You may have seen the article in the newspaper or on television last week about a man named Paul Mueller who picked up two hitchhikers who proceeded to rob him, stab him and leave him for dead. What made the story stand out to me was what happened next.
Following the stabbing, the ruffians left the scene and the man, only “mostly-dead,” called for help repeatedly while stumbling down Darlington Place NW on Albuquerque’s Westside only to have his pleas fall on completely deaf ears. No one came to his aid. Eventually in a moment of desperation, he deliberately fell into the Richey family’s front window, and pleaded for their assistance hoping he had at last found his Good Samaritan.
Now if you think this is a modern day version of the Biblical Good Samaritan, you would be wrong. That is not where this is going.
Mr. Mueller has instead described being treated with absolute disdain. The Richey family, especially Mrs. Richey, has gone on record stating what a hassle this has been for them. She complains about the repair costs, the broken window, the irreparable carpet, the out of pocket deductible, all while treating the injured man with scorn and disdain. In addition to the financial ramifications, she says, is the fear that the incident has instilled in her children who can no longer sleep without nightmares”after the crazy guy broke into their living room.”
Why should THIS be what this family takes away from this situation? Why not the spirit of aid and kindness they could have provided, a sense of comfort to this possibly dying man. Other than the inconvenience and anger over the refusal of insurance of pay for their new wall to wall carpeting, this family said their children were now fearful. Granted, being awoken in the middle of the night by broken glass and a bloody guy is somewhat fear-inducing, but instead of teaching their children something good here, the Richey family of Darlington Street, taught their children to fear.
Fear is taught and Ms. Richey is well on her way to having fearful, insecure children and not because of Mr. Mueller. Instead of telling her children, “We were grateful for the aid we could provide Mr. Mueller. . .” Instead of saying “We wished we would have acted sooner and beg Mr. Mueller’s forgiveness. . .” Instead of saying “Children, this is what we do when people are injured and dying. .” Ms. Richey tells us the cost she is out of pocket for her carpeting. She is blaming Paul Mueller. She has taught her children to be fearful instead of helpful. Oh my poor children having to deal with this. Her poor children for having her as a mother.
Our family has had some fearful incidents. We live downtown and our home has been burglarized five times over the past five years, four times in one year. Two of incidents involved forays into our children’s rooms to steal their belongings. We have been in several car wrecks, one which involved being hit by a semi truck. My children could be fearful. They have every right to be fearful and sometimes they are fearful, but I will not teach them to be fearful and therein lies the difference.
There are many ways we can teach our children to be fearful and most if not all is in our reaction to everyday events. You don’t know how to swim, so you, in your failure to swim, teach your child to fear water. You fear new places and therefore avoid new places, but by implication also teach your child to fear new places.
Where I see a lot of fear is in my family law cases. One parent has rational or irrational fear of the other parent. Now what we are discussing is not rational fears. If a husband assaults his wife, she is right to fear her husband and the child has the right to fear his father. Rational fear is understandable but is not the subject of this blog. What we are dealing on a daily basis are irrational fears. Fears that the parent will withhold the child, steal the child, kidnap the child, smoke pot with the child, smoke crack with the child, let the child drown in the bathtub, let the child run wild, let the child fail to do his homework, etc.
In a consultation this week, the mother wanted supervised visitation for her 10-year old because the mother feared for the safety of that child. There had been one incident of domestic violence between mother and father four years prior, but nothing between father and child. While any domestic violence is unacceptable, this mother had allowed her fear to take over all rational thought when it came to this child and now this child was fearful of over everything and certainly fearful of his father to the point that all visits must be supervised until apparently the mother was no longer scared.
It’s like me on a cold day. If I am cold, my children must wear coats. Well, if I am afraid, then you must be too. I am not sure this is the lesson we want to teach our children.
I would rather teach my children how to avoid a child molester while walking to school rather than keep them from ever walking. I would rather teach them how to call the police, rather than how to avoid men with hats pulled low over the eyes. I would rather teach them to come to the aid of others, rather than how to be fearful when a stranger crashes through the living room window. And I would rather teach my children to love that other parent rather than to fear him.
You may hate that parent for what he or she did to you, how that person hurt you, but allow that child to love and your child will thank you for it.