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From the week of December 15, 2005

The Blame Game

Child's prey:I just finished reading Alan Prendergast's "Catch-16," in the December 8 issue, and I feel sorry for this girl's parents. I find children like Kaeleigh (and, yes, she's a child) annoying and disrespectful. Kaeleigh claims she's more "mature" than her peers. Quite the contrary, Kaeleigh has proven she needs constant attention, just like a toddler. "To be completely honest," Kaeleigh, my five-year-old son has more sense and maturity than you do! How dare you steal from your parents and cause them so much turmoil?

I understand Kaeleigh may have had post-traumatic stress disorder from her days in North Carolina; however, this does not excuse her behavior. She says she feels like she was being smothered by her parents, and what, her "boyfriend" leaves her alone?! Kaeleigh says she doesn't feel like she "has to" do things around her boyfriend's parents' house but that she just does them! We all have chores, Kaeleigh; this is a fact of life!

This child also states that if she were blond and pretty and popular, things would have been different! Give me a break. Kaeleigh chose to do the things she did, and she can't blame anybody but herself. The schools have thousands of students to care for and educate, and, quite frankly, these kids need to take some initiative of their own to succeed. I would like to pass on a message to Kaeleigh and all of the other self-indulgent, self-obsessed teenagers out there: You have to go to school; school is not a choice. All of us parents have to work to support you, and if you have any hope for your future, get your act together and do the one simple task of attending class and listening. Take some responsibility and have the initiative to succeed. Continuing to blame others for your downfall will get you nowhere.

Kaeleigh claims her parents shouldn't be punished for her bad choices! Well, here's a clue, Kaeleigh: Don't continue to make bad choices and your parents won't have to pay for them.

Stephanie Fling
Denver

Words to live by: I read Alan Prendergast's article about the Altvater family and wanted to write a few words of solace for the parents, being a former teenager much like their daughter. I know that it is presumptuous to think that I have anything helpful to say, and it probably won't change their feelings, but I know that my mother would have liked to hear that all hope was not lost when she was dealing with me.

Dear Chris and DeEtte: Fifteen years ago I was exactly like your daughter. Many of the things that she said in the article are exactly the things that I said when I was in her situation. I started running away from home at the age of fifteen, became wildly defiant, and dropped out of high school. Like Kaeleigh, I was bored, didn't feel challenged, and thought that it was a waste of my time. My mother would try to impose a curfew -- I would sneak out. She would try to force me to go to school -- I stopped going entirely. She threatened to ground me from my things -- I would scream at and intimidate her. Hopefully unlike your daughter, I developed a drug habit and started hanging around with the wrong people. My mother tried counselors, tough love, you name it. Eventually, I ended up being sixteen years old with no skills, living on my own.

After my mother stopped trying to help me, I started trying to help myself. After a few years of working menial jobs, I realized that I wanted more. I got my GED and went to college. After all of these years, I have two bachelor's degrees and I am getting ready to start work on my second master's. I have a good job and a great relationship with my mom.

I just want you to know that she is not lost; she just has to do things her own way. I know that if my mother had tried to tell me to drink water in the desert, I would have died of dehydration just to show her that no one tells me what to do! The best thing that she ever did was tell me that I was on my own and I could do with my life what I saw fit. Not only did it make me think that I was doing things for myself, rather than for her, but it also allowed her to get on with her own life, rather than wasting all of her energy trying to deal with me. It sounds like Kaeleigh is a very smart girl. She will tire of mediocrity once it is her choice to dwell in it.

I am not trying to shove advice down your throat; I am sure that you have received plenty. I just want you to know that there is life on the other side. I wish the best for your family.

Name withheld on request


The Parent Trap

Hard time:I was fascinated comparing the family situations in Alan Prendergast's "Catch-16" and Jessica Centers's "Focus on the Family," which appeared just a week earlier, in the December 1 issue. DeEtte and Chris Altvater are trying so hard to raise Kaeleigh right -- and they're paying the price. It's just not that easy in the best of circumstances. If only the courts and social-service agencies put the same amount of effort into dealing with teenagers as they do into dealing with infants!

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