My good friend the Meiers’ neighbor (close enough, at a mile away) and I keep talking about this case. Hopefully you’re not so sick of Megan Meier to indulge me, because this appears to be a case of a parent being an ally, right or wrong, rather than being a parent.Steve once had a boss we’ll call Murray. Over lunch one day, Murray said he’d always stand behind his children, even to the point where he would lie on the witness stand at a murder trial, if it would protect a child.
That goes a few steps beyond creating a fake Myspace profile and using it to bully your child’s ex-friend, but both of them are symptoms of the same thing: Not parenting.
Lying to keep a child out of trouble or to gain information isn’t supporting your kids. It’s also not a parent’s job.
A parent’s job is to teach kids the difference between right and wrong and to help them learn from their difficulties.
I always knew when my dad was disappointed in me. I think sometimes Dad could be overly harsh, but part of that was because he knew I could do better. And part of it was the alcohol. And when I did something well, Dad was generous with his praise, and the rest of the people around him probably got tired of listening to him talk about me.
Dad could have done a better job, certainly, but the important thing was that he tried. For his shortcomings, we knew he would take care of us and support us.
But we also knew that if we did something wrong, there would be consequences.
It’s funny though. There weren’t consequences all that often. When my sister and I messed up, we learned from it and generally didn’t do something a second time.
Support also means something else. After we moved to St. Louis in 1988, I got to start over at a new school and make new friends. I didn’t have good friends at the old school. I made good friends at the new school, and my parents told me so.
If a friend turns on a child, parental support would be to tell the child that’s not what friends do. It might also help to say that this was unexpected, and this friend fooled the parent too–assuming that’s true. Point to an example of a good friend, then assure the child that there are others like that good friend out there.
And when it came to romantic relationships going sour–which didn’t happen to me a lot, but tended to mess me up for a long time when it did–Mom would reassure me that the girl who broke my heart obviously didn’t know me as well as she thought she did. She couldn’t fix the situation and she didn’t try to.
The temptation is always to be your child’s buddy, rather than an authority figure. But kids need authority figures because kids are wrong. A lot. It’s one of the ways they learn.
A big reason why my sister and I are successful today was because we didn’t get to be buddies with our parents until we were pretty much legal adults.
It’s tempting to shirk that responsibility in order to compensate for other things that have gone wrong. That’s not the right way to handle things. If a parent feels guilty, the only remedy is to find and correct the source of that guilt. Not having as much time as you’d like to spend with the kids, or not having enough money to afford to buy everything you’d want to buy for them isn’t a license to let things slide. Make adjustments, learn from them, find ways that the kids can learn from them too, and always keep in mind that those first 18 years aren’t about having fun, they’re about teaching another human being how life works.
I never thought I’d say this, but it’s only 18 years. There’s plenty of time to be buddy-buddy with the kids once they’re grown. And those years will be a lot better if parents spend those first 18 years being parents.
Not only that, the world will be a better place too.
Despite what that final message said, the world isn’t a better place without Megan Meier. But the world would be a far, far better place with fewer parents who facilitate, encourage, and participate in that kind of behavior.