The headlines have been everywhere.
SPOILED BRAT SUES PARENTS!
PRIVATE SCHOOL PRINCESS POUTS IN COURT!
NEW JERSEY TEEN SUES HER OWN PARENTS!
And oh, how the voices online have been weighing in. All immediately condemning the teen, mostly just reading a headline, or getting a very cursory overview of the case.
The case is as sad as it is pathetic.
Rachel Canning, 18, of New Jersey, with the help of a lawyer father of a friend, hired an attorney and filed suit against her parents demanding that they continue supporting her and pay for her college/expenses when she graduates.
In Rachel's telling, she was cut off and kicked out by her parents. She turned to a friend whose parents took her in - the same family who hired the lawyer representing her. She says her parents informed her that when she turned 18, the money faucet would turn off and that she would be on her own. That was late October.
In her filing, Rachel claims, “My parents have rationalized their actions by blaming me for not following their rules. They stopped paying my high school tuition to punish the school and me and have redirected my college fund, indicating their refusal to afford me an education as a punishment.”
She claims her mother called her "fat" and porky" resulting in bulimia. She accuses her father of being "inappropriate" towards her when drunk. And she claims she was "cruelly dragged" into their marital problems when they separated last year.
From the other side - her parents - they state that their daughter left because she did not like their rules like doing chores, observing her curfew, and their request that she rethink her relationship with a boy she had been dating whom they referred to as a "bad influence."
As for the bulimia, her mother told the court that Rachel began dieting several years ago for prom (2012) and upon returning from a vacation she and her husband went on, found two large garbage bags of vomit in Rachel's room. Rachel was confronted, taken to the doctor and therapists, and diagnosed as anorexic and bulimic. Her mother claims to have been her biggest supporter in trying to get her well, but that Rachel rebelled against those attempts and developed hatred towards her.
They state that even the Child Services worker who was called in after the school became concerned about various accusations Rachel was making, referred to their daughter as "spoiled" and given "too much."
Did they stop paying her tuition? Yes, because in their view she had emancipated herself from them when she left. As for the college money? They have not done anything with it.
Point of order: No underage person can be legally declared emancipated by a court unless they can prove they are fully self supporting and responsible.
So, who is telling the truth? And who is to blame?
Personally, I think both sides are to blame here.
Rachel, described in every article as an honor student - you know what, STOP, must comment. Being an honor student does not make one an angel. Or honestly, automatically the brightest branch on the high school tree. I know many, MANY "honor students" whose behavior is as dishonorable as it can be, and they squeak by in their classes by cheating fullstop. So calling her that doesn't buy her any points with me. Being a cheerleader? So what? That doesn't make her bulletproof or better either. It has not changed through the years. Some of the biggest bitches wear the shortest skirts and carry pom poms. Every one? Of course not, but MANY.
And as for being accepted into many colleges? Good for her. Happy that she wants to take the next step in her education. But trumpeting it the way the media has been seems to imply she should be acquitted of her behavior and that her parents OWE her a full ride. And that $20k scholarship she has been offered at one school? That is over the course of four years, and a drop in the bucket at University of Vermont. Can her parents afford to help her pursue higher education? By all accounts, yes, and in fact they have a college fund set up for her. But they do not OWE her a college education.
That seems to be a big theme with Rachel. What she perceives she is OWED. For what? Being pretty? It certainly doesn't seem to be for perfect behavior.
Rachel has been suspended in the past. Alcohol seems to be one of her BFFs. She was suspended for suspicion of alcohol at the homecoming dance, and for truancy (boyfriend related). Her mother told the court her daughter is also a thief and a chronic liar.
Between August and October 30, 2013, Rachel routinely (every weekend) would attend parties, become intoxicated, and seek approval from my husband and I.
‘On or about October 5, 2012, Rachel committed a theft on my credit card, which card was given to her for the purpose of purchasing presents for my husband’s birthday.’
‘During at incident in April 2011, Rachel stole $100 from my purse, snuck out of the house, at midnight, attended a party…. And returned home by taxi at 3.30am on a weeknight.
As for Rachel's behavior towards her parents? This voicemail was submitted to the judge by her parents' attorney:
'Hi mom just to let you know you're a real f**king winner aren't you you think you're so cool and you think you caught me throwing up in the bathroom after eating an egg frittatta, yeah sorry that you have problems now and you need to harp on mine because i didn't and i actually took a shit which i really just wanna shit all over your face right now because it looks like that anyway, anyway i fucking hate you and um I've written you off so don't talk to me, don't do anything I'm blocking you from just about everything, have a nice life, bye mom'
OK, so that, if nothing else, pretty much sums up where Rachel lives in terms of attitude.
And yes, I agree with all those online who have gone for her throat - the girl needs a foot broken off in her ass.
BUT. This is also where I break off from the pack and direct some attention towards the parents of this kid.
A child does not get to be THAT child, the one leaving such a colorful voicemail without a whole lot of leeway her entire life. A whole lot of privilege. A whole lot of "things." A whole lot of reinforcement and a helluva consequence famine.
The parents admit she has been indulged. That is pretty evident. But indulging a child, giving them things you never had, does not automatically produce a spoiled brat.
We have three daughters. Yes, we are in a position financially to afford them things some can't, BUT they have been raised in a home where there have always been rules, expectations, consequences, consistency, and respect.
It is that latter one many homes lack. The home in which the parents believe that simply by virtue of their age they should be respected. That because they provide a roof and food and clothing they are worthy of respect.
Sorry, but it simply doesn't work that way. And I have three kids who are living proof that if you want to be respected as a parent, you have to respect your child in return.
You don't get respect by hitting them. You get fear. NOT respect. (You want to hit your child, go ahead. You made them. Just know that hitting is not a necessary component to raising a respectful, polite, GOOD child.)
You don't get respect by demanding it. You get a child who fakes it to your face and cannot wait to get the hell away from you.
You don't get respect by caving and looking the other way when they get themselves in trouble. You get a con artist. I know so many parents who act helpless in the face of their kid's bad behavior and choices. Like they cannot do anything to change it. Too worried about not being liked by their child, or having their child get upset at them.
You do not get respect by constantly moving the bottom for them. When a parent forever moves the bottom, the child never fears the fall. If rules have been set, don't change them. If boundaries are laid out, don't move them. Make clear what the consequences are and then FOLLOW THROUGH.
You do not get respect by acting like your child is a lesser life form than you.
You get respect by listening, responding. By actively seeking them out as parts of the family - a family in which their opinions can be expressed (civilly), where what they feel is taken into account.
You get respect by being rational, not losing your shit over every glass of spilled milk. You get respect by having proportional responses to the situations that come up.
You get respect by being a good example. Don't bitch at them about their dirty room if your room is a sty. Who the hell do you think YOU are?
Respect is a two way street.
I find it hard to see that there is even a bike path in this relationship.
In court, these emails were submitted by the Cannings. They are between the girls and the father. Start at the bottom and work up. She asks if she can come home. He lays out the ground rules. She basically tells him to fuck off. Again, Rachel didn't get that free with her mouth without being allowed repeatedly for years to be that free with her mouth.
Now, is it possible for a child to just be awful? Of course. There are cases where a child is simply a bad seed , as it were, despite the best efforts of the parents, but those cases are not the majority. Not nearly. Some children struggle, they just do. But the lion's share of kids like Rachel are enabled. There is a high school in our district where the parking lot resembles a high end car dealership. Range Rovers, Beemers, Lexuses when a kid turns 16. And that IS the expectation of those kids in that school. That is the environment in which they are raised. And while not all of them are brats who need an ass kicking and the public "humiliation" of wearing Walmart's finest sweatpants to school for a month, MANY are. The stories out of that school are stomach turning. Privilege with no accountability. None.
Today, the judge ruled against Rachel's request for child support, her tuition, and legal fees. He pointedly told Rachel she is disrespectful and told both sides that more effort has been used to tear the family apart than fix things. He also indicated that while there will be a second hearing, Rachel shouldn't hope for a different outcome. He had words for her parents as well.
‘I hope we all can realize that despite all the ups and downs, despite the somewhat severe trials and tribulations that have been brought in front of the court, that the basic concept that all the money in the world cannot match the greatest gift you can ever receive, the gift of a child. You should never give up on a child even when they become a young adult.’
I agree with the judge. A child is a gift. The greatest gift because they come into our lives as blank slates, limitless potential.
How we write upon them as they grow determines what kind of person they become.
Rachel did not become this way on her own. And as soon as the parents accept their part in creating this little monster, the quicker real resolution, lasting change, and positive steps forward can begin.
There is no use placing all the blame on the apple when it is apparent there is tree rot where it grew.