Colleen - posted on 03/30/2010 ( 4 moms have responded )
The utter despair that the parents of Phoebe Prince must feel, makes me weak in the knees. Phoebe was a 15 year-old teen girl who was so viciously harassed by a group of her high school classmates at South Hadley High School in Northampton, Massachusetts that she hanged herself on January 14. The harassment had been going on since September, and took place at school and online. The faculty and many students at the school were witnesses and aware that Phoebe was being bullied. Unfortunately, there was nothing effectively done to stop it.
Phoebe left a legacy which I hope will not go unnoticed, but rather, expose the danger which our children are in, and highlight our responsibility of parenting in the most visceral, important way. What have the parents of these children, been busy doing? Teaching them? Taking every opportunity to make them understand that we, as human beings, are compelled to not only be caring, and compassionate to one another, but that we are actually responsible for one another? I wonder how much time these parents spent actually exhibiting the behavior they wished for their children, like helping those less fortunate, possibly the people who may seem a bit weaker, a bit helpless. I wonder if they did things to cultivate a spirit of generosity like stopping on the side of the road to unload the car of blankets for the homeless people sleeping in the streets...or bringing unwed teen mothers home after they had been put out by their families? I wonder if they stopped at the grocery store and found a family with little blond, malnourished children with no home and no food and brought them home to live with them? I wonder how many prayers they said for people in dire straights, bringing attention to the problems that exist in the everyday lives of family members and friends? I wonder if they brought anyone home, on the brink of suicide and made her a part of their family? I wonder if they had nightly family dinners, endless discussions of social welfare and reform, or if they had family expectation of civil service? I wonder if they attended mass every Sunday, to listen, learn and experience the discipline of giving God an hour of devoted time per week? I wonder these things because the idea that I or any member of my family would ever, ever watch someone being bullied and literally stand by is unimaginable to me. My parents did each and everyone one of these acts of kindness, and countless more. They taught us, consistently and constantly about serving others. They didn't just show up for appearances, ever. They sacrificed themselves, their time, their money, their home and much more. They gave of themselves, they showed compassion, and they taught us to do the same.
The legacy of Phoebe goes directly to the heart of what is needed, what is required as a parent; your children are in danger. Just to give your check to a charity every year, go to church once a month, and even volunteer at a soup kitchen once a year are not enough. Not now. Now in the age of competition for your kid's attention from a pop society that misses the point of the movie "Mean Girls". Getting your children to understand that we are ultimately responsible for everyone around us will be our country's greatest achievement or our greatest failure. It takes every day, every hour of reminding, teaching and showing your children how we should treat others when we are with them, and how we consider them when we are away from them. Parenting takes commitment that I believe, when done right, rivals Olympic athletes.
The parents of the nine teens who are now facing serious criminal charges will have significant time to ponder their own responsibility in Phoebe's death. I hope that Phoebe's legacy will conjure serious change, and compel parents to connect with their children, and give them Olympian-like teaching of humanity, love and compassion for others.
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