greenspun.com : LUSENET : TimeBomb 2000 (Y2000) : One Thread

I have a friend who is a single mom and works extremly hard to support her three children, ages 9,14,and 15. Her 14 year old dauter is extremly wild. She screems and tells her mother she hates her if she is not allowed to do what she wants. Recently the girl has been caught with cigaretts at school twice and her mother had two take her to court both times and pay her fine. She can barely aford to feed them even though she gets food stamps, much less pay the fines. The girl beats up on her little sister who is deaf and was premature sick baby.

Grounding no longer works. Lectures do not work. I have suggested to her that it is time she take a board to the childs' behind. She has always refused to hit her children in any way. well, the other day the girl was refusing to clean up her room and screaming like a baby so my friend slapped her in the face once and grabbed a shoe and hit her on the leg. There were not even any red marks on the girls body but the girl screamed that she was going to call the police. Her mother hands her the phone and tells her to go ahead because she felt she had done nothing wrong.

When the police got there, The girl told them that her mom had body-slammed her to the floor and beat her in the face with a shoe. Even though there were no marks on her and the police questioned the other two children who told them that the girl lied, they arrested my friend for felony assault!

Since when are parents not allowed to discipline there children but the schools are allowed to break a board over them, leaving bruises. Something is definatly wrong with our system. No wonder so many of our children are going wild.

Not only did the police not read her her rights but they put her in the back seat of the car with another maniac man who was arrested for waving a bunch o twelve inch knives at some teenagers.

My friend called an attourney and he told her that the police broke no laws! Is my friend being railroaded or what!

what has gotten into todays' children? I would've soon died as to have my parents arrested.

-- sharon (halyman@bellsouth.net), February 12, 2000


Put the daughter away in a boarded warehouse for deliquents. Can't Mom just give her to the State? The brat deserves it.

Slapping a kid, no matter who does it, probably won't do a whole lot of good, and just teaches the kid to lash out with physical violence, which will get them in trouble.

The parent can say, "Look, you don't like it here, you can go somewhere else." The parent should have called the police van a long time ago.

-- tough love (no@more.criminals), February 12, 2000.

I forgot to mention that dwhen the mother got out on bail the next day, the daughter had hit her little sister in the face with a flower pot. So, the mother called the police on her daughter and they took her daughter to juvenile. But the mother had to go and get her within 24 hours because they told her that anytime longer than that and the state would require 21% of the mothers' income! What are our tax dollars for then!?

-- sharon (halyman@bellsouth.net), February 12, 2000.

Oh! thats right. Our taxes have to pay for russias' nuclear program

-- sharon (halyman@bellsouth.net), February 12, 2000.

Why does your friend have three kids without a dad around?

How can anyone expect children to learn values when no one is home to teach them?

Choosing to be a single parent sets up the kids to fail. They don't get to watch loving parents work out differences. Instead, some 16 year old high school girl working at a daycare for minimum wage teaches her version of "Family Values", while mom works (or dates).

Now, no excuses about how she "had to leave the bum" 'cuz he was a drunk. That being the case, why did she marry him? Or did she just shack up & pop out kids without planning for their future health?

-- FatherKnowsBest (Where'sDad?@brokenhome.com), February 12, 2000.

I agree with you. However, the father was a bum. She left him because he was beating her and he was a drug addict and an alcoholic. It is sad that she has to go through HELL because of that one mistake 15 years ago. Now her kids are set up for failier. I guess there is nothing she can do. I just wanted to vent my frustrations out about how our system is denying the parents the right to discipline their children the way they ought to. Then, on the other side, you have these parents who do abuse there children. Iguess its a no-win situation.

-- sharon (halyman@bellsouth.net), February 12, 2000.


I don't mean to belabor the point, but...

Your friend did not make one mistake, she has THREE children. She continued to sleep with the guy, bringing children into a home filled with damaging influences.

My wife and I raise goats and Guardian dogs. We discuss, for weeks, the attributes and shortcomings of potential sires and dams (moms & dads). How much thought goes into most adult's decision as to the character of potential parents for the children? How much pre- planning for income, schooling, back up systems (grandparents)?

Your friend is not a victim. She created the child that now torments her. Now, we (society), pay to raise the child, provide food for the child and will probably pay to incarcerate the child.

All this means that each of us (who PAY taxes) needs to spend a little less time with our own children since we have to put in a bit more time providing welfare for the people who made poor choices.

My advice to Mom?

"My way or the highway" It's too late to save the daughter. Cut your losses and do what you can for the other kids.

Oh, and have your tubes tied.

-- FatherKnowsBest (Where'sDad?@brokenhome.com), February 12, 2000.

How about the clean cut guy with a good job and good family that gets in love with drugs and abandoned his family---or lays around with a bottle in his hand----or the man that ups and dies on you--how about another good guy, long time friend that marries you and begins to pound the living hell out of you and then your kids? Where are the values? WHOS? It is just too easy to make grand statments about what people should do---as for the daughter? Suggestions: Turn her over to the state, if allowed. Get a restraigning order against her. Turn her over to child protective agency--she is abusing her sister. Mom will have to borrow muscle and influence with her daughter---check into drug and alcohol use. As a last resort--simply move away with no forwarding address or linkage for the daughter to Follow---living with a terrorist of any age is too much to expect of any human being/family--I know--child abandonment--I don't have any suggestions for that other than to give her address to the local police and run like hell----my opinion only. Some of the kids I've seem simply develop these awful behaviors seemingly out of nowhere. Back in the 80's we were warned that a generation of sociopaths were being created--no ability to care of others. Due in part to drug/alcohol use prenatally--generally by the mother, although there is some interesting data to suggest that the father only, can set this in motion--also to concider is environmental contaminants affecting the unborn brain. I guess in these severe cases, there is a priority to be concidered--the welfare of the acting out teen or the welfare of the family. Awful difficult situation--good luck.

-- everywhere (prejudice@home.com), February 12, 2000.

I can only support the good answers already provided. Breeding only compounds the life long struggle. Sure it takes two but in 9 cases out of 10 who gets to take care of them? This example is one of only thousands I've read before where if they had only taken care with birth control they wouldn't have dug themselves such a deep pit.

Vasectomies and tubal ligations should be free but of course that's impossible because the liberals would be upset about violating the rights to unlimited reproduction above all else.

-- Guy Daley (guydaley@bwn.net), February 12, 2000.

Geez.....I see that compassion hardly abounds here.......sad.....

By 14 years old, physical punishment is not appropriate....we're not talking about a 2 year old who can quickly be brought back to attention by a short smack on the bum.

14 year olds today are more like 18 year olds of a generation ago.....they have grown up much faster. Bottom line , you cannot be held hostage by a teenager even if they are your own child. As hard as it is, by that age if behaviour becomes extreme you need to consider handing them over to the state......group home.....whatever. Not a hasty decision based on a few misdemeanors......that's normal teenager stuff. But continued abuse and violence and refusal to act like a civilized person cannot be allowed to take over a household.

Physically beating is wrong and is the type of reaction behavior that has resulted in our sad world today where wars are rampant.....you don't like what someone (or country) has done so you kick the shit out of them..........

Make it plain, the behavior improves drastically or they can go and live somewhere else!

-- Craig (craig@ccinet.ab.ca), February 12, 2000.

I believe your right. I think that some children do develop these awful behaviors out of nowhere. I grew up in a loving home with one brother.He was three years older than me. My father was and still is a drug addict. I almost fell in his footsteps. But thanks to my loving mother who tried to raise us right, and a little common sense of my own, I did not.

My brother however, God rest his soul, overdosed on morephine(i think that's how you spell it) last saturday and we burried him Tuesday in Clayton, GA. He was 35 years old and has been in and out of mental hospitals since he was 18. The whole time we were growing up he was extremely depressed. I have cried all week but I keep thinking about the fact that he is not miserable anymore

-- sharon (halyman@bellsouth.net), February 12, 2000.


It is true that 14 year olds today are not as they used to be. I still can't help but believe that (for a child) fear of ones parent is the first step in true respect. Love them enough to let them hate you for a while. "Spare the rod and you will spoil the child." I'm not talking about hitting out of anger. This is only an opinion coming from my own childhood upbringing. I know that no two children are alike and I am unexperienced in parenting by choice. But I can't help but notice how societies children are growing madder every year. They will probably grow up and have children who are worse than they.

-- sharon (halyman@bellsouth.net), February 12, 2000.

Guy--and others--FYI--If you are poor enough to be on public assistance you can get tubals and vasectomies free in some states. In others, I believe Planned Parenthood is available, but I don't know if they charge---also, in some states, again, if you are on public funding, you can get birth control items from the pharmacy paid by your medical coupon. Condoms, spermacide etc. And one note for the women--if you are on birth control pills and are taking antibiotics you can get pregnant---the antibiotics block the action of the BC formula---I know of about 10-15 a year in my very small corner of the world who have gotten pg this way. I don't know what the national stats are on this, but non-the-less, they keep coming in pg, so I am assuming the word is not being spread.

-- Everywhere (prejice@home.com), February 12, 2000.

sharon--very sorry. Rest easy now.

-- Everywhere (prejudice@home.com), February 12, 2000.

You know, if I were a kid in today's world I might just be spitting nails too. Especially if I had been deprived of a Daddy or my Mommy thought she should still be Juliet and not Juliet's mother. I would be plotting my escape from such a sorry world and it wouldn't be pretty. Kids understand what today's adults have forgotten. Once you have kids, it's not about YOU anymore. They expect you to be stong and logical and rational and fair and just. Saying "Oh, my child doesn't need a Dad, he has me" is asking to have that thrown back at you later, bile included. Saying "I have a right to my happiness" while ignoring your child's happiness is cruel and they know it. And there is a special place in hell for Dads who turn their back on their own flesh and blood and they should not be surprised if in 18 years someone shows up to help send them there.

My escape wouldn't be pretty because I would have NO FUTURE. Let's see. By age 14 in a public school I would have been "educated" on how NOT to do things. How NOT to smoke, how NOT to litter, how NOT to do drugs, how NOT to get AIDS---NOT NOT NOT NOT DON'T DON'T DON'T

I would have heard the polically correct social agenda a thousand times since I was a first grader. I would have heard how I was the "hope of the future" and wondered who had the gall to lay that burden on my back and then proceed to NOT educate me. NOT teach me how to sit still on by butt and study something until I understood it. NOT to threaten my Mom with flunking my butt if she didn't get rid of the TV so I could concentrate.

Kids should be able to go to school to get a reprieve from miserable home lives. Instead, the upsidedown priorities of the schools just make kids crazier.

If I were a 14 year old in today's world, I would sure sense that I had been cheated out of something LARGE and would be seething with rage and hungry for some sort of revenge. Somebody's gonna pay for robbing me of my future. Living well is the best revenge, but that's been stolen from me because of my lousy education.

Today's children live in a world where reality can't be recognized and where the adults are all cowards and secretly suffering from an huge inferiority complex. First they get frustrated with the mixed messages then they go stark raving nuts.

You people with young children---get them out of the schools for their own good. Get them out of the schools for YOUR own good. When you're sixty nine and retired do you want to be at the tender mercies of these incompetant bizzaro fruitcakes or would you like the company of a decent civilized human being that is grateful for the effort you put in raising them and the fond memories they have of the closeness everyone had when they were young? HMMMMMMM? I think the choice is easy, but most people are too lazy to make the move. A million excuses, the main one being that they need the public school baby sitter so they can work.

I have a friend who raised 8 children in a homemade Yurt in the backwoods in Washington. They used to have to move every so often to keep ahead of the child protective services who could never prove abuse but thought the living situation was cruel because it was so rustic. Everybody pitched in to make the family work. Older kids were involved in the education of the younger. There was a Mom and a Dad. There was no money and no TV, and they are some of the nicest people you would ever want to meet.

Oh, and by the way, read Robert L. Kocher to see how bad off American society really is. http://www.zolatimes.com/writers/kocher.html

Sympathy and compassion won't work here. You can't make anybody feel OK about any of this. Pity and patronization just gets you another government program that treats human beings like helpless animals. That's lousy for "self-esteem" too. While this girl has so much energy and drive toward destruction, direct it toward some FUNCTION were the results are hers alone to take pride in. Drill sargent like "encouragement" is probably needed until she figures out the ropes. Then tell her to get herself free and never look back.

Oh, yeah. And have a nice day.

-- JIT (justintime@rightnow.net), February 12, 2000.

The fact that she was arrested for disciplining her child, but liable for 21% of income when her child gets in trouble, is the Catch-22 our government has set up for today's parents: parents are responsible for the actions of their children, but their hands are legally tied from doing anything to keep those actions under control.

-- Markus Archus (markus@archus.com), February 12, 2000.


You took the words right out of my mouth!

Thank you!

-- sharon (halyman@bellsouth.net), February 12, 2000.

I had a friend in a situation that was also pretty messy. Only her problems were mostly with her sons, especially the eldest. She had three boys, and a daughter.

She left her drunk, abusive husband when her children were in elementary school, and henceforth worked two to three minimum wage jobs to support her kids. I don't know if its even possible for a single parent to "do it all," and my friend did do some things to try to raise her kids right. (By the way, she also grew up in war-torn Nicaragua, seeing many horrible sights, including a pregnant woman shot before her eyes, which is a factor in some of her responses, I'm sure.)

Unfortunately, my friend didn't have tough love for her kids, and wouldn't take advice to that effect either. Even from friends willing to give her any support needed to get through the situation.

Her sons had money to buy alcohol and drugs, though they didn't help with the bills (the money was from jobs they needed cars to get to). Their mother helped them with car insurance, even though they used the car to go to bars, and to escape her supervision. They slept with their girlfriends even at home (euphemistically speaking), yet there were no repercussions. Only my friend's daughter was expected to help at home, and she rebelled too as she saw the double standard.

I used to think my friend just didn't know what her kids were doing, and that things were just happening behind her back, while she was at work. But one day, when I called her house, her daughter answered the phone. I heard the party going on in the background, and my friend laughing with her sons and their friends. It was a drugs-and-alcohol party. Later, when I confronted my friend about the illegality of the gathering, and the danger to her as-yet-innocent daughter (prime rape environment), she countered that it was "better to have them do it at her house than somewhere else unsupervised."

Her daughter, obviously, got into drugs and alcohol too, and her mom wouldn't always notice when she didn't come home. Soon, as the eldest son became verbally abusive and drank more and more, no longer able to hold a job as he had while in highschool, my friend came to enjoy being at work more than at home. And paying for her sons' car insurance and for groceries to feed her now-grown offspring provided a ready justification for being at work all the time.

These were the results of years of parenting in which my friend failed to make hard decisions, and to set the standard for her kids even though they wouldn't like her when she did it. She needed them to like her, since they were all she had. And she was tired from her work, so it was easier to just put up a good front and let the kids go. Keeping the really bad problems hidden was the only imperative.

Only when the money dried up, because my friend got married and moved away, no longer working at all, did two of the boys start to turn around. The eldest at least has to stop drinking long enough to earn money to live on, which has been very beneficial. The daughter is also now leading a normal life too, though her turn-around was in spite of her mom's opposition (long story--longer than this one :-)). My friend had trouble with a habit of "enabling" her kids' destructive behavior. She didn't even realize when she was doing it.

Parents need to know where their kids are, even if they're single parents. There is evidence when kids are breaking the rules, if someone wants to see it. The only thing I see that you can do once they're out of control (spanking isn't going to work on a teen, IMO) is refuse to support them under those conditions--foster homes, etc. are available.

I've seen kids that are out of control turn around when expected to turn around by someone who is consistent, cares about them whether they return it or not, and who has the emotional reserve to provide stability and limits that are always there, not only when a crisis is reached.

Of course, torture might be easier, but how neat if it works.

-- S. Kohl (kohl@hcpd.com), February 12, 2000.

There are many tales of woe related to child rearing. One poster says oh they made bad decisions and WE have to pay. Dear poster that is part of life in SOCIETY. If you want to be a lone wolf then go be one but part of human society is helping others when they have made mistakes. I am sure you are not perfect and have made mistakes but from the way you talk you have not infinged upon anyone else at all when you made your mistakes- RIGHT!

I do not feel the gov. is the answer to all problems and would like to see much less gov. but PEOPLE DO NEED TO HELP PEOPLE.

As for teenagers --gads, I raised one who is 26 now and become human again and have a 13 1/2 year old that I "feel" like hiding out from on occasion :-) BUT I have to stay in control of her until she has proven she is adult enough to stand on her own feet and control herself. I know from raising them how they can push you to the limit from just their mouth.

In life if a person can not control him/herself then that person needs to be controlled by another--period-- no age boundry.

If I had an under majority age child that raised their hand to me or a much younger sibling then we would have a major problem. That hand raising child would be so sat upon with controled order he/she would only be allowed to inhale and exhale without permission.

I don't mean hitting but if a child raised a hand then that arm would get "firmly" held in the air till the blood drained from their hand and even their face from the words they would hear from my mouth and I don't mean shouting vulgarity. --- YOU lower your voice while holding the arm firmly, looking staight into their eye about three inches away from yours, speak very firmly what they are going to do and what you are going to do. This is not a request or a discussion so they do not get to speak, but AN ORDER, the parent is in charge, so says God, so says the law and so say I the parent.

That child would not be allowed any phone, TV, radio, movies, pleasure books, magazines, make up for a girl, new clothes or shoes or sweet snacks or even juice only water and milk, if they push it, until behavior was greatly altered and self control was proven. During this same time period they would have regular chores that would be checked and cross checked to make sure they were done as ordered. They WILL learn order and self control. (this much authority does not need to be used in everyday life but when raising a hand to a parent or a younger sibling it is called for)

THEY may "hate" you until they learn they must submit to your authority but that is part of the job. Part of being a parent IS a job. It must be done and there is no time off or holidays or walking away to another position. When you have a child you have a job until they are raised to adulthood. Once the child has passed the stage of childhood they WILL see what you did out of love and concern and will love you. To many parents don't want their child to be angry with them. You have to realize you are in it for the long term goal, producing a mature, responsible adult not a crazed uncontroled maniac.

NOW as to when a child reaches adulthood. The law here says 18. I think MOST children should start to become responsible for their own financial upkeep by age 16. The child will love having the responsibility if you raise them that there is also a priviledge gained by accepting the responsiblity. I raise my children this way. My children have not been perfect (they have had the teen age mouths that most show at this age) but they have passed the life tests so far.

PERSONAL story (My oldest could not wait to get a job. When she was about 6 she made her first sale and has loved sales ever since. Her grandaddy came for a visit and when he was leaving she lured him over to her area by the steps with some lovely rocks she had found. She explained the value of each, pointing out the individual beauty to him. He stood smilling down at his little curly haired, blonde beauty who he adored and listened patiently as she looked at him with her wide gray green eyes in astonishment and spoke of the wonders of rocks she had found. He asked her a few questions as he certainly did not want to make a bad purchase and then he decided he would buy several of her rocks for a few dollars. She was thrilled and learned another life lesson, present your case in the right manner and you can motivate people to your way. She has used this very successfully since. Every time we went to the local plant nursery when she was just age 14 she started bugging the managers for a job and asking questions about all the merchandise but they would tell her not yet you are not old enough. When she was 15 they finally they gave in to her and said if she got the permit from the school required by law they would let her come work on the weekends, she was thrilled and loved the job, and they loved her and gave her more responsibilty in time. She saved her money bought her own car, paid the insurance and purchased her own clothes. She continued working through HS at different jobs and even played basketball for the team, while maintaining a B average as required by MOM. Dated steadly and went to four proms at two different schools. Became a pet store manager at age 19. By the time she was 21 she was a manager at a major retailer with a staff of 10 making more money than I ever have, had a much better truck then a car and a little apt. of her own. Now at 26 she has a job she is enjoying and is engaged to be married. Now when her little sister messes up she talks to her and explains how life works and it makes me pleased to hear her speak so. It is also nice to have another adult giving support in raising my youngest; it makes life easier :-) this time around.) RESPONSIBILITY WORKS - WORK MAKES RESPONSIBLE ADULTS!

There are parts of the USA community that are opening discussions regarding having teenagers become more than "parasites" on their parents at an earlier age. Part of the idea is to get rid of High Schools and at the age of 14 the child goes to a more college type enviorment or a trade school. This way the child will learn more what results are produced from their actions at a younger age. In past history children became more responsible at a much younger age. WE as a society have babied our children too long. We need to teach them what becoming an adult is all about not hand feed them everything like they are little parasites until they are 18 or 21 and then expect them to know how to preform as an adult.

By the time I was 17 I had three part time jobs and went to school with a B average, bought my own (older) car, not given a new car at 16 like so many children today. From age 12 my parents did not have to buy any of my clothes or shoes or give me spending money as I earned my own income to purchase them from baby sitting and cleaning neighbors houses on the weekends. At age 17 I loved the fact that I could say that if I earned the money and bought my own clothes then I should be allowed the freedom to choose the style I wanted (DAD did not like mini skirts - I did :-). He did not like my skirts any better but I had a point. Dad raised us with the words that if you want more freedom then you must accept show you are responsible and can handle it "because with every freedom comes a equal responsiblity" he would say.

MOST of the child today are not raised with true responsiblity but have been given the freedoms. THIS is a major problem and should be changed.

BTW I don't need a boot camp from the state when I have my own voice!

From - A single Mom who's CURRENT child has been on principal honor roll for years.

-- A SINGLE MOM (child@whatage.com), February 12, 2000.

Coldblooded hitting with a board in anger is assault.Pure and simple. And with someone who already may have poor impulse control, it validates a real strong message: it's OK for stronger people to beat up on weaker people. That little girl will remember it when your friend is elderly and vulnerable.Better to figure out how to heal this rift right now before it gets any worse.

Where do you live that schools are allowed to beat people? Most states have abolished allowing physical punishment in the schools.

Clearly the child has some problems. But looking beyond that, I see some things that suggest this may not have come out of nowhere. Little sister was born when the 14 year old was around kindergarten. That premature and deaf baby must have taken up a whole lot of Mom's time and energy at a time when a kindergartener is just learning how to handle independence.Then with Mom being a single working mom, it's always a game of catch-up trying to handle the details of everyday life, let alone be able to give the sort of quality time three kids individually need.

Perhaps this can lead to some effective family counselling that looks at the entire family, and can teach them better ways of living together. Seeing that they are receiving food stamps, if there are social services people who can hear this cry for help that this episode has raised there may be ways of getting the help needed.

-- Firemouse (firemouse@fcmail.com), February 12, 2000.

I live in Tennessee,close to Nashville. The schools here still beat children, but they have to have the parents' permission. My friend would not give them permission even though the principle practically begged my friend to let him paddle her daughter. She once told him that "Since it was against the law for her to do it, there was no way in hell she was going to let him do it." I have to hand it to her on that statement!

I want to thank each of you for your thoughts and opinions. I have gained a little more insight that maybe I could share with her.

-- sharon (halyman@bellsouth.net), February 13, 2000.


I hear these stories everyday at work. These kids are called "monsters" in staff training films. Really, that is the clinical term used in the staff intervention training films. I've watched these families dragged through the system for years.

The .gov funds the legal system, funds the research which defines the mental health interventions, and dictates to insurance companies what techniques are to be reimbursable.

IMHO, the legal and mental health systems contribute to the problem, and that is why it has become epidemic. Ironically, the families who get involved with their church instead of the .gov are the families which improve.

My annonymous advice as a mental health professional with national credentials and international research experience would be for your friend to instead rely on the support of her community church, and avoid the corrupt .gov agencies.

-- Hokie (Hokie_@hotmail.com), February 13, 2000.


Thanks for the link. I spent the last 3 hours there, and agree with a lot of what was posted.

-- Hokie (Hokie_@hotmail.com), February 13, 2000.


Moms who look the other way

Authorities say "enabling" mothers are at the root of many neighborhoods' crime problems

Sunday, February 13, 2000

By Robin Franzen of The Oregonian staff

The older, church-going woman heads off to work, leaving at her house several unemployed, drug-dealing and drug-abusing adults. They are her children, grandchildren and their friends.

Two are out cold on the couch. Clothing is strewn everywhere. A heroin spoon sits on the dresser as if it were a family heirloom.

Police have warned her that it's illegal to harbor criminal activity and that the city can close her house for a year if it persists. But she still hasn't found it within herself to send anyone packing.

Police finally decide for her. As officers handcuff four of the seven, who have outstanding warrants, the distraught matron screams, not at the freeloaders, but at the men and women in blue. "You're harassing me on my day off."

Police have a name for women like this: "enabling moms."

And in extreme cases, the havoc these women can wreak on otherwise pleasant neighborhoods by ignoring criminal or nuisance behavior in their own households is a constant source of grief. For neighbors. And for police officers like Officer Marci Jackson of Northeast Precinct, who offers blunt advice: "Eventually, you have to unplug the umbilical cord," she tells moms who rarely listen. Instead, she says, "they sit there, while their kids suck the life right out of them."

In rich neighborhoods and poor, enabling moms exist by the dozens, police say, offering lame excuses when anyone suggests their adult children are deadbeats.

He's looking for a job. At least I know where she is. They're all good kids. Mothers aren't supposed to turn their children out onto the street.

In the post-feminist age, this kind of blind, apron-strings devotion is a touchy topic, says Aaron Kipnis, a Santa Barbara, Calif., psychologist and author who has explored the link between parenting, gender roles and delinquency.

And it's one of the most deep-rooted problems Portland police deal with in neighborhoods, conjuring up all the raucous finger-pointing of a "Jerry Springer" episode.

But blaming moms for these turbulent households is too easy, experts say. Society teaches women that good moms stick beside their kids no matter what, says Jan Haaken, a psychology professor at Portland State University. So, when dads leave the family, through divorce or abandonment, overwhelming numbers of moms are left to pick up the pieces, a lopsided expectation that resulted in 84 percent of all American children in one-parent households living with mom in 1998.

Those facts alone, experts say, explain why police see fewer "enabling dads" and a growing number of enabling moms who lack the financial and emotional resources to be effective parents on their own. The phenomenon breaks through racial, cultural and socio-economic lines.

Typically in her 50s or older, the enabling mom ends up a disrespected bystander in her own home. She enables the chaos around her by failing to provide real consequences. She goes into her bedroom and closes the door.

"She may be defeated, and yet she loves her children," Kipnis says.

And so, enabling moms retreat to doing what they as a mother can do. "They keep a bowl of soup on the table and hope for the best. That's denial. That's part of that disengagement."

The grown-up children feel paralyzed, too, an attitude that spills onto the street as delinquent behavior, Kipnis says. "Going back home is admitting you've failed to make the leap from childhood to adulthood. And even though it doesn't seem fair, mom is a constant symbol of that."


Patrinka Selland lives on a long-established, tree-lined Portland street, across from a bright-orange bungalow where groups of teen-agers and young adults drink and smoke on the porch and in the yard enclosed by chain-link. They taunt and curse at passers-by, throw things, threaten to shoot. Police describe the group as having a "mob mentality."

Neighbors, who have met with police more than once to discuss the problem house, accuse the occupants of breaking windows, selling drugs, prostituting in a back alley, stealing bicycles and cranking their stereos late at night. The worst incident might have been when they pinned a neighbor by the knees with their car. Or when they shot a kitten in the eye.

Bennie, mother to some, grandmother to about 10 others, "obviously knows what's going on," Selland says. "She just doesn't care. She's doing an even worse job raising these kids than she did with her first group."

The woman's neighbors on Northeast Mallory Avenue say she's a classic "enabling mom," caring little that her charges make life miserable for people living there, then run to her for protection. In the past six years, police have responded to the address more than two dozen times to investigate alleged trouble-making, and neighbors say there have been many more incidents when they didn't bother to call. One neighbor, who requested anonymity out of fear of retribution, said her own youngsters can't sleep because of the noise. "They tell me, 'They're at it again,' and I tell them to put a pillow over their head." Those people "cuss you out if you look at them hard," she says.

In one reported case, a 36-year-old woman occupant of the house screamed obscenities at police officers, challenged them to a fight and then mooned them from her doorway. Last February, an officer arrived at the house to find a half-dozen young women in the front room, out of control, screaming and threatening one another.

When Bennie emerged from the back room, where she had been feeding her daughter's baby, she admitted that she had little power over the kids but that they lived with her because they had nowhere else to go. Four months later, however, she was back on the defensive, police reports show, telling officers responding to a noise complaint that she suspected people on her street were just trying to get rid of her grandchildren.

Selland has her own worry. "Someday, (Bennie's) going to die, and the kids are going to inherit that house," she says.

Bennie, 62, declined several requests to be interviewed. Her last name is being withheld because she has not been charged with any crimes and to protect the identity of juveniles in her home. In a police report, however, she appeared to concede her own limited role at home, telling an officer she had "little energy or desire to monitor the children's activities" and that she would rather do chores.

Police are frustrated. But the hard reality, they say, is that there hasn't been enough trouble at her place to trigger the city's chronic nuisance ordinance, which would allow the city to board it up and disperse its occupants -- including Bennie -- for a year. And because many of the alleged problem-causers are juveniles, penalties have amounted to a slap on the hand. So disorder persists, if only at a low level at times.

"Bennie's not going to let (those kids) be on the street," Officer Jackson says, calling the woman "cooperative" and "aware of the problems" but not able to really deal with her relatives. "But if I had 15 kids in my house, there would still be a level of respect and control. Just to say there's too many people there isn't enough."

Bennie sounds a lot like Mary, and Mary sounds a lot like Florence.

Mary is 76 and catches the bus to go to work, according to a case synopsis developed by Portland police officers based on an actual household. Living with Mary on Northeast Roselawn Street are three grown sons. One is "trying to get his life together." The second uses heroin. The third sells crack cocaine and heroin. Police raided Mary's place five times between 1992 and 1996. But later, when police asked her about the raids, she denied knowledge of the warrants or that anyone used or sold drugs in her house.

Over the years, Mary has signed more than one voluntary "partnership agreement" with the police that was supposed to keep people named in the warrants from living with her, but by 1998, neighbors reported that her sons were back. When police arrived to make arrests, one was found hiding under a pile of clothes in his mother's basement.

Florence, a widow in her 60s, lives in an upper-middle-class neighborhood with three grown children, including "Dickie," a known drug abuser who neighbors say deals drugs out of the house. When a neighbor called police about two of Dickie's friends, Florence became hostile and confrontational, police say. Although Dickie's problems are obvious to others, she denies or minimizes them, offering endless excuses.

Meanwhile, in fed-up neighborhoods throughout the city, exasperated residents want to know why moms like these can't use a little "tough love" and kick the kids out, why they seem to have so little spine. From the outside, the solution seems so simple.

But experts say there's no quick fix to problems that run deep. "They know they are the last line of defense between their children and disaster," Kipnis says. "That's part of why they tolerate an intolerable situation."

Maybe, experts say, the mom has self-esteem issues, or addictions of her own. Maybe an abusive relationship with a spouse or a boyfriend left her feeling powerless. Maybe delinquent behavior is part of family life, a tradition passed from generation to generation -- and she lives vicariously through her children's exploits. Maybe her baby is now 250 pounds, mean and lazy, so rather than stand up, she shrinks away.

Sometimes, "it's a love-hate relationship," says Jim Nelson, elder crimes response team coordinator for the Portland Police Bureau. He says some of those moms become the unwitting victims of their grown, live-in children's abuse, while not even recognizing it as abuse.

For poor, elderly women, especially, even a bad live-in child might seem better than none, Nelson says, because they help fill the house with people and may provide an occasional newspaper and some food.

"Deep down they know their kids are selling drugs, and they don't want to know more about it -- it's a matter of 'Don't tell,' and 'I won't confront.' There are a lot of complications they don't want."

Some mothers are even willing to be dragged through the justice system or land on the street themselves because of their children. "They will go to any end for their children and will let them deal drugs right in front of their face," Jackson says. Police have little choice then but to show up at mom's house with a warrant -- no more talking. At that point, "we're going in full force," Jackson says.


Wow, what timing, and what a topic!

-- hhhhmmm (seems@hot.issue), February 13, 2000.

Interesting thread. Ever heard of toxic relationships?
Thanks for that article, lots to think about.

-- dysfunctional % (going@up.fast), February 13, 2000.

Y2K was good for the family, getting back to basics, sharing preparation and chores, reinforcing that family means each helping all to survive.

-- stronger than ever (united@to.gether), February 14, 2000.

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