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Opinion & Essays - Apr, 1995 Issue #33 

THE EMPTY PLACE
by: Bob Kirkpatrick
A Parent in Spokane, Washington
Jan. 13, 1995 

In the early hours of the morning, when all in the house are asleep, I do the last few things to end my day. Quietly, I open doors and look to see my children, curled and dreaming. For two weeks, one bed has been empty, and each time I see the childless room my sadness deepens. 

Like Bonnie and her Clyde, my daughter found excitement and adventure in a young man ??and for many of the same reasons. We have learned that he taught her to lie, use drugs and to forget the feelings of others in trade for feeling good _now_, this one instant. Let the next or past moments be damned. 

It's been long enough that as parents we have beat ourselves silly, wading in guilt looking for another moment in time ??the moment we went wrong and set the stage for Megan's disappearance. We find some, and wring our hands because we care so very much, and wish we could turn back the clock to make it better. We live in a hell many parents understand, and many more than that cannot fathom. They have no clue that worry and the unknown can be so pervasive and painful. 

In all, everyone we have spoken to says the same thing. America has given great power to its children. We didn't mean to ??because we know that kids aren't able to make clear judgement calls. Their lack of experience and the newness of everything makes them too easy as victims. But we did it just the same. 

In an effort to protect the few, we have hogtied the many. Parents now have no rights, yet they bear full responsibility where their children are concerned. As a simile with gun control, we have taken weapons away from all because of the acts of the very few. We responded to fear without clarity of purpose. Because some parents are abusive, all of the rights and controls parents have had through the ages were stripped, and in a wholesale way. 

It is illegal for a parent to search their child's room. If you believe that your child is drug involved, you cannot prove it. Children can, and do, sue their parents for breach of privacy for room searches. When I first heard this I dismissed it. However, a little simple research through WestLaw has shown me that just under 300 successful cases were decided in Washington in 1993. A parent cannot go to a judge and get a search warrant ??only law enforcement can do that. A parent cannot get a cop to do the search, they have no probable cause. In order to get that, the parent has to make at least a cursory search ??which invalidates the probable cause they are trying to build. 

The concepts of abduction, statutory rape, custodial interference are all moot these days ??at least to a great degree they are. A child may be taken against their will, but if, along the way, the child decides they want to be with their abductor then all bets are off. When a child passes their 12th year, in order to make any charges of sexual impropriety stick, the child must file the complaint and testify in court. If you tell anyone that you do not want your child to stay at their home, and they let them anyway and keep you away ??if the child wants to be there it's just too bad. 

My daughter is with a 17 year old that the police tell me they want to have contact with, and should I discover his location I should notify them IMMEDIATELY. When I ask why, I'm told they can't give me that information, it would violate his rights to privacy. I'm told that considering him a risk to my daughter is a very legitimate position to take, yet I cannot know why. 

If I should find my daughter, and try to bring her home or take her someplace safe, I can be arrested for assault, abduction and/or unlawful imprisonment. Why have all of these laws come into being? Because our society is very good at expecting the government to do everything for it. We don't want to think anymore, we just want to do what we damn well please, when we damn well please to. That isn't too different an orientation to the way many kids feel today. 

Why shouldn't they? Our society taught them everything they know. 

We've driven our kids underground. In our fears, we've taken away the places they go ??in an effort to make ourselves more comfortable. Look at that kid, we say. He has blue spiked hair. I bet he wants to rob me. Let's get rid of him. We react because kids look 'funny' to us ??forgetting that they simply wear the uniform of their generation as we proudly wear and wore ours. They have torn jeans, we had bell bottoms or bloused fatigue pants. They wear T-shirts emblazoned with team logos or band names. We wore ugly flowered Nehru shirts or double?knit polyester leisure suit shirts with collar tips that hung low. For their look and their music, for their skateboards and inclines, for their lack of a place to be so they sit on the curbs we've made it clear that we aren't as tolerant as our own folks were when it was our turn. 

So what have we done? We have abdicated our rights to be parents, but made sure that we still have responsibility for our kids. We have told them we hate their look, their music and their friends, yet we love them deeply. How can we expect our children to have any common sense if we continue to fail to demonstrate to them what that is? 

This is a good question, but it won't answer my most burning question. Where is Megan? Is she alright? Did her adventure turn badly on her? The only thing I have left to do is to stand in the doorway of her room and feel the heavy weight of a dad who desperately loves his children, and is equally desperate to hold her close and tell her that she's important.

I love you Moosie. Please come home. 

Copyright 1995, Woodbury Reports, Inc. (This article may be reproduced without prior approval if the copyright notice and proper publication and author attribution accompanies the copy.)

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