Changing a child’s life

For every challenge a parent encounters today, there must be at least one maxim, proverb, saying, cliche or some other supposed nugget of wisdom in which the answer can be found.

As most parents come to realise eventually, however, parenting requires much more than a few words of wisdom. In fact, long after some exceptionally good children have turned bad, devastated parents still cling to hope in two areas in particular — that there will be a reversal and that they will happen upon the reason why the child strayed from the expected path in the first place.

Of course the world is filled with parents, who for various reasons, appear to have no disposition toward effective parenting and even less interest in being hamstrung by the “parent” label. All those who have brought children into this world, but who now declare they want their life back, would fit into this category.

However, given all the challenges of parenting for most — including those who would not hesitate to sacrifice their own lives for the welfare of their offspring — raising children comes with no operator’s manual. Success today is largely due to using the experience of yesterday’s lessons.

And this brings us to the point of this article — the constant need for parents to reinforce in their children that it does not take a calendar of events to change the course of their lives. One decision devoid of sensible thought has been known to ruin the lives of many a youngster.

Take the case of the 17 year old goalkeeper from Eisenhower Junior High School in Taylorsville, near Salf Lake City in the United States.

The teen punched his football referee once to the head after he was called for a foul and given a yellow card. Forty-six year old Ricardo Portillo was taken to hospital, slipped into a coma with swelling to the brain and died.

According to the Associated Press, because of the rising number of incidents of players responding with violence to the referees’ calls in the sport, his family had pleaded with him to give up on refereeing, but he refused.

All weekend legal commentators on the United States television networks were speculating on whether the player would be charged as an adult or a minor, and whether he could be charged with murder or manslaughter considering that it would be hard for any prosecutor to convince a jury that his actions, though irresponsible, were intended to cause death.

What’s critical to us, however, is that whether or not he is charged with murder or some lesser offence, a young life has been changed, perhaps forever, as a result of one rash decision. There is also the family of the dead man, who has been thrown into disarray.

And such is the challenge of parenting in today’s world — convincing today’s child that turning the other cheek, walking away from trouble, does not lessen one’s manhood.

Too often today, it would appear, peer pressure dictates to our youth that a sure sign of strength of character is not walking away from a fight — not allowing a challenger to have the last word. However, every parent ought to ensure today that his or her child — male or female — knows of the story of this 17 year old and of the death of Ricardo Portillo.

Salt Lake City may be a world or two away, but all across Barbados we can find youth who appear ready to strike out with maximum force for even the most insignificant of things. They don’t consider the consequences of their action, immediate or long term, and in a society that can too often be most unforgiving, no person can afford to let slide any opportunity to make a difference. We may not save all, but every one saved must be counted as an achievement for tenacious parenting.

No parent worth his or her salt can afford to be anything less.

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