Opinion
Join The Times' book club. This month's selection: "Cadillac Desert"
Opinion Opinion L.A.

An open letter to my kids about suing mom and dad

My dearest son and daughter,

The story of New Jersey high school student Rachel Canning suing her parents for child support and high school tuition after claiming to have been booted from their home inspired me to write you a little letter. 

Sure, you are not yet in preschool, but it's never too early to find a "teachable moment." 

Let me just put this out there: The only way I expect to see you in a court is as an attorney or a judge.  

I must admit that my first reaction to this story included a lot of neck-circling, finger-wagging and "don't even think." But as I started writing this for you, I found the whole issue deserved a far more nuanced response than "take me to court and you'll get a bill, not a check." 

Even without all the specifics in this family's situation, there are three things about this that seem to me to be simply courting disaster. There will be trials as you grow from children to adults, but they don’t need to play out in a courtroom.

First, it’s natural for parents and children to argue. I can guarantee that we will disagree, often passionately. One or both of you will, at some point, scream at the top of your lungs the various ways you hate me. And I won't always like you either. (I recall a four-year period bridging high school and college that tested my mother's resolve and blood pressure.)

But know this better than you know anything: I will always love you and do everything I can to keep your best interests as my focus, even when I'm so angry I can't see straight. 

We are family. That means we are as much a part of one another as the marrow in our bones. And we all should ponder very deeply before ever thinking of jeopardizing, let alone breaking, that bond.

Second, beware of friends bearing lawsuits.

The father of this young lady's friend has "kindly" foot the bill for an attorney -- though the lawsuit seeks compensation for lawyer's fees.

A true friend would urge family counseling, not court.  

And third, there are many things you can't take back. But possibly more damaging than harsh words and missed opportunities is the viral story.

In this world you are part of, impetuosity is rewarded with a lingering record, be it unfortunate selfie, raunchy post or status update and, yes, dubious lawsuit.

This young lady will for quite some time, if not forever, be recorded as "the girl who sued her parents." Even if they forgive and forget, the Internet doesn't. That story remains. 

I'll be honest, no matter how far apart we are on your life choices, including a seriously questionable mate, your father and I will most certainly pay everything we can for your higher education. It's that important to us. But that doesn't mean you should push the boundaries or take that for granted. To be clear, that is a privilege we happily extend to you -- not a birthright or entitlement.

And you will have to work hard to earn that privilege, through your academic commitments and full participation in our family. That will include rules, expectations, discipline and boundaries you might not always agree with or like. Growing up is hard work. 

My most important job is to help you become the best version of yourself. We both have hard work ahead.  

If I do my job properly as your mother -- and you do yours as my children -- you would sooner dig in, get a job or two, get a grant or scholarship and find a way to make your dreams come true than go to trial over what you think you're entitled to. 

Now, let's start work on getting you that J.D.

Love always, 

Mom

ALSO:

N.J. teen sues parents, but I'm not worried 'cause I'm an A- dad

Kristen Bell and Dax Shepard's scheme to sideline aggressive paparazzi

When rulers go bad: A peek inside 5 doomed dictators' opulent lifestyles [Photos]

What would you say to your kids? Share with us in the comments or tweet me (@mmaltaisLAT).

Copyright © 2015, Los Angeles Times
Related Content
  • Kids are comfortable with diversity. Give us a gay princess already.

    Kids are comfortable with diversity. Give us a gay princess already.

    For this year’s Super Bowl, Cheerios brought back the fictional biracial family that caused such a stir in this 2013 commercial for a new ad. First time around, the racist response to the commercial was so overwhelming that comments on YouTube had to be shut down, following what AdWeek reports...

  • Uncertain prospect of hard numbers on police shootings

    Uncertain prospect of hard numbers on police shootings

    Ever wonder why we don't know how many civilians are killed or hurt by police every year? It is because collecting data on these incidents has not been much of a priority. Few people even noticed the lack of such data until a rash of highly publicized cases of unarmed black men killed by police...

  • Mike Huckabee's rhetoric of religious victimization

    Mike Huckabee's rhetoric of religious victimization

    Just prior to announcing his candidacy for the Republican presidential nomination, Mike Huckabee addressed the Iowa Faith and Freedom Coalition in Waukee. “We are criminalizing Christianity in this country,” Huckabee declared. “We cannot stand by silently.” The Southern Baptist minister, former...

  • When a government spies on its citizens: lessons from Chile

    When a government spies on its citizens: lessons from Chile

    What are the deep, long-term effects of clandestine surveillance on a country? The current debates in Congress regarding the renewal — or modification — of the Patriot Act offer an occasion to hold an open discussion that is long overdue.

  • Fox appoints itself a GOP primary gatekeeper

    Fox appoints itself a GOP primary gatekeeper

    It's finally official: Roger Ailes, the president of Fox News, will decide which candidates can compete in Republican presidential primaries next year.

  • Opinion newsletter: Little hope for Hillary Rodham Clinton?

    Opinion newsletter: Little hope for Hillary Rodham Clinton?

    Good morning. I'm Paul Thornton, The Times' letters editor. It is Saturday, May 30 -- remember to go outside and soak up the pre-June Gloom while you still can. In the meantime, here's a look back at the week in Opinion. Subscribe to the newsletter Hillary Rodham Clinton supporters, look away now:...

Comments
Loading