January 12, 2013 (Original publish date) • By Dennis Beaver
There is no instruction manual, no class, no test to pass before becoming a parent. All of us who have children are going to make some mistakes in how we raise them.
Love and the need to nurture and protect our children is hard-wired into our very being, deep within our DNA. Yet, strangely, for some parents, the duty to protect has no limits, even where common sense — often the law — is screaming, “Stop! Enough!”
The call from County Jail
Jan. 2, 8:10 a.m.: Answering the phone, a computer voice states: “This is call from an inmate at the County Jail. You are not being charged for it. To accept, press one.” Lawyers often receive “collect” calls from inmates — which can easily cost $5 a minute — but pre-paid calls are rare. I pushed one.
“Mr. Beaver, this is Sam, you are the only person I can talk with, I’m afraid to call my father. I’m in jail. I didn’t do anything.”
Of course, you don’t wind up in jail unless someone has good reason to believe that you did something. Later that morning, I would learn that there was a very good reason for Sam to be there.
In law, you see a lot of sadness. No father wants a phone call from an attorney, explaining that his son is in the county jail. Sam’s father had to know. Sam gave me the number. Dad immediately came to our office.
Within the hour, I was at the jail, face to face with a young man far different from the person who, with his father, was in our office a month earlier. That time, Sam’s arrogance, immaturity and mouth led him to being beaten up by a group of thugs.
A story of pills, booze and a knife
“A few of us were celebrating the new year at a friend’s house. He was popping some kind of pills and getting drunk. A couple of hours later, he attacked me with a knife and my fingers were cut trying to get it out of his hands. With my girlfriend, I got to my car and was about to drive off, but he was trying to smash his way inside. I had enough and grabbed a baton that I have for personal protection and let him really have it,” Sam explained.
“Really have it?” He did indeed, breaking the guy’s arm, and arguably going from victim to aggressor. Both were arrested for assault with a deadly weapon, and possession of a billie club was added to Sam’s charges.
A year earlier — when Sam was 20 — he was arrested for a DUI, leading to a year’s suspended license and three years probation. Sam was also drinking at the party and driving the car that his parents bought for him a week earlier, “so I wouldn’t need to take the bus to the trade school I am supposed to start Monday,” he related.
During our interview, he was handed a sack lunch. “I’m not going to eat that crap,” he said. “I’ve got to go home, get on my game, start school next week.”
He spoke in such a strange, cold tone of voice, so matter of fact, all about himself, with no concern for anyone, least of all his family, fully expecting his parents to bail him out.
They always had in the past. But what should they do now?
Easy to say ‘you’re on your own’
Lawyers are in a unique position to see the results of enabling behavior. When mom or dad continually bails out sonny, their daughter or each other, a destructive pattern forms. With no real consequences, bad behavior rarely gets any better.
My interview with Sam was recorded and played later that day for his family. While a box of Kleenex was close by, not a single tissue was taken. Their faces revealed anger, disappointment and loss of any remaining trust. They heard the real Sam, not their baby. They were faced with the evidence of his lies, flawed judgment and certainty that mom and dad would soon bail him out and provide a “smart lawyer.”
“What do we do now?” asked dad.
“First of all, do not post bail! He needs to get a taste of where he put himself. Hiring an attorney sends the wrong message. I am not going to represent your son. He will get a public defender, and they are good lawyers.”
Turning to Sam’s mother, I said: “One day you will not be in Sam’s life. But today, you can show your son so much love by simply standing back, letting him deal with the results of his own decisions.”
To be continued.
Dennis Beaver practices law in Bakersfield and enjoys hearing from his readers. Contact Dennis Beaver.