My last daughter left in the house has told me that she might want to go live with her father in Southern California for her senior year. It’s a bold move on her part, to switch schools in her last year of high school. But she’s not having much fun up here lately, having recently been bullied by a mean girl in school.
Besides, this other high school has an ocean view, so can you really blame her for wanting to move?
Upon hearing the news, my first reaction was, of course, utter devastation. “What? You can’t leave me! My job isn’t done yet.” I always knew my services as a mother would “no longer be needed” once I became an empty-nester, but I wasn’t expecting this major life change for another year. I was saving all my tears and anguish for that Kodak moment when my youngest daughter is handed her high school diploma, and I am given my walking papers.
Now I have even less time than I thought to finish the best job I have ever had. I’m about to be a mom interrupted.
As sad as I am, it’s nothing compared to the heartbreak playing out in a courtroom about 3,000 miles away in Morristown, New Jersey, where an 18-year-old girl named Rachel Canning, who moved out from her parents’ home by her own choosing, mind you, is now suing them for child support.
According to court records, Rachel, who is reportedly an honor student, just couldn’t live by the intolerable rules in her parents’ household. You know, unreasonable demands such as being respectful, helping around the house, abiding by a curfew, not drinking and staying away from a boyfriend who is leading her down the wrong path.
Her parents aren’t monsters, as Rachel and her despicable lawyer are contending. In my estimation, they are simply loving, vigilant parents who are doing the hard work it takes to raise a child. Look, parenting is a thankless job. We invest long hours that turn into a lifetime. There are lots of messes to clean up. We don’t get paid for it. We are very unpopular, especially with teenagers like Rachel. And have you noticed that we are usually the last ones thanked by our grown children during their acceptance speeches at the Oscars, like we’re some kind of footnotes to their lives?
Elizabeth and Sean Canning, parents of Rachel Canning, cry during a hearing at the Morris County Courthouse, Tuesday, March 4, 2014, in Morristown, New Jersey.
So, why do we do it? I’ve seen video of Rachel’s parents in the courtroom, sobbing, wiping their eyes and consoling each other, and I’m sure they have been wondering the same thing, too. But no matter how frustrating and life-sapping children – mostly teens! – can be, parents always come back to one irrefutable truth: We’re in it for love, pure and simple. Mothers know. Once you give birth, you really never stop giving.
Parents don’t expect much in return, either—except a little respect and an occasional “Thank you.” The absolute last thing we expect—or deserve—from our children is a lawsuit. It’s the ultimate betrayal.
State Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard got it right. He recently denied Rachel’s motion for immediate relief. She was hoping her parents would be forced to pay $650 a week in child support, the balance of her tuition at a private Catholic High School and her attorney's fees.
They are due back in court on April 22 to wrangle over whether her parents are obligated to give financial support to a daughter who self-emancipated.
It’s all quite sad to me. It’s hard enough to say good-bye to our children when they are ready to leave the nest. But to be betrayed by a self-centered, entitled, ungrateful brat of a daughter for all the world to see after gifting her with 18 years of unconditional love, well, that’s the real crime here.
Drop the lawsuit, Rachel, and move back home. Your parents love you, and I am certain that they will forgive you. ?
Lynn Armitage is a contributing writer who lives in Northern California. She is an enrolled member of the Oneida Tribe of Indians of Wisconsin.