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whose child is this?

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whose child is this?

You give birth and moments after you hold your tiny child in your arms, stroke his head, look into his eyes and feel an overwhelming sense of love. You hold him close to your chest and vow to keep him safe forever. You vow to love him unconditionally.

As the first days go by, you stare in awed wonder at your child. You listen to his tiny little cries, watch as his fingers curl and uncurl, sing softly to him as his eyes close and he falls asleep on your chest, his tiny baby breaths falling softly on your neck.

You imagine what the world has in store for him. In your mind, his life fast forwards and you see your child reaping all kinds of rewards; the honor student bumper sticker, the baseball MVP, valedictorian, employee of the month. Your mind only lets you see great things ahead for your child. You don't look into your baby's eyes and envision him growing up to be a terrorist, a murderer, a junkie.

I wonder about this as I watch the news and the cops surround a car, pulling out guns and barking orders. Someone's child is in that car. Sure, he's 41 years old now, but he is still someone's son. I imagine him as a baby, his mother cradling him in her arms, brushing his cheek with her finger and silently hoping that her son will have all the good things life has to offer.

That man in the car was a baby once. Someone had hope for him. Someone held him and sang to him. He was a toddler, unsteady on his feet. He was a young boy, watching cartoons and playing ball. What happened to turn that toddler with his goofy, milk-stained grin into a killing machine?

I sit at my desk each work day and watch the parade of prisoners that are brought past my office. Some are in orange jump suits, feet shackled. There are men and women both, some well-dressed in business suits and dresses, some unkempt and reeking of alcohol. They all have their arms behind them, their wrists bound together in metal cuffs.

They were children once. They were babies who smiled and toddlers who giggled. What does a parent think as they appear in court to bail out that child? What does a parent think when they turn on the news and see their son or daughter's face in mug shot form with the words "wanted" underneath it?

I look at the tv and try to imagine killers and terrorists as babies. I see the drug addicts and petty thiefs march into the courtroom every day and I try to imagine them learning how to ride a bike, their fathers holding tight to their arms so they don't fall.

As a parent, all you want is to be proud of your child, from birth to adulthood. You want to look at them one day and say "what a fine young lady you turned out to be." I don't care if my kids end up being doctors or professional cashiers. I just want them to be good people. I want them to respect the human race and the earth they live on. I don't want to see their faces splashed on the cover of the Daily News with target signs drawn over them.

I think of mothers in other countries, mothers who praise their god when their son dies in a suicide bombing because he was able to kill many "enemies." I think of fathers who train their children in the use of explosives, parents who dress their children in weaponry and ammunition, parents who teach their children that killing is good, that being a martyr will get you free sex in the afterlife.

I can't imagine raising my child to die. I don't know what it's like to have a policeman knock on your door in the middle of the night to say your son has been arrested for manslaughter. I don't know what it's like to have your daughter call you from a payphone in the city, asking you for help in getting away from her pimp. I don't want to know.

I just know that I look at baby pictures of my children and the journals I kept for them when they were infants. I see all the hope I had for them and I worry that this world has killed the hope, has killed the chances my kids have for a future free from bombs or poverty or terror. I worry that every word I whispered to them when they were little and slept in my arms, all that talk of the world being theirs, the life that stretched before them being filled with promise and hope, I worry that I said those things in folly.

All the things that happen between infancy and young adulthood, all the things that create your path and direction and lead to your future, they are not at all controllable. I can only do my part to give my children the values and morals they need to become decent adults. But I have no control over the outside world. I have no control over the influences of people they meet outside my home, the affect the events of the chaotic world around them have on their psyche.

I just know I feel for every mother or father who has had to watch their child become something less than human. I feel for the parents who did all they could but lost their children to evil in the end.

In the end, the ultimate responsibility for a person's behavior lies with themselves. But you can bet that the parent of every serial killer, evey mass murderer, every shoplifter or hooker or societal drop-out has said to themselves at one point Where did I go wrong? How did my child go from that laughing infant to the man I see on tv in handcuffs?

That is, every parent save for the ones who bring their children up to hate and fight and kill. And to that I ask, where did the world go wrong in making it a place where parents like that exist?

Teach your children well. It's the only thing you can do to help make your future and their future one that doesn't involve hatred and gunfire.

(note: the preceding was not what I sat down to write this morning. It's just what came out. It may be edited later for clarity once I really wake up)


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The headlines today in the Netherlands include the following story :

2 18 year olds on scooters nearly knocked over an elderly woman in the parking lot of a grocery store. A 22 year old man comes up and tells them to show some respect towards the elderly. The 2 18 year old boys procede to beat the shit out of the 22 year old.

The 22 year old man died the other day as the result of this beating.

I have 3 kids that I'm trying to raise well. Sometimes I wonder if I'm raising them to be good people who will one day get the shit kicked out of them.

These times scare me.

is there a way we can put our kids in a deep freeze until all of the bad times are over? the way the world is becoming is making me sad as well. i know however that the only way to help your children grow into good adults is by example. i also try to provide all the information and tools they need to survive in this world. i would hope that my daughters would stand up for an old woman getting knocked down on the street, but i also hope they do it after their latest kickboxing class.

no editing neccesary.


Yet another magnificent post!! PLEASE do NOT edit or re-write it, it expresses the views of so many many parents (& grandparents).

Don't touch a single comma.

wow.. excellent piece of writing here!

Michele - don't change a thing. We can only hope that the 41 year old was hugged and cradled during his infancy. As you well know there are babies/children who do not get that love and attention and although I am not saying that they are the ones to grow up and be horrible adults I really do think that maybe something was missing. Maybe I am wrong - I hope so.

Very well written and thought provoking.

Put me in with the "no editing needed" crowd. Michelle, it was a beautiful and heartfelt post. Thank you.

Put me in with the "no editing needed" crowd. Michelle, it was a beautiful and heartfelt post. Thank you.

Ditto the above

Spot On!

Why ya gotta make me cry already this morning? sniff Great great great stuff.

Very eloquently put. Please don't edit it....usually the stuff that just comes out without any conscious thought is pure and perfect. Editing stuff like this never quite works out.

well, I was going to write "Good writing, Michele." but it looks like I'm a little late. Good post anyway.

'stream of consciousness' writing at it's best. don't change a thing.

Damn, Michele. Thank you.

Thank you for saying this....

Thank you for saying this....