read more: http://www.newyorker.com/reporting/2013/02/11/130211fa_fact_keefe#ixzz2K2jZqwHp

This story is about a woman who murdered all of her colleagues, supposedly over tenure at a university. And about the “accident” years earlier, where she shot her brother, killing him.

It’s a fascinating story, terrifying in its implications, sad in the lack of help for someone who could surely have used it. And worrying for the children of such a set of parents.

But the quote I selected above is the scariest of all. What’s happened here?

Back in the time of responsibility, parents were the ones who took their children to the shopkeeper and made them return what they had stolen. I remember once having done something mean to a friend and my mother MADE me go and apologize. I had to walk the mile there and back, squirming in embarrassment, upset that I had to take the blame for what had been a joint girlfriend attack. But I never bullied again. (Well, until I got into management, and then it was only incompetence that drove me).

My parents made me wear my decisions, and I think I’m better for it.

Now, I’ve covered for my kids at times, but I would never cover for such a thing. Even when they were in school and their teachers would call me to wail about how my kids weren’t doing this or that assignment, I’d tell them – so FAIL them! I’m cool with that, I said. They have to learn consequences. The teachers never did, saying that the final result on the assignment was too good for them to be able to fail them. Unacceptable. How was I supposed to hold the kids accountable when their teachers wouldn’t?

In the real world, when you f*** up, you pay. You get a ticket, you lose your job, you go broke or bankrupt, you lose a friend or a lover. I find it appalling that now people seem to think that it is totally inappropriate to subject kids to consequences, leaving them unprepared to deal with life.

ImageAnd with a flexible sense of the truth.

I adore my kids. I’d walk over burning coals to support them, even the ungrateful one who still won’t speak to me. (Well, maybe not that one. I’m fed up.) But I wouldn’t lie for them.

I know they have their faults, as do I. But I expect to be held accountable for my faults, as they should.

Would I lie if they were threatened with a jail sentence, if they committed a crime? My heart would break, but I wouldn’t. We live as a part of society, and as parts of society, we’re expected to play at least close to the rules.

I hope never to have to deal with this, and my heart goes out to any parent who has to try to understand a monstrous child. I know I blame myself for my kids’ every fault already, so I can imagine how they must feel. But surely, lying for your kid, letting them off the hook, allowing them to turn into more horrific and self-centred creatures isn’t love.

Women’s Day, International and Intentional

Hey you women and men out there!

It’s international Women’s Day! Now before you men get started, I know there’s no International Men’s Day and all I can say to that is my response to Child Day – well, whenever you get all of them, you don’t really need a special one! I know, not strictly speaking true, and I really hope we get to a point where we can just have an “International Human’s Day” and let it go at that.

But we’re not quite there yet. I could rant about how we’re still underrepresented, abused, paid less, tossed away, wasted, etc., etc. but really, we hear all of that all the time. So let’s focus on the positive, shall we? Let’s raise a glass to those wonderful impossible women who were just out there, pushing their agenda, pulling others along with them willy-nilly.

Like Anna Leonowens, who founded NSCAD and travelled the world changing things after reinventing herself entirely.

Or Mrs. Humphrey Ward, who didn’t believe in suffrage but still started educational institutes for women at Oxford and refused to let anyone say nay.

Or Florence Nightingale, who fought her way through several glass ceilings to actually humanize health care.

Or Alexa McDonough, who stepped into the leadership of a federal party – the first woman to do so in Canada (Okay, it was 1980, and one could have hoped it would have happened before then).

Or the formidable Mrs. Thatcher – still so obvious in the political photos of that time.

Indira Ghandi. Maya Angelou. PD James. Jane Fonda. Jane Austen. Mary Shelley. Edith Piaf.

But more so than that, the women who just get up in the morning and make the world a better place for their being in it.

I can’t help but think of my grandmothers. Two more different women couldn’t be imagined. My Grammy, my mother’s mother, was a ferocious lion of St. John, NB, who gave birth to almost a dozen children, all of whom went forward and took control – in their city, in the country, in the world. They became nurses, lawyers, doctors, priests, accountants, businesspeople, pillars of the community, and parented another generation of the same. Grammy held them all to account. I didn’t know her well, but I always saw her as a bit of a bombastic person, given to expostulations that shook the ceiling, but maybe that was only after she became deaf. I still remember cringing in Filene’s as she argued with the sales girl about corset sizes. She had a great sense of humour and a strong sense of religion. She did ensure that her children went on to do great things, despite what must have been a pretty ropy existence with all those kids and not much money. They grew up and fought mightily and loved mightily.

My other grandmother I remember for her soft smile, her gentle ways. Yet she had power, too – she could speak to my dad with a twinkle in her eyes and he’d do whatever she asked. Her life wasn’t easy, either – my grandfather often wasn’t well – and she looked after her own large family. Yet she encouraged them, pulled them along, probably even lost her temper once or twice. They grew up to be marvellous people, too – but with a different feeling. Unlike my mother’s family, there was less competition between them. They didn’t always get along, but they were always supportive of each other. Even now, their first response to seeing me after many years wasn’t “where have you been?” but “welcome back!”

In their own ways, they made the world an infinitely better place, through their children, their children’s children, and now their children’s children’s children. I’m so grateful to them – I benefitted from all of my wonderful uncles and aunts and cousins and sister and brothers.

All over the world, women do this every day, in every way, in so many different situations and with so many different challenges. So yes, let’s take a special day to recognize that fact, and make a choice to support them, more and more.

And yeah, let’s stop all that ugly stuff. For women, men, and children, too. My grandmothers would have wanted it that way. Probably yours, too.


I’ve written here before about the generation of men and women who came before my generation – the folks who lives through the Wars 1 and 2, the Great Depression, the 50’s and 60’s and all the changes in them. I’ve written about their sense of responsibility – about how the men of that generation went to work and worked every day of their lives to support their families, rarely pausing to think to themselves if they could be happier doing something else. Women pulled alongside of them, either running the home or working or both, working often as a team, focused on the end prize that their children would be better off than they were. Or that we’d live in a world free from terror and war.

It hasn’t worked out quite that way. In my family, some of us are better off in wealth, most of us aren’t. We are all asking ourselves about our lives. My children, at least, look at the rat race and wonder what it’s all for.  We’ve all been told that we are small and insignificant in the scheme of things, and yet we are big enough that we must make a contribution. Unlike our elders, we fight this, requiring a happy life as well as a dutiful one. We chant about work-life balance and all of that while we overwork and push ourselves to depression and anxiety. We don’t have the certainty of our convictions, as our elders did. It makes for a troubling, wobbly time. Every choice becomes on we have to think through, every job is on a road ever upwards, every day is decided on what we can accomplish through it, or buy at the end of it.

Just being feels wrong. And maybe, just maybe, it is wrong.

We all have skills that we should bring to bear on the needs of our fellow wo/men. That should is the tough word. We’re told it’s a wrong word, that should just makes us feel guilty and doesn’t make us move forward – saying we should do something doesn’t mean we will. I should go to the gym every day, for example. I go rarely in actuality, and I don’t think I’m alone in that. But we are surrounded by shoulds – the ones we give ourselves, the ones we have given to us by others. Are they all wrong?

I don’t think so. I think we do have unique gifts we have an obligation to use to make the world a better place. Even if we’re tired or we don’t want to or we wish we could stay home, bundled up against the weather. Sometimes, it stinks to have to do these things. Sometimes we also take too much glory from our commitments, thinking we are the only ones who can do thus and so properly. It’s hard to walk the middle line between what we feel we must do and what we feel needs us and only us.

We’re heading for a tough time, perhaps another depression. So many are out of work, living in poverty, struggling, living in war zones or temporary shelters. We need to step up, like our elders did, and take on the yoke of hard work. We need to staff organizations like Kiwanis and Rotary and work at food banks and work to eradicate food banks and make sure everyone can afford to live with dignity.

We need to live with dignity, giving up on those wonderfully tempting seven deadly sins and putting our backs into living well, not wealthy. We really should.