Parenting: Turning In Your Own Child
A 19-year-old North Carolinian was recently arrested for planning a terrorist-type attack. Reports note that the young man talked to federal agents about using chemical weapons and bombs to kill large numbers of people. His parents learned during his court appearance that he wanted them killed, as well. The arrest is the culmination of an investigation that began when his dad called authorities in April regarding his threatening behavior.
The fact that the father tipped the FBI off to his son's potential for plotting harm was what caught my attention. I immediately recalled my father's words to my siblings and me when we were teens. He warned us that if we ever brought illegal drugs into his house, he would be the one to call the police and have us arrested. I'm sure when he spoke those words, he was setting boundaries and enforcing our family's moral code. I'm sure he never envisioned a world in which parents would be compelled to turn in their own children for terrorist activity.
While it was not something my father ever imagined, I have no doubt he would have made the same call as the 19-year-old's father had he been faced with the same information. Sure, it would have broken his heart to have to do it, but he would have made the call.
What motivates a parent to turn in his own child — or threaten to do so? I am not a psychiatrist or expert of any sort. But I am a parent, so I can certainly speculate based on my own parenting experiences.
Love is, I'm sure, the biggest motivation. An unconditional love that always wants the best for the child will reach out to whomever is needed to ensure the child's safety and wellbeing. That love sees beyond the behaviors of the child and seeks out the best course of action to modify the behaviors so they reflect the goodness in that child.
Fear must also play a part. A parent who fears that the child will do harm to himself or others is going to take action. Any shred of evidence that a parent's worst nightmares could come to fruition are going to cause that parent to work against the current to keep the nightmares from becoming reality.
And then there is hope. Hope that the child will get the help he needs to find his way back to the path the parent envisioned when he was born. The parent hopes, despite feelings of inadequacy or futility, that his child will continue to move toward being the kind, loving, fulfilled, productive person he saw in the eyes of the his infant when his parenting journey began.
While much of what we do as parents is motivated by love, fear and hope, our expectations never involve calling the FBI on our own children. That parenting move required a hefty dose of courage. As parents, we often need courage to do what's right by our children — especially when we take unpopular action for their "own good."