Monday, March 1, 2010


I cannot improve or add anything to this anonymous letter received in May, 1982 from a mother in upstate New York.

She belongs in this book. --Erma Bombeck


Dear Erma,

You feel like my best friend. The only thing that surprised me was to find out that I am taller than you.

Anyway, I have something I want to talk to you about. There is no solution to this. I just want you to know we exist, we are human too and we hurt with the helplessness I can’t begin to describe.

I belong to a group of people that doesn’t even know it’s a group. We have no organization, no meetings, no spokesperson, we don’t even know each other. Each of us, as individuals, are way back in the closet with the rats and cockroaches. We may not even be any different than our neighbors. We look the same, talk and act the same, yet when people know our secret, they shun us as lepers.

We are parents of criminals. We too love our children. We too tried to bring them up the best way we knew how. There is small solace in reading of a movie star or politician’s kid being arrested. It helps but little to realize that our pain is not confined to the poor. (Although studies have shown that a rich kid is more likely to be sent home with a reprimand from the police, where a poor kid will wind up in jail.)

We are the visitors. Mother’s Day, Christmas, our kids cannot come to us, so we go to them. For some of us, the hurt is so unbearable, we cut out the cause--we give up on them. Some parents don’t visit, don’t write, don’t acknowledge the living human they bore.

I have not yet given up on my son, though the court has. I still cry, and plead, encourage and pray. And I still love him.

I search my memory. Where did I fail him? My son was planned, wanted, and was exactly the all-around kid I hoped for. I spent lots of time with him, reading stories, going for walks, playing catch, teaching him to fly a kite. We went to church together every Sunday since he was 4. He did all right in school, his teachers liked him. He had lots of friends, and they were always playing ball or going fishing, all the regular kid things. He was on Little League. I went to every game. He won a trophy for All-Stars. He was just a regular kid.

That’s only one. Mine. There are thousands of them. Criminals with ordinary childhoods. We, their parents, trying to live ordinary lives. And maybe being ostracized by family members and certainly by society. (“Maybe it’s contagious!”)

Tomorrow is Mother’s Day. My son is running from the police. I didn’t do it, I don’t condone it, nor try to justify what he did. But I still love him, and it hurts.

I hope you can find room in your heart to accept us, who love the children society hates.

I’m sure you understand why I just cannot put my name. Thanks for letting me get it off my chest.


PS: And I know you know that this is not a made-up letter. I’m real. I wish I weren’t. Happy Mother’s Day.

1 comment:

  1. I was given this on a crumpled up piece of paper the other day, and because it speaks to me and has deep meaning for me, I wanted to post here so that other parents know that they are not alone.