The bloated body of a dead child in a suitcase, floating on the calm waters of a pond.
That story must rank among the saddest we’ve seen in recent times. It turns out to have been the result of a very disfunctional family. A young mother with three children from three different fathers. The exact details of what happened have yet to be revealed, but they are not hard to guess. My guess is that her home was not a happy home, nor a secure one. I could guess that the poor woman was having trouble coping, perhaps was using drugs or alcohol, and very likely was getting herself involved in very unhealthy relationships with abusive men. It is not unlikely that her childhood was not a happy one, with abusive or uncaring parents, and she ended up seeking affection and acceptance wherever she could find it.
And thus the cycle continued to repeat. The dead little child, I am sure, was not the first sad result of this cycle. And no doubt, unless something is done, her other two children (and any more she might have in future) are more than likely to continue the same sad cycle in thier own lives, and bequeath it upon their children, and their children’s children …
I know it sounds a bit harsh, perhaps even a bit fascist, but I sometimes wonder whether being a parent should require a license, like driving a car. Imagine what would happen if anyone could just jump into any car or truck and drive where they wanted. There would be some pretty bad disasters, because many people would not take the time and trouble to be taught how to drive safely and courteously. That is exactly what is happening to our society socially. Parenthood needs certain skills that must be learnt. Most parents learn those skills by modelling themselves on their parents, or on other close relatives and friends they admire, and they learn their skills the hard way: through trial and error. I am sure that some of you out there probably wish your parents had done a course or something! Most parents muddle through, get advice from grandparents and somehow, by the grace of God, produce pretty well brought up offspring. Some parents end up witht their offspring in a bag on a pond.
In the follow up reporting by the media , some startling statistics are emerging about the size of this problem. Here are a few:
– 240,000 calls are made to the The NSW Department of Community Services each year (1). That’s 657 calls a day, or roughly one call every two minutes, around the clock.
– one in 15 NSW children is now reported to DOCS (2).
Is our society really that sick? Is it falling apart right inside, where no one can see it? Occasionally we see the outward signs that society is declining. Murders, assaults and thefts are becoming more commonplace. It is no longer possible to do some of the things I used to do when I was young, like leave your bike on the front lawn, or for a child to go to the park and play with friends without parents being there, or leave your front door unlocked or windows open when you go out, or even walk in your street after dark. Perhaps these very obvious conditions are partially the result of this breakdown in our care for each other, especially the breakdown in the family.
Nowadays, anyone who supports ‘family values’ is labelled regressive, narrow-minded – an old fashioned nerd. Get with it! This is the twenty first century mate!” Sex without responsibility, single mothers, teenage mothers, easy divorce … all these are now the quite normal and acceptable. The old Mt Druitt High School cared for its students by providing nappy changing facilities and stroller accesible classrooms for its female students who brought their children to school. And just recently, a school board in Portland, Maine USA approved that condoms be provided free to its students aged 11 to 13 (3). Very enlightened.
The net result of this enlightenment has been the breakdown of the traditional family, with its traditional roles, and with all the benefits that one traditionally got from it. Having adults who not only care for you, but care enough to give whatever time and resources you need to grow. Having parents who will sacrifice their lives for you. Learning boundaries, and feeling secure as you grow up and develop your personality. Feeling loved and accepted. I know that not all families are ideal, and that every family has its faults, but by and large, the commitment to the very concept of “family” has given society and individuals tremendous benefits. Just how tremendous those benefits are is now being revealed as the family begins to fall apart in our society and we see what life is like without it. A bloated little body in a bag on the pond …
Christianity teaches that the family is very important to our lives. A loving, life long, self-sacrificial committment by two people to each other is its beginning. That love is then lavished upon the little children who come to join the party, until they are ready to leave the nest and go on to make their own committment to someone. And underlying the whole process, the central committment of each individual to God, that takes us out of ourselves, and teaches us, by the example of Christ, that the goal of our lives is to lose ourselves and thus find life in the love of Christ.