Sunday, August 14, 2011

The Pain of Responsibility

My neighborhood has recently posted a sign notifying the residents on a mandatory ban on outdoor watering.  Apparently, the neighboring water utility has lost their well, and until they can fix it, we are sharing water.  We are faced with up to $200 in fines for each violation of the ban.  The grumbling amongst neighbors commenced.

I was stuck in a tough decision, one that the other 1000 homes in our neighborhood had to make.  Do we follow the mandatory ban and let our yards and plants fry in the record heat, or do we thwart the authorities and continue watering?
Making the decision was hard.  For the past three summers, I have struggled to have a nice looking yard.  The sod the builders used in the front was low quality, fraught with weeds, and thin in areas.  I have spent quite a bit of money and time on bringing my yard up to where I think it should be.  I haven’t quite gotten there yet, but I was loath to allow the current drought situations, and a water utility, to knock me off course.  
On the other hand, I try to be a person of responsibility.  As a teacher, I work to model the best behavior I can given any situation.  The responsible behavior in this case is to turn off the sprinkler system and let my yard and plants suffer for the good of the two neighborhoods.  Would I feel good about myself if the water quality began to suffer or our own well ran dry because I ignored the ban?  I am sure I wouldn’t.
Ultimately, the pain was not in deciding which of the two options I would follow, it came from knowing the damage lack of water would inflict on my yard.  I sucked up my pride and turned the sprinkler system off.
Being a responsible person is difficult sometimes.  Throughout life, we are presented with opportunities to be irresponsible.  Whether we take those opportunities says a lot about our character.  Taking responsibility for your actions after the fact can be even harder.
Families in England are dealing with this aspect of responsibility right now.  Many parents are watching the television and seeing their own child right in the middle of footage from the riots and looting.  I can’t imagine the pain and surprise a parent might feel knowing that it was your offspring who was out on the streets, marauding and causing mayhem.
The BBC ran a news program on whether or not a parent should report their own children to the police and parents lined up on both sides.  Some argued that this would be a great opportunity to teach your child about cause and effect.  If you do something, there is always an action to follow, and in this case, if you broke the law, you should be punished.  Others, fearful of turning in their children, worry that a criminal record could ruin their life.  They also worry that turning them in could damage they parent/child relationship.
This is where the pain of responsibility really comes in to play.  I believe the responsible course is to turn the child in and let the law sort it out.  It will be awkward and painful for you and for them, but it will teach them that there are consequences for actions.  Afterwards, it will take time, but your relationship with them will heal.  The damage inflicted on them by not taking responsibility will be much more severe.  They will learn that their actions have no consequences, and therefore, they are free to do anything they like.  The next time a situation arises in which they have the opportunity to break the law, they will assume they will get away with it, creating more pain and suffering in their life and in the lives of the others around them.
I think in this particular situation, parents need to be reviewing their own lives and actions.  They need to look back on how they raised their children and take responsibility for creating a situation in which they allowed this to happen.  The youth riots in London are not the result of an isolated incident, they are a symptom of a growing problem - parental disassociation from their children.  
The responsible actions of parents involve more than just giving them a place to live, clothes to wear, and food to eat.  A parent needs to be  role model, instilling in their children tenets to live by, creating a responsible member of society.  While I am not a parent, I have been around plenty of people who are, and I can see the difficulties being a good parent presents.  Knowing you are not your child’s friend, but their parent, is hard.  Developing appropriate consequences, creating defined boundaries, crafting an existence in which they have their freedom to develop as a person within responsible limits, are all part of the job.
Responsibility always has a price, and we choose whether to pay it or not at every crossroads.  Unfortunately, the longer and longer we choose the irresponsible path, the higher the cost seems to return to the straight and narrow.


  1. you could look into setting up a gray water system :)

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