Life is hard.
Being a kid is hard, being an adult is hard. Being a parent is hard.
Life is not fair.
There’s no doubt about it.
When two of our daughters were young, very young, one of them did something and she got away with it.
Briefly. Until the other one told on her.
When we found out about it we punished her accordingly. She was six, so it was six year-old issues and six year-old consequences. But, I remember her being upset-not that she’d done it, necessarily-but that if we wouldn’t have been told about it, she wouldn’t have gotten in trouble for it, wouldn’t have had to have been held accountable for her actions and not had to suffer the consequences for them. She was mad at the person who told on her, at first more-so than she was upset that she’d done the wrong thing.
As parents, we have had to teach our kids all along the way that you’re always presented with choices to make and that no matter what, you have to accept the consequences of your actions, whatever they are and whether or not you feel it’s fair, even if it’s truly not fair at all. You must take responsibility-at all costs, no matter who you are, how old you are, where you are. You have the power to choose your actions and you have to deal with the outcome, so be fully prepared for that.
With age, our kids’ lessons have gotten more serious as their actions have gotten more serious and their decisions or choices have carried more weight. We’ve watched as they have cried over a poor decision, and asked us what can be done to change the outcome, and we’ve tried to remind them that there’s nothing that can be done, that they made a choice, a bad one, and the outcome is what it is, the blame and the accountability is theirs alone, and the consequences-be what they may- are also theirs to deal with.
Fair or not fair. It doesn’t matter.
We’ve watched and tried to make teachable moments out of widely publicized celebrity mistakes as those in the public eye are forced to make very public apologies, or to live out very widely publicized consequences. We’ve reminded our kids that no matter how wonderful the person may have been at their job, at their sport, at being a regular, every day person, that this is now the only thing they’ll ever be remembered for. We’ve watched as teens we don’t even know threw away their lives with just one bad choice, one bad post, one bad decision. We’ve mourned that loss for them and for their parents, and reminded our kids sadly, that this is what happens. One single second can change your life.
We’ve reiterated again and again how it is so important to make good choices, no matter who you are, what job you do, how famous or wealthy you are or how old you are. None of that matters, only your choice matters, because no matter what, the outcome is your responsibility, and yours alone. The consequences of one bad choice may affect you for the rest of your life. You might be 5, 15 or 50. It doesn’t matter. It’s the difference between a good choice and a bad choice.
Recently, I read a news report about an individual who made some pretty bad choices. I was disappointed to read it, but no more so than anything else I’ve read or seen shared online in the past. It was another good person who made a bad choice.
Or so I thought.
I was shocked-and maybe naively so- as the person who broke the story in the news was criticized time and time again for sharing the story and for sharing it in detail. The news post was then shared over and over and over again as individuals made the choice to continue to break the news themselves on social media, and other news outlets took the story and posted it as well. In today’s world, media isn’t limited to just the newspapers and television channels, it’s private people who report out what they’re seeing and reading as well. It’s media and it’s social media.
I waited for someone to say that the person, who may have been a really good person, had made a very bad choice, that being in the media and social media spotlight now was a really bad consequence to their really bad choice and subsequent actions, not the fault of the news outlet for sharing it. But yet, no one did. It seemed that the fault was on the media. They heard, they told, they shared, they sensationalized.
I wasn’t shocked as a journalist. I have no misconceptions about the fact that media bashing takes place, and that at times it may be deserved, I’m sure. I try to keep my journalistic integrity in check with the choices I make in my own job, and no matter what job I’ve held in the past, in all of my years teaching or owning a business, I’ve always done the same. I’ve watched as people have commented in the past that a particular news story is too detailed, or that a story is not detailed enough and is just a tease, that people are hungry for more sordid details. I’ve watched as people have tried to decide what is newsworthy and what is not. And then I’ve watched as they’ve perpetuated the said awfulness of it all, continuing to share it on social media themselves.
Overall, I was mostly just shocked as a parent. Horrified even.
This is the very lesson we’ve been trying to teach our kids for the past almost two decades: your situation now is no one’s fault but your own. This is the very reason, in my personal opinion as a parent, why we have some of the issues we have, why there is such a lack of accountability in the wider world. It seems that the belief is that one’s current situation is always someone else’s fault.
If this were my child, and they came to me and said that if someone hadn’t told on them, and someone else hadn’t told someone else, that no one would’ve known, I’d have to sadly say that they made a bad choice, and that these were the really awful, maybe not even fair, consequences to that really bad choice. And that short of having made a better choice earlier on, that there was nothing that they could do about it now except be accountable for their actions and suffer the consequences of those actions. And that I’m really sorry, possibly even devastated if it is that bad a decision, that they chose to make such a poor decision.
There’s no way to ensure that our kids will always make good choices. I hope and pray, and pray some more, that they will, but I can’t guarantee it. We’re no better and no different than anyone else and our kids are not perfect children, we’re all human, but we try to be good role models and we try to foster in them a good moral compass with which to weigh their decisions. I worry day in and day out about the multitude of bad options that exist out there for them to have to walk away from, but I hope and pray that they do. It’s not reality to think that if you do something wrong, it won’t be told and re-told time and time again, possibly spun out of control and become part of your life’s story, unfortunately.
It’s not easy to navigate life, and we never said it was.
But I hope that they realize that if they make a bad choice, they own it and all that comes with it, no matter who told on them or how much they said. If nothing else, we’ve at least tried to teach them that much.