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Parental responsibilities


A neighbor flagged me down in a store as I ran errands. It’s nice that she did that, because most humans look alike to me. If I meet them in an out-of-context setting, I often don’t know who they are. Luckily she had not changed her hair, or her voice. So that identified her for me.

We talked about her life and her business and her family. She seemed tired, worn, and sickly. She said business was poor, which is hard to believe in her particular industry, which is doing well right now in this area. Probably she has been distracted from her business because of her family problems. She’s gotten divorced, and her 18-year-old daughter is a jobless drug addict, bouncing between my neighbor’s house and her father’s house.

I could tell my neighbor was disconsolate. She still feels responsible for her daughter, though her daughter is an adult now. I am not a parent, so I don’t know what that responsibility feels like. I think I would have evicted my own daughter in similar circumstances, but that’s a hypothesis that would not be provable in reality. Sometimes you do everything you can, and your child is still a failure. It’s not all your fault. Your child bears some responsibility for its own failure. And when that child is able-bodied and of sound mind, but still insists on making bad decisions, at some point I think you are justified in refusing to invest more time and effort in helping it, when it will not help itself. Some parents make that “tough love” decision sooner than others. Some parents choose to support their failed children to the end, and their children drag the parents down into the children’s own hell.

I think my neighbor is in that hell.

I made soothing noises which I hope were convincing. We talked for awhile, and then went our separate ways.

I am glad I am not in her place.

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