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A lament for the lost children

January 15, 2012

To the unparented son:

I am so sorry your mother failed you.  I’m sorry she had you so young, that she didn't go to school past sixth grade, that illiterate people raised her.

I'm sorry your best parent is the stepfather who kicked you with steel-toe boots until you blacked out.  Your life has been defined by what you were not given: enough love, enough attention, enough guidance, advocacy, safety, limits, boundaries, supervision, joy.

You were robbed of your childhood as surely as you have in turn robbed people of car stereos and yard lights. You have stolen things you do not need. I think you have done this because of what you didn’t receive.

I am sorry you stopped liking school in seventh grade.  I’m sorry you and your family members use drugs.  I'm sorry you have to attend so many meetings regarding your failings.  At one session about how to help you, there were counselors, teachers, juvenile justice practitioners, an advocate, and you.

Shockingly, your mother attended, but she only spoke to ask the group to find a way for you to pay her $150 per month.  You were 16, uneducated and unskilled, unprepared to earn even that sum.

Leaving the meeting that day, your mother told an adult, "It’s funny, I never wanted to have kids.”

I am so sorry your life is payment for her mistake.  Or rather, her mistakes.

I’m really sorry that, by the time you found people who loved you in a healthier way and could provide you with safe shelter, good advice, resources and encouragement onto a positive path, you were out of the mood.

I’m sorry that efforts to involve you in snowboarding, cooking, music, art, learning, volunteering and small-paying jobs were all met by you with a wary eye and a distrusting heart.

I'm sorry that by the time you found people who could provide you with true parenting you were unable to accept it.  I’m sorry you have been in jail.

I’m sorry no one fought for you when you were young.  I’m really sorry you are not fighting for yourself now.

To the unparented daughter:

I am sorry your brother, the unparented son, tried to kill you by strangling you until you passed out.  I am sorry your mother allowed this.

I am incredibly sorry you were punished with the iron's cord, wire hangers and belts.  I am sorry you and your brother stood in the snow as toddlers, along with your mother’s possessions, waiting for her to return and find that you were evicted.

I'm sorry your mother didn't notice when you didn’t go to school for three months.  I’m sorry that, in spite of everything, when you excelled in school and were asked to give a speech, your mother intentionally delayed you so you would miss getting to give it.  (Luckily, kind school officials gave you another opportunity.)

I’m sorry your mother defaced your favorite English assignment.  You loved that project; you worked on it for days.

I am sorry your smile, your sparkle, your intelligence, your spunk and your goals have been dimmed by illness.  I’m sorry you have been in the psychiatric ward.

I am just so sorry for all of it.  I am especially and unendingly sorry that Chris and I could not repair the damage done to you.  I am sorry to admit that I fear nothing now can make the two of you — fully — into the truly amazing people you should have so easily become.

Today, I am not sorry that you never read the paper.

---
Barb Guy writes a biweekly column for The Tribune.  She lives in Salt Lake City.

 

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