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Nebraska is killing me.

November 21, 2008

What the hell’s been going in Nebraska? This has been eating at me for weeks, listening to the stories on NPR about the baby safe haven law and all those kids being dropped off at hospitals by their parents, who then walk away. I read today that they finally amended the law. But still. That doesn’t for a second change the fact that parents were actually giving away their 11 year old kids, their 17 year old kids, their 8 year old kids. Not one of them was an infant. Not that it matters but an infant doesn’t have the memory to remember the day their mom and dad pushed them off the bus. A 14 year old kid is never going to be the same. I don’t pretend to know the first thing about the issues and problems and diseases that these parents and kids are dealing with but right when I was feeling really good about America and the citizens who voted for Obama, I hear about people driving in from other states to leave their kids in Nebraska…and then walk away while their kid screams at them to not leave them there.

This is the story that kills me the most in all the news. All the bad news from around the world, the war in Iraq, the starving kids in Haiti, the slow rebuilding of New Orleans, all of it. We’ve been hardened to most of this terrible stuff by just being alive and seeing how the world really is, but this story – the story of parents doing this to their kids has hurt me the most. Maybe it’s because I have two little kids and the most important thing in my life is to keep them safe. But I don’t think that’s it. I just think I’m fed up with parents putting themselves before their kids and this is the most extreme example I’ve heard of recently.

When I became a father, my priorities immediately changed. Five years, two kids (and a baby in the belly) later, and I’m still trying to adjust. Yeah, it’s different than it was when my wife and I were younger and it can be hard to put my interests on the backburner, but it is not even a choice to put the well-being of your kids ahead of yourself. Not even a choice.

I can’t stop imagining some pre-teen kid driving to a Nebraska hospital with their parents to be dropped off and wondering what it was like in the car ride. Was it a complete surprise when they got to the hospital or did they talk about it the whole time? Most of the kids did not come with any clothes or coats or toys or stuffed animals or blankets. Imagine that.

Think about that kid – watching his mom walk away. What is going through his mind? What is it like to know you are not loved by the one person in the whole world who is most responsible for loving you? What is it like to know that kind of pain as a kid? That pain is unimaginable. Let alone the huge question of what is going to happen to that kid? How are they ever going to adjust as they grow? But I still seem to focus on the pain they must feel. To be able to do that to a kid, your own kid, any kid, ANY kid at all, is beyond all comprehension.

But kids are strong and kids are smart and a lot of these kids and going to find themselves in wonderful loving families and maybe hopefully most of them will grow up to be amazing people. All of them are already inspiring people. All of them are already great people. They’ve survived one of the strangest, most unimaginable forms of pain I can think of and they will wake up tomorrow and get through the day.

One one hand, I want to stop thinking about the faces of these kids as their parents walk away because it is killing me. On the other hand, as a parent, it is probably more important that I never really stop remembering this story because it is killing me

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