Where are your kids?

I have been a Cleveland Heights resident for a little more than a year and a half. It will officially be two years this November. Prior to this, my family and I were "west siders" for all of our lives.

We relocated to Cleveland Heights because it was relatively close to where my wife was working at the time. It was also the same place that we had daydreamed about living in when we were dating.

We moved here, despite what all of our friends told us about Cleveland’s demonized East Side, and despite the fact that, logistically speaking, there is no "fast" way to get to anywhere over here. You always have to take a main road and a handful of side streets to get to where you need to be. We made the best of it. We adjusted. We overcame.

For various reasons, I consider the summer of 2011 our first official summer as east siders, as residents of Cleveland Heights. Coincidentally, the youths who live in my neighborhood decided to make this their summer—the summer of hassling strangers to the point that the Cleveland Heights City Council retaliated by sending out a mass mailing informing residents about what has been going on and the revised curfew laws that resulted. This was also the summer of burglarizing people’s homes.

On my street alone, at least five homes have been broken into while the owners have been in them. To hear my neighbors talk, you would think that it is the same group of kids one would see walking up and down our street at any given time of day. I would, too, for that matter.

I'd like to share something with you that I learned about the youth culture in this city: The parents of these youths have no idea where they are or what they are doing.

I understand that some families have it harder than most. When it comes to raising a life that you have brought into this world, it’s not about circumstance. It's not about how many parents are in the house. It's not about the kids not having anything productive to do. It's about a choice.

As a parent, you can choose to raise your child as best as you can, regardless of circumstance or adversity. You can teach him right from wrong. You can teach your child to help others. What happens after that is up to the child in question, but at least you will know that you have tried to raise him as best as you can.

On the opposite side of this, you can continually makes excuses for why things are the way they are. You can never do anything to better yourself or your family and as a result your child will follow your sad example. While this may yield mixed results, I know that in the end you will get the same thing: a person or a group of people who have suffered from a lack of structure, who think that everyone owes them something. Every night, they will go to sleep, mad at the world for no reason and they will feel like this for a very long time.

Parenting is about a choice. You choose to be a good parent to your child. Or you choose to let the child be a parent to him or herself.

Matthew MacDonald

Matthew MacDonald is a freelance writer and Cleveland Heights resident.

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Volume 4, Issue 10, Posted 10:23 PM, 09.06.2011