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Saturday, January 8, 2011

Consequences

Three months ago today, they began for us.

Cameron woke up and looked at the clock- 7:15.  "Oh no, we'll be late to school!" he thought... and then he remembered.  We went to a movie, and as the credits rolled across the dark screen, I reached for my cell phone to call the babysitter and check in... and then I remembered.  Her cat, Buster,  was curled up lazily by the back door.  He is rarely allowed in and knows his place on the floor when he is.  From the sofa, I played a clip of her talking on my laptop, and Buster bolted across the room and leapt on the couch looking for her.

There are a million of these moments.  Moments when time stands still, our breath disappears, and reality pounces on us with stabs of merciless pain.  Even when we have temporarily distracted ourselves, the uninvited moments intrude.  They bombard us at the most unexpected times. 

There may be consequences for the individual(s) responsible, but most of the consequences of their choices are for us- strangers.  We do not live in a bubble.  Who will your decisions affect today, next week, next year, for the rest of their lives?  Our society has created a false illusion for our youth- that there is a period between childhood and adulthood when your choices have no consequences.  We excuse away their behavior and say they are "only having fun."  We tell them they can have freedom without responsibility... unlimited fun without accountability.  This false sense of indestructibility and power without an expectation to function like the rest of us is so appealing that many continue to live in it through their 20's and 30's.  

We have lied to them and done them a disservice.  While other cultures have an early coming of age and expect their youth to contribute responsibly to society and abide by its rules, we have given ours permission to make decisions that destroy their lives and those of others.  Meanwhile we close our eyes, pat them on the back, and tell them to have fun while they are 'teens.'

Is it fun to have an STD and maybe later ensuing infertility?  Is it fun to flunk out of school and depend on your parents for livelihood?  Is it fun to have a baby alone?  Is it cool to have recreational fun... I mean, to develop addictions and dysfuntional behavior that will scar your future family and relationships?  Is it fun to wake up and know you have killed someone's only child???  But maybe they patted this teen on the back, gave them another car, and said it's ok... you're just a teenager.

Maybe not.

What I know for sure is that no one can pat us on the back and make it better.  A part of us will be broken and missing as long as we have breath on this earth.  We will always wonder what she should be doing now- performing in her Tinkerbell ballet, graduating from preschool, high school, or college, planning her wedding, having her babies...  She wanted her hair to be long for her wedding and her dress to come "all the way down to the bottom."  She always said she was going to marry Daddy until recently when her best friend proposed to her on the playground.  "I said I will marry him because I love him," she confided to her grandmother.  She drew a picture of her birthday party and told her teacher she wanted a pool party for her 5th birthday.

Do we continue to strive to choose forgiveness?  Yes.  Does that mean no consequences?  No. Consequences?  There will be no more birthdays, no more ballet, and no wedding for our precious daughter.  There is no end for us here.  No resolution.  The moments will continue to find us- the strangers- but she will not.

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