As a parent, where do you draw the line and hold your son or daughter accountable for the choices they make?
TK is the youngest son of a large Irish Catholic family. When he was ten, his parents separated. TK and all of his older siblings were brilliant. On every grade level they each finished at the top of their class.
As time passed, TK excelled not only in school, but also in athletics. He did well in anything he attempted. If it was competitive, he soared. By junior high school, he started to spread his social wings. He became more and more of a wise guy. Unfortunately, people made excuses for him because he was being raised in a single parent household. His Dad (the custodial parent) was often absent. His older brothers tried to hold him accountable, but they were out of control themselves.
During his junior high years, TK did extremely well in school and sports. The school tended to overlook his behavioral outbursts. They were hoping it was just a phase and that TK would move through it unscathed.
By the time TK was in high school, his household was very chaotic. His Dad was working around the clock to feed his six boys. Three of the boys were out of high school trying to find their way, but doing it very poorly. The three still in high school were a handful. There wasn't a week that passed that the Dean of Students wasn't requesting a parent-teacher conference to discuss one of the boys' deportments.
What his Dad did not know, because TK was a good liar and a master at manipulation, was that TK had started to use drugs even though he was an exceptional athlete. In addition to his drug use, TK had become an entrepreneur. He discovered that at age fifteen he could make a bundle selling drugs.
Initially his business realized a few hundred dollars a week dealing "weed" just to his so-called friends. However, he became greedy and saw very quickly that he could expand his business and make fifteen hundred dollars a week selling "weed" and an assortment of pills.
Before anyone realized it, TK, who was now barely sixteen, was making fifteen hundred dollars a week. He bought all kinds of toys - rings, watches, televisions, VCRS and the latest model in cell phones. He was clever in keeping most of this away from his Dad, although his Dad suspected something was up. His brothers kept quiet because their little brother was keeping them in cash.
Most of his junior year, TK wined and dined his friends with his drug money. He went to school when he wanted and charmed his way along because he was brilliant and manipulative. The only disciplined area in his life was sports. His coaches would take no nonsense, but they were in the dark most of the time because TK was shrewd.
Life as TK knew it came tumbling down on him when he was a senior. He was arrested for drug possession. Again, because he was seen as a good student and great athlete, he merely got a slap on the wrist. At that time, the system did not realize the full scope of his antics. His father went into debt to get a high-powered lawyer. TK received a probation sentence with a condition of counseling.
His senior summer was a nightmare. His father had no control over him. TK was acting like he was invincible. He came and went as he pleased. His father threatened to call his probation officer, but never followed through. Like most fathers, he did not want to see his son in jail.
It was a miracle that he did not get violated that summer. He missed counseling regularly. He started using drugs again. And although TK denies it, his father suspected that TK resurrected his little business on a smaller scale. However, it was large enough to give him a few hundred dollars a week.
The September after high school graduation, TK began attending a local community college. He carried a full course load plus was a starting player for a sport. In late October, he was arrested again. It was a drug related offense. This time, because he was on probation, a high bail was set.
Initially his Dad could not raise the bail, so TK spent a few weeks in jail. Again his Dad and family came to the rescue and TK was bailed out. This time he was facing new charges and probation violation. His first lawyer was convinced that TK was going to face some serious jail time.
TK's Dad wasn't satisfied with their first attorney, so he refinanced their home and retained a high-powered lawyer who was an expert with drug cases. He was able to work a deal with the district attorney that TK would complete a drug treatment program and have additional probation. Thanks to a number of sterling letters from TK's college coaches and teachers, the district attorney agreed to this plan.
TK entered a long term, hard-core drug treatment program. Halfway through, he had serious problems with their treatment philosophy. Before entering the program, he was diagnosed as bipolar. He was given a prescription for that illness that really seemed to work. The drug treatment program wanted to wean him off his medication. They were not willing to budge.
The judge agreed that if TK could find a program that would take him, he would allow the transfer. That process was overwhelming. TK's Dad was determined. He did find a program, but the program demanded that TK make a thirty-six month commitment. The agreement was made. It was understood that if TK left or was asked to leave before finishing the program, he would go to jail.
The transfer took place eighteen months ago. Initially, it went well. However, as soon as TK did not get his way, he started to act out. A few months ago he went back to court and the judge told him he could leave in January. This totally violated the agreement. Since that time, TK has been off the wall. The program finally discharged him due to his outrageous behavior.
In so many ways, this brilliant, talented young adult has been set up for failure. He has never been held accountable for the choices he has made. He has always been able to manipulate someone or something to get his way.
Now he is twenty-two, very damaged and irresponsible. The system has set him free. He has not paid a price for his behavior or completed any kind of treatment. Maybe the price he will ultimately pay will be the ruination of his life. If that be the case, that is tragic because the system did it to him!