Tuesday, May 08, 2007

A question with no answers.

I have so much I want to write about lately. So many interesting things happening in my little life and so many interesting things happening in the world.

There is one thing, however, I can’t seem to get off my mind. I’m not writing this to create controversy (I don’t like controversy!), I am really, genuinely curious about this.

As you might know, I became very concerned and depressed regarding the case of Mary Winkler. If you aren’t familiar with this case, Mary Winkler was the wife of Matthew Winkler and the mother of two little girls. She was recently convicted for murdering her husband (who was a pastor) last March. The crux of the case was an attempt to determine if she was a battered wife. I believe she was. Other people do not. I’m cool with that. I don’t know her and I didn’t know him.

A letter to my local paper over the weekend expressed shock and dismay that the parents of Matthew Winkler were fighting for custody of the two small girls. I’m totally paraphrasing here because I absolutely cannot remember the exact words the writer used, but basically she said, “They did a pretty craptacular job with their son. Who on EARTH thinks they could do a better job with these two poor little girls?”

So. What about that?

I know a lot of people that have grandchildren who they have custody of. I don’t mean the grandkids stay over at their house a lot. I mean the grandchildren live in their home with them and do not see the parents on a regular basis. The vast, vast majority of these people who are raising their grandchildren (at least the ones I, personally know) are really good, decent, hardworking folks. I honestly believe they did the best they could with their children.

So whose fault is it?

I mean, I guess what I’m asking is: At what point do we stop blaming the parents and start taking responsibility for our own actions? Even if our own actions mean we are a tremendous jerk who ends up in a pool of blood on the floor because our wife can’t take our extreme BS anymore?

I don’t know.

My ex-husband had this friend who I hated. His parents had divorced when he was really young and he used that as his catch-all excuse for his extremely poor behavior. He had a full scholarship to college. He got to live in the dorms for free and everything (says the girl who had to work her considerable arse off to get through school and found it very difficult to do so)! All he had to do was show up on a daily basis and maintain a “C” average.

Well, he didn’t. Within months of starting college he was getting drunk every single night and dropped out. He smoked so much weed that it was practically growing out of his skin. He ended up working at a series of fast-food jobs and living in his mom’s basement playing video games until he had to go to work again. Once, he almost shot me because he was so freaking paranoid that even though he knew I was coming over to his house, it scared him when I showed up.

Everything, in his opinion, was because his parents were divorced. If you ever confronted him on why he behaved in the manner in which he behaved he would start his sob story about how his mom and dad were divorced and it really messed him up. Never mind that, what, about fifty percent of marriages in this country end in divorce? That thirty percent of the kids in my graduating class had a different last name than their parents (and that was fourteen years ago)? That plenty of people, darn near everyone I would assume, had some kind of crap that went on in their childhood? And they made a choice at some point to move past it and become a productive human being?

He’s dead now. He robbed one of his teenage Burger King co-workers and then caught a ride in the back of a pick-up truck with an unsuspecting man and woman. When he saw a police car coming down the road (a police car, incidentally, that was NOT looking for him) he took his shotgun (which he was apparently carrying) and blew his own brains out.

I wonder if that was his dad’s fault too.

I guess the primary thing I’m wondering is, who really is to blame? For kids who drop off the grandchildren and say, “I don’t want to bother with this.” For adults who have children that they are ill-equipped to raise. For people who let drugs and alcohol take over their lives and lose everything in the process. For men and women who grow up mean and violent and hurt their families. Is it their brain chemistry? Are they just evil? Were they molested as a child? Did they not get the love they needed?

Is there a good answer here?


Happy Working Mom said...

I wish I knew the answer, but I don't. I believe a lot comes down to your parents...you learn (or miss) so much while you are living at home with them...you learn your morals, your manners, socialization, etc. However, you also learn that you are an individual, and that YOUR actions have consequences. You have to start taking responsibility for yourself.

For these kids I have no idea what the right answer is...if the man truly was abusive, is it because he saw it in his own house? Was his father abusive to his mother? It's kind of scary to think that the cycle could be repeated if that is in fact the case. But like you, I didn't know the guy, and I know nothing about his family, so I have no room for judgment.

Stephanette said...

I have been watching this case from the beginning. Hubby has a different point of view - he often does when it involves the law and he's often right, but I can only think like a wife.

I don't know what the right answer is. I just hope that those traumatized children can have the help and support that they need to process this in a way that they can grow up as normal as most people do. That they can accept who their mother is and who their father was and who they themselves will become. Is that the naive eternal optimist speaking? Maybe his parents are equipped to do that.

I think, Chick, that you have a very good point. We learn from our parents, but at some point their is an age of accountability where we must accept the consequences for our own choices and actions. Personal opinion.

Amy W said...

I had a lot of craptacular stuff that I witnessed as a kid and I would never, ever blame any of my actions on that. My actions today are just that: mine and mine only.

And no, I don't think there is a good answer here. It may be a mix of chemistry and dealing or not dealing with what you were dealt.

Shanilie said...

Good post. I have wondered the answer for that question for a while now. Before I probably would have said 100% the parents fault but now that I am a parent and am older etc. I find that a lot of how kids turn out are how they were when they were young. It is sad to see cases like this because there are so many battered women out there. I don't really know what else to say but either way I think these children have a difficult road ahead of them....regardless if it is the mother or the grandparents watching over them they still have to face the facts one day about their dad's death and figure out how to deal with that emotionally and psychologically.

Britmum said...

Wow great post. Really weird though cause I kind of asked the same question on my blog. Great minds think a like.

I hope you have a great day.

Take care xx

Anonymous said...

Great post....certainly gets the brain turning.

I'm with Happy Working Mom and Amy...I don't know what the answer is. I, too, think she was abused by her husband and it's sad that the case turned out the way it did. I hope the girls are able to have as normal a life as possible.

Anonymous said...

You know Chick, I was molested by two of my uncles for years and when my parents finally found out they blamed me. For years I blamed them and I still don't think they did the right thing. The thing that I have learned in my life is as long as I am holding on to a "crutch" meaning, blaming others for everything that goes on in my life, then I will not be free to be happy and find the true meaning to life. My opinion is that each one of us has to be responsible and accountable for our own actions. Sure, life sometimes gives us a bowl of lemons, but you take those lemons and make the proverbial lemonade...

What I have learned to do is to figure out why, for instance, my parents reacted the way they did and once I figured that out, I was better able to understand why they lashed out at me. It still wasn't right what they did, but I "understood and could then move on. I hope that makes sense to you. :)

God plays a big part in it all too...as you know....

Emily said...

I think if just depends on the individual person. There could be a brother and sister raised the same crappy way and one could turn out to be a complete loser and the other, very successful. Some people have a resilient personality, while others don't.

Margarita said...

I agree with Emily. It depends on the person. My sister and I were raised in the same loving house and we are so ridiculously different. She's crazy and I'm normal. The End.

Rachel said...

I don't think there is a clear answer here. I also think that once you become an adult and you have a brain that works, you have to take responsibility for your own actions. If you truly think that because your parents did this or didn't do this or got divorced or whatever, really affected you...GET HELP!!!

Do something about it instead of using it as your enabler. Everyone on Earth has had something shitty happen to them, we don't all become abusive or addicted to drugs.

Just because Matthew Winkler may have been abusive, does not, in any way mean that he learned that behavior from his parents.

I don't know how I feel about where those girls go. On one hand I want them to be with their mama, the woman that gave them life, but wrong or right, she's also the woman that took their father's life.

I think, through no fault of their own, those girls have a long road ahead of them and I just hope that no matter who gets custody, that person gets those kids all the help they need.

Kimberly said...

At some point, we have to accept the fact that we're accountable for our actions. We have the freedom to choose, it's one of God's greatest gifts, I think.

On the other hand, there have to be allowances for differences of understanding, and yes, how we're raised.

I think there's a reason that final judgement is in God's hands and not ours. It's too complicated for mere humans to figure out.

Alpha Dude 1.5 said...

Children are like wet cement.
Whatever falls on them, leaves an impression.

Children will do what their parents show them, not what their parents tell them.

The bible says we are to train up our children in the way they should go. It does not say we are to cater to them. The Bible talks about discipline and correction, none of that "oh, poor baby" crap.

Your children are terrific because that is what they are taught, and shown. Children who misbehave on a regular basis do so because they are ALLOWED to. In some cases, there may be more to it, but after the age of 21 (in my opinion) you paddle your canoe.

I am not my father, but I am his son. I work hard to "break the cycle" every day of my life. I choose to follow the example of my Heavenly Father, not some guy who made some mistakes. Not everyone chooses to paddle their own canoe. It is apparently easier to blame someone else rather than take responsibility for their own actions/decisions.

No one forced him to beat his wife.
No one forced her to stay with him and keep silent.
No one forced her to shoot him.
They both made choices.
Both were wrong.

Whether either one is guilty is not my call to make. What is done, is done.

Life goes on.
The earth is still spinning.
God is still in control.

You, Chick, have a huge and caring heart and I think you are awesome.

Blessings to you and your wonderful family.

Amy said...

I just stumbled into your blog from somewhere (?) else and this is a great post. I have an elderly family member who has been mean and cruel to others most of her life and always blames it on her rough childhood... at some point, I think people have to make a choice to move past those events, not use them as an excuse.

Christy said...

Dang, girl. That's deep. And really interesting to think about. My dad deserted our family when I was 4. My mom worked her butt off for years - working 3 jobs - to keep my brother & I in hand-me-down clothes & beanie-weenie. My brother physically & psychologically abused me until he got kicked out of the house at 17.
I did a lot of crazy things in my teenage & young adult life - mostly inappropriate sleeping around & drug & alcohol abuse, but I got sober at 19 and got my act together and married an amazing man at 26. I GOT HELP for the things I struggled with and took responsibility for my own life. Yeah, I got messed up by my parents & my brother. But do I sit on my fat butt complaining about it & not attempting to better myself? No. It's all about personal responsibility. Yeah - we can't change the past, but we sure as hell can change what we're doing now. And if we don't? Then it's our fault.
Of course, this is all just my opinion. I could be totally wrong.

SJ said...

No, there is no good answer. At some point the individual has to take responsibility for their own actions, after all, isn't that what adulthood is?

Amy said...

I don't know the answer. Today I read an article about a former student of mine who murdered someone this weekend. Murdered. At 19 years old. I could have told you this child was capable of that when he was 10, in the 5th grade. He had a total crap homelife, and we (the teachers/administration) tried to reach out to his parents and let them know he was in trouble. They just didn't care.

On the other hand, my husband was handed off to his grandmother (along with 6 siblings) when he was 5 years old. She, a single widowed woman who had never even driven a car, raised these kids in one of the poorest areas of New Orleans. Today? He runs a car dealership and is level-headed, financially secure, and the best father I've ever seen. All without having a male role model present in his life from the time he was a toddler.

The difference in these two scenarios is certainly not money--my student's family has far more money than the home my husband was raised in. My husband was raised with love by his grandmother, though.

I'm not saying that's the answer, though. Many of our molesters/murderers/etc, etc. are raised by decent, loving people. Who knows???

I agree that you can't allow family situations (divorce, poor, unhappy, whatever) define who you are. But I have no idea what the magic formula for a responsible, law-abiding adult is...