Dispatches from a Reporter's Notebook

Child's Play

Posted January 10, 2007 6:16 p.m. EST

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... 

About this Blog:

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.