Parents Must Leave Vital Legacy

Despite the rosy statistics that speak to improved circumstances for the younger generation waiting to take their rightful place of leadership in the world, some headline-grabbing events say we old-timers still have much to overcome. Moreover, things may not be quite as rosy as they seem for our children.

Teen sexual activity, pregnancies, violence and overall drug use are down from the past decade. That’s good. What’s not good is that those who are going overboard in those typical teen vices are doing it in a no-holds-barred, extreme way as if consequences don’t exist for them

Where does this notion of immunity to the pain of wrong-doing come from? One answer might be a numbness fed by overexposure to advertising and media tripe. Another is parental abdication of guidelines for decent behavior. How about the proliferating gospel of tolerance or the ineffectiveness of many churches to reach youth with a message of absolute truth? Try this on for size: You’re wounded, therefore you aren’t responsible for your actions.

Any of those fit?

We Baby Boomers are watching time slip through our fingers like water. What can we leave as a legacy for our children? High expectations, for one thing. We can give them our daily example of responsible behavior and we can give them our time in quantities that say we love them. We can stay married and teach them what community responsibility and charitable giving is all about, that is if we haven’t forgotten ourselves. In short, we can give them emotional security and a sense of purpose.

How much of our own depression and emptiness is actually a result of the guilt we suffer because we’ve failed our kids or because we keep alive the cycle of trauma that was passed on by our own parents? We owe it to this generation to let the buck stop with us.

Our community is no exception to the outbreak of stress or depression-fed acts of violence that we’ve come to know all too well as a nation. It is tragic beyond words to watch helplessly as estranged spouses lash out at each other or children kill their own parents. One such recent victim was a childhood friend of mine. What is equally tragic, but seldom noted, are the many nameless people who suffer in silence, believing themselves to be unloved or unworthy of any happiness.

We give the pat response that help is available, but how easy is it to find? I knocked on doctors’ and counselors’ doors for years before I found the relief I so desperately sought from the ravaging clutches of major depressive disorder. I paid out of pocket in some cases and utilized insurance where I could. It takes relentless and stubborn determination, and the help of a loving family member, to navigate the murky waters of our HMO-driven health system in many cases. Randomly dispensing medication — some of which may exacerbate violence — for mental health problems is not the answer, but it is the typical response of the average health care provider.

Our county mental health programs are equally ineffective. Visiting doctors may schedule follow-up appointments every other month when patients clearly need more frequent monitoring, especially during medication adjustments. I have a brother in Amherst County who lives at the mercy of such a system. Many people cannot afford private care and have no other recourse.

I pity the school teachers who are left to pick up the pieces of our broken families in their classrooms all too often. We’ve created a social monster that must be stopped. It can only be stopped one family at a time. In the words of John Eyberg, "Truth hurts — not the searching after, the running from."

© 2000 Deborah M. Thurman