I am reading a book from David Sedaris called “Let’s Explore Diabetes With Owls” in one chapter he is talking about parenting and the difference between how parents raise children now compared to when he was young. In earlier times when you did something wrong you were punished for it and learned not to do it again or the next consequence was more severe and so on. More and more we see that parents are more lenient, it is almost a crime to spank or yell or say no to your kids. The children run the household and parents are afraid to anger them or they suffer the consequences and so on. I am one of the lucky kids raised with rules and structure. I fought it, I hated it, I railed and kicked and screamed about it but I learned. I respect others and their property, I earned my dollars with my own hands and do not expect others to pay or pave my way through life. I appreciate those lessons, I became an adult through those lessons and even though I understand a parent treating their child like they would have wanted when they grew up, it feels like a grave mistake to become so lenient on our kids that they are allowed to experience these adult situations when they are in no way ready. So I am going to share a story that I was reminded of while reading this book.
A mother’s best friend
It’s not easy to prepare a child for a funeral. They are small and smooth and fragile and they are dead. The young are naturally beautiful in a different way than the elderly. No laugh lines or sun spots. Age has not claimed the lip lines or strained the joints to turn and twist. It’s like a sin almost to see them lying on my table for the preparation of their funeral. However, it is gratifying to place them gently in a casket, like a jewelry box for the perfect diamond or pearl. There is rarely a need for extra color to contour cheekbones or accentuate lashes, those things haven’t experienced enough life to look aged. Then there was a girl, 13 years old, I met with the family before I ever knew what happened to her. As I started asking the family questions to learn who she was and how to serve them, I noticed that the mother was sad but in a different way. Her daughter had committed suicide and I have seen what that can do to a parent. Her grief was muted though, like someone hit the pause button on a VCR and it didn’t take quite right so there is a slight jump in the stillness of the picture. She was obviously devastated, the tears flowed and the eyes sunk, yet there was something else. I asked to see a picture of her daughter and as she pulled out her phone and handed it to me she said, “She was my best friend.” There it was, I still didn’t get it yet but that phrase stayed with me. The girl was beautiful and all the family praised how she looked so much older than she was. Every picture I was shown she was dressed to the nines, full makeup which was heavy on the eyes, short skirts, high heels and one picture with a drink in her hand. If I had not known better, I would have guessed her 18, 20 years old. In the mixture There were pictures of her without the layers, stripped down to a 13-year-old child who needing nothing more than structure and rules to guide her in making good life decisions. As we talked about her funeral the family insisted on having a friend come and do her makeup. So I requested to the care center that she be brought to my location with only a base cosmetic. She was beautiful, angelic in her youngness. I looked at her for a long time. Asked her why she was dead-even though I had a suspicion. Shortly before the friend was to come and do the make up the girl’s mother called and said that her friend was too distraught and could not do it and asked if I would just do it instead. She sent me a picture and strict instructions on how perfect and bold her daughters make up must be. How was I to do this? This 13-year-old child lying in front of me, so beautiful and perfect just that way and I am asked to mar her sweet face with globs of red and black. Even with all my breathing I struggled through every step. This should not have happened and I should not be doing this. During the funeral the mother got up and spoke. She talked again about her best friend and how the neighbor kids loved to hang out with her. I remembered the pictures of her daughter with skirts and heels designed for sexual appeal, the thick black lines around her stunning eyes and lips lined and red to appear bigger, poutier, kissable. It was hard to listen to her mother tell me how they got her birth control. It was hard to see the pictures of her drinking while posing in a slinky dress. It was hard to hear her mother stand at the podium in front of all of these people and tell them that she let her daughter run her own life. She couldn’t tell her no. She couldn’t stop her from drinking and having sex so she encouraged it and gave her tips and helped her because she was a good mother. I am angry at her for putting me in a position to have to foul such a beautiful child. I am angrier that she didn’t have the courage to be a mother and chose instead to be a best friend. I am not a mother, I don’t want to sound like I am criticizing, yet I cannot help but think if this girl had been encouraged to be 13 years old, she would still be here and her mother’s best friend in a different way.