A chicken, it is frequently remarked, is an egg’s way of making another egg. Or something like that. Assigning causality, that one thing is directly responsible for another thing, is tougher than just noting correlation, that two things frequently go together. That my favorite sports teams seem to lose an unlikely preponderance of their contests when I am watching may be an exaggeration. Or maybe my preferred franchises just aren’t that competitive. You see how complicated this is.
And I’m certainly not going to stop singing Laura Branigan’s Gloria to ensure that each and every llama in North America remains far away from my kitchen. Go ahead and argue that my crooning is more likely than not to attract llamas, alpacas and, for that matter, vicunas. It’s just too risky for me to stop roaring away.
My grandfather’s failed businesses caused him to be depressed? Or his wraparound sadness caused him not to be successful in business? Folks who run 120 miles per week typically complete marathons in two hours and thirty minutes? Or preternaturally fast marathoners train at staggeringly high weekly mileage? Again, hard to say which came first. Speaking of my antecedents, “if my grandmother had wheels, she would have been a trolley car.” “If” at the beginning of that sentence being the operative word. If you can run over a hundred miles in a week, if you are depressed, if, if, if. It’s connecting the “then” to the if that’s tricky.
And speaking of stuff that seems to happen sequentially, what are we to make of the following scenario? Sixteen-year-old Percy, having passed his driver’s test earlier in the day, seems to be having a kerfuffle with the authorities. Apparently a police officer has had the unmitigated temerity to offer Percy a citation. Something about going 50 miles per hour. Significantly over the speed limit. In a school zone. At dismissal time.
Percy calls his mother explaining that it wasn’t his fault, that he was actually only going one mile over the speed limit, that the police officer had it in for him, that life is generally unfair, that okay maybe he was speeding but again it wasn’t his fault because he was on his phone.
His mother agrees, goes about hiring a criminal defense attorney, tells Percy not to worry, that she’ll take care of everything.
How will Percy ever learn to do for himself if his mother insists on doing everything for him? It’s one of those When was the war of 1812? type of questions when the answer seems apparent from the query.
Or are all explanations so straight-forward. Do parents who soften, save, and enable their children cause their kids to be feckless, irresponsible, prevaricators? Could it be that there is something about some kids that requires more attention. Or does mom have her own issues that merit our attention, that require explanation. Does mom feel out of control, does she need to take care of something is a world in which she feels powerless to take care of everything. Has Percy been bullied? Did Percy fail his driver’s licensing exam several times before finally passing. Was Percy on his phone because he was thoughtfully calling his grandmother to learn how her medical procedure went?
None of which is to excuse Percy’s horrific behavior endangering the lives of school children with a deadly, speeding hunk of metal. Only to explain that just because two things go together doesn’t mean that one thing caused the other. Percy may not be just the simple product of indulgent parenting. Or he may be. But the situation is always more complicated than Percy’s mom never set limits THEREFORE Percy was one wrong turn away from committing vehicular homicide.
Don’t get me wrong. I am all about getting all the Percys of our world out from behind the wheel of all automobiles. But I am more interested in trying to determine what got them there in the first place, oblivious to the simplest regard for safety and community. The purpose of these weekly essays to to broaden the discussion, to gain insight how to increase the likelihood that we never get that phone call that begins, “Mom, I’m calling from jail. I was driving and something bad happened.”