Planes that don’t crash are not headlines. “Sun Sets in West” will not appear in 72-point type above the fold. “Man bites dog,” instructs that uncommon stories are the ones reported.
But what is to be said of an adolescent biting his father? Admittedly, the young man also allegedly punched and kicked his dad. Still, a high school student attacking his father remains rare. When the situation gets weird—when son bites dad—can the admissions scandal be far behind?
Maybe this author is becoming curmudgeonly. When I saw the headline, “Boy bites dad” I knew the “varsity blues” kerfuffle was going to show up in the next paragraph. Here is the relevant part of the story from ABC News. (https://abcnews.go.com/US/beverage-magnate-pleaded-guilty-college-admissions-scandal-assaulted/story?id=63255490)
“A few days before beverage magnate Gregory Abbott pleaded guilty to a conspiracy charge in connection with the college admissions cheating scam, police say he was beaten up by one of his children in the family's swank Fifth Avenue home.
Malcolm Abbott, who raps under the name ‘Billa,’ repeatedly struck his father with a ruler, and punched, bit and kicked him inside the family’s New York home on Sunday, the NYPD said.”
What did dad do to deserve such treatment at the hands of his son? Did dad bite his son first? The ABC News story doesn’t say. Is biting family members a new thing, like artisional vegetables or arugula? Am I going to feel behind the times when I attend a soiree in NY and I am the only guest whose family members do not bite one another?
I’m going to go out on a limb here and make a guess: I’m going to suggest that the relationship between the father and son was imperfect. I’m going to propose further that the father didn’t know who his son was, didn’t accept his son for who he was, treated his son as if he were somebody else.
I could be wrong. But I have to make some inferences here because:
- I feel a responsibility to send out a blog every Tuesday.
- None of my four children has ever beaten me up or bitten me, (although admittedly, it is still early in the day.)
To be fair, dad didn’t lie about his son. Dad lied about his daughter. Same family though. Same message conveyed: you’re not okay as you are; I don’t know you at all; I would rather have some fictional child rather than my actual kid. Everything about you is wrong or inadequate. Your grades aren’t good enough; your test scores are lacking; your athletics don’t measure up. You won't likely be admitted to some "top" college. Indeed, I wish you were somebody else. Therefore I’m going to design this other fictional child—a rower, an honor student, someone who tests well. I’m going to send this imaginary child off to college. My real child will just inhabit the corporal body of that illusory child.
The Varsity Blues scandal is Frankenstein. Inventing people never ends well.
Speaking of books, remember Polinius giving advice to his son, Laertes?
This above all, to thine own self be true
And it must follow, as the night the day, thou canst not be false to any man.
Parents would do well to let their children be true to themselves. Help your kids read, learn, study? Of course. Help your kids run fast, jump high, excel? Yes! One of the many outrageous joys of having kids is watching them do stuff this year that they couldn’t do before. Developmental milestones are outrageous! Baby’s first steps; toddler’s first books; adolescent’s first air-guitar solo. But once Johnny has a B in chemistry or a third-place finish in the spelling bee, leave it alone. Don’t lie to the admissions committee pretending your kid is someone else.
Creating people—monsters, star athletes, or valedictorians—never works. Conveying that you wish your kid was somebody else always comes back to bite you.