You readers are making my job easier this week by making such great comments, and sending in such great e-mails. Reader Annie writes:
Last week we found out my dear friend’s nephew, who she helped raise as her own son, is addicted to heroin. He didn’t graduate high school and has never had a job (my friend had to relocate to take care of an elderly relative, for whom there was no other help. So it was another relative doing most of the work during her nephew’s teenage years). His mother is a crack addict whose presence has been solely destructive. Of her four children, the only one thriving went to live with her father and grandparents as a toddler, and so was raised with stability. I do not know how the others will ever work, or, more importantly, form lasting, meaningful relationships. Is my friend doomed to spend her entire life keeping them from utter self-destruction? At the moment it seems likely. It’s care for them forever or watch them die. And they might die on her watch anyway.
And it’s not just unstable homes. I have relatives and friends in one of the wealthiest suburbs of the country who have moved back in with their parents: not from economic need, but from total social and emotional collapse. They were raised without limits, without adequate self control, and they’ve been broken by it. They suffer anxiety, depression, manic disorders. They can barely hold down a service job for a few weeks before it’s over and back to the basement for more bizarre social media antics and binge-watching. What is going to happen to them? What happens when their parents pass? It is heart-breaking and terrifying.
We’re moving to a more rural community in a few months, for a number of reasons. But the town is also home to a heroin epidemic. How much can I protect my children? Yet, there is nowhere that is safe. You can do everything “right” and still lose them.
There are no simple solutions and no single causes. But I sure as hell know the approaches on the table are doing nothing at best, and are accelerating things at worse.
I once used the phrase “broken home” in conversation and was scolded by an upper class, well-educated woman. I was astounded – what was I supposed to say? I realized she didn’t want me to make people feel judged. But I’ve seen the not judging, from the rich and the poor. It kills. We need to worry less about virtue signaling through words. We need to change the reality. It’s not going to happen by pretending this was all inevitable, or happened in a vacuum, or that social shifts didn’t play an enormous role.