Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Child's Play

Posted January 10, 2007

On my way to work yesterday when I was sitting at a light I noticed a teenager with a moppy head of hair slumped over in the front seat of his mother's car.   He had the trademark white cables peeking out from beneath his head indicating that he was listening to an Ipod.  His mother looked bored as she stared vacantly out the window and tapped the steering wheel rhythmically with her  fingers.  If it were not for her cavalier appearance, I would have thought the boy might be dead.

I wanted to jump out of the car, pull out the earplugs, and tell the boy to speak to his mother.   I know it was none of my business, but somehow I felt like that one moment, that one picture emphasized the distance many parents have today from their children.  And it's a distance many don't know how to even begin bridging.

Ironically my story yesterday was about a teenage boy who somehow lost his way and did something that could have seriously injured or even killed his teacher.  Police say he confessed to them that he put a dangerous form of acid from the science lab in her water bottle.  She drank it, but luckily got to the hospital in time to prevent any serious side-effects.  The teacher spoke to us about the incident.  She wouldn't speculate about why the boy did this, but did say she was concerned that if something wasn't done to punish the act he might do something worse in the future.

My mind kept going back to the boy in the car who ignored his mother.   I wondered what would prompt a young person to try and hurt his teacher.  I wondered at the same time why a young person would have no interest in talking to his mother to the point of tuning her out.   I think we write off too many things today as "that's just how  kids are. "  As a parent people always say to me "wait until you have teenagers."  Yet once a child crosses the line from simply disrespectful behavior to criminal behavior it's hard to get back. 

I still I have hope that  there is something we can do to bridge that divide between  young people who think the world is against them, and their parents who know that it's not.   I think the first step is to turn down the music and start talking to each other... 

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  • packandcanesfan Jan 29, 2007

    I agree with Amanda. Most children are too involved in ipods, games and computers to want to talk to anyone in the family. I grew up in an era when you talked to your parents about everything. We ate together, talked things over and whenever there was a problem, we didn't hesitate to look for guidance and comfort from our parents. I am super sensitive to this because both my parents are gone. My mom died when I was 19 and there have many many days I wish I could talk to her one more time. My dad died when I was 34 and I wish the same. Parents and children should cherish the time together. Much too soon the kids are grown or someone is gone forever.

  • sevenspringsseven Jan 16, 2007

    I'm surprised at you, Amanda. The boy is a child. The mother, through her actions (or lack thereof) has taught this boy that it is okay to behave this way. Why do you jump to the conclusion he is the non-communicative one? Mom could be the one who doesn't talk, and the boy could have been listening to an audiobook on how to get his parents to pay attention to him. You don't know that he was listening to Ramstein, getting ready to blow up a school, do you? Why is the kid the one to blame? I say anyone crediting the mom in that situation knows nothing of being a parent nor communication. How do you know they weren't just "tired" and needed some winding down time? Or that she hadn't just blessed him out for some chore he forgot to do? Nothing is ever as it seems. Shame on you for your assumption.

  • uhb Jan 12, 2007

    Considering you are a journalist, I'm quite surprised you jump to such quick conclusions with out all the facts. I can see what you witnessed is troubling. However, what you witnessed is not a disrepectful teenager, but instead a case of "bad parenting". Why is this young mans mother not engaging him in conversation? Could it be it is she who is ignoring him? I feel sorry for this kid. It's very sad these days to see that a childs family is the TV, computer, iPod, video games, etc. How many cars/minivans do you see these days with LCDs/DVD players? I know of some parents that put in ear plugs while driving so they don't have to listen or deal with their kids. I know of some other parents that make their teenager put on head phones, play video games, or read in the car so they don't have to deal with them...saying he's immature. When his parents aren't around he is well behavior, mature, and respectful. His problem? Bad parents. The problem with kids these days..bad parents.

  • Its All Right Here Jan 12, 2007

    What a shame that the persons that need to read this message probably won't see it. Maybe a video editorial piece is in order. As for me, you are right on the money.

  • renaissanceman Jan 11, 2007

    This story ties in real well with a comment I posted on the story about wake county schools issues.If they go ahead with the current conversion plan and people have children on both traditional and year round schedules the gap between kids and parents will be widened even further.

  • babyd033 Jan 11, 2007

    I talk to my daughters EVERYDAY, about everything..the news, school, even down to what's on tv. We as parents have to start taking some of the action for what our kids are doing. He should be punished to the upmost extend.

  • anggiet Jan 11, 2007

    I have two teenagers and I am proud to say that we do talk. Each day, when I get home, I ask them how their day was and get the low down on what happened at school. Suppertime discussions can be very interesting about how a certain person was treated at school or how someone reacted in to a nasty comment. When my oldest son gets home from work, we talk about what happened at work. Sometimes, it's good and sometimes it's bad, but we do talk. Don't get me wrong, I still get "leave me alone" or "will you quit talking about that", but overall, I must admit that we actually have conversations.

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WRAL's Amanda Lamb offers a behind-the-scenes look at what TV news reporters do, the people they meet and how their jobs affect them.