do parents have the right to parent?

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Really,dear?  Is that all?

When you are the parent of a teenager, unusual stories about teenagers make you sit up and listen.  I am the step-parent of a teenage boy.  I haven’t been at this for that many years, so as opposed to parents with more time logged under their belts, I might think about things more in some cases just because I don’t have that many years of life experience doing this.

And life experience is key here.  Kids have life experience, and no one said they were dumb or without rights, but where do you draw the line between kids and adults? Adults do have more life experience, right? And we are supporting these kids emotionally, financially, and literally, so what if one kid really throws a curve ball? Do we wrap kids in cotton batting and keep them insulated from the world and reality, or do we let them experience life and make mistakes?

And then there is the battle of the sexes.  My friends with teen girls always tell me boys are easier.  I don’t have enough experience to know, but after something caught my eye on the news this morning, I might be rethinking that.

My experience with teenagers is limited personally to my friends’ kids, my nephew, and my stepson. I am learning to speak teenage boy…..slowly.  It involves lots of patience, occasional piles of clothes on the floor, mono-syllabic conversations, fear of green vegetables, video games, things are never “cute”, and girls (although girls are not discussed).

Immediate family-wise, I am lucky.  I have an amazing kid, and my nephew is an amazing kid. (Please note: My niece is not being deliberately left out here, she is just not a teenager yet even if she is the best fashion stylist in the family.)  But how would any of us be if we were the parents of one Rachel Canning of New Jersey? This is what caught my eye this morning on the Today Show : the story of this girl suing her parents.  Only this isn’t some cute ’80s move starring Drew Barrymore.

This is the story of a teenager who didn’t like the house rules and basically ran away, went to live with and be supported by a friend’s parents and is now 18 and suing her parents for money.

New Jersey honor student sues parents for school fees after they cut her off at age 18

Rachel Canning, 18, claims her parents, Sean and Elizabeth Canning, threw her out of their Lincoln Park, N.J., home last year and stopped paying for her private high school, where she excelled as a cheerleader and lacrosse player. But Sean Canning says Rachel left voluntarily after she refused to abide by simple rules of the house.

By      / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Published: Monday, March 3, 2014, 5:07 PM
Updated: Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 9:40 AM

But Sean and Elizabeth Canning say their “spoiled” college-bound daughter doesn’t live by their house rules and left the home because she didn’t like the law of the land — overseen by her father, a former Lincoln Park police chief.

The Morris Catholic High School senior and lacrosse player instead has lived at the Rockaway, N.J., home of a classmate, whose father, John Inglesino, has foot the bill for the suit.

“My parents have rationalized their actions by blaming me for not following their rules,” Rachel said in her court papers, according to The Daily Record of Morristown, N.J. “They stopped paying my high school tuition to punish the school and me and have redirected my college fund, indicating their refusal to afford me an education as a punishment.”

“I want money but I don’t want to live with you?”

It sounds like a bad Lifetime TV movie, doesn’t it?  Only it’s not and it is happening up in Northern New Jersey. This girl, Rachel Canning is a senior it looks like at Morris Catholic High School. It also looks like she has two Facebook Pages. This one and this brand new one she has been posting on for a few hours. She has been posting comments she has been receiving.  (For the record: no matter what she is trying to do she does not deserve to be called all sorts of vile and crude four letter words as that accomplishes nothing .)

So she isn’t getting along with her parents.  Sounds like a teenager.

So the parents say they don’t want her partying, hanging out with a certain boy, and there are house rules.  Sounds like parents.

So she runs away to a friend’s house.  Sounds like teenage girl d-r-a-m-a.

So friend’s parents take up her cause, including living expenses and court costs? Ok, that sounds like over-stepping a bit?  And the father of the best friend where she is living is according to media reports Former Morris County Freeholder John Inglesino? A politician and a lawyer? Why would he take this on? Does he have something against the parents? Does that sound normal to you? We’re not talking about the  cool parents you can talk to once in a while, we are talking about the parents that call me crazy seem to want to take over someone else’s child?

I must admit that I am somewhat astounded at these other parents inserting themselves here.  Are there real instances of abuse? Or are they just the type of parents of teens today more interested in being friends with their kids versus actual parenting?

rachelNow look, we were all teenagers once.  I remember one time in a fit of young teen drama like many other teens I told my mother I couldn’t stand it any more and was leaving.  I still remember my mother’s response which was “use shopping bags from the grocery store, not the good luggage.” That really pissed me off, I slammed a couple of doors….but I came down for dinner a few hours later and all was forgiven.

I did not have the acceptably “cool” parents of the day.  They didn’t throw us keg parties and they did things like called other parents before I went to a party to see if (a) parents were there (b) alcohol was being served. Needless to say, I missed a lot of parties. But at almost 50 I can say I am around to tell the tale.

Did I clash with my parents? Yes I did.  What kid doesn’t?  As a matter of fact, if I am brutally honest it has taken years to find the adult relationship with my mother I am actually comfortable with as an adult. And we still tangle on occasion.  That is the nature of parents and children.  It’s not always perfect.  It doesn’t mean I didn’t love my parents and don’t love my mother, it’s just reality.  They were parents, not my good buddies.   I loved them, I hated them, they embarrassed me, I embarrassed them.  And somehow, we all survived. They were real people, not Carol and Mike Brady.

My father has been dead a few years now and I love him and still miss him every day. I am lucky I still have my mother, and yes she is an original.  She is not your orthopedic shoes, gray hair and knitting kind of mother and grandmother. She is more like a senior fashionista who still loves her heels and dressing up.  She can be outrageous and even annoying to me because I am her kid even if I am almost 50, but would I have essentially divorced them, run, away, and sued for money?  Would I have turned them into a Bravo TV reality show?

No.  My parents weren’t perfect, but neither am I.

As a relatively new parent I am acutely aware of things like helicopter parenting.  Those are the parents that do everything including think for little Johnny and Susie….even well into purported adulthood. I have had people tell me stories of these types of parents which are truly a little crazy. I have seen things I thought was crazy.

The flip side of this, is I have seen some somewhat astounding kids here and there.  I used to live (for example) near an esteemed private school for boys. These boys used my old neighborhood as a parking lot – there wasn’t enough on-campus parking and well, that wasn’t cool anyway (you could get away with much more if you parked off campus).  I used to see two types of teenage boys: the really lovely ones who were in many cases children of my friends growing up, and the others with extreme misplaced senses of entitlement who quite frankly were brats.  Now that isn’t going to endear me to the private school set, but it is the truth.

And I saw it all I think.  For example, a lot of the kids drove mommy and daddy’s expensive cars to school and not only didn’t think twice about getting tickets (mommy and daddy would pay them natch’) , but they didn’t think twice about dinging the cars or even losing the keys. I remember finding a couple of those expensive starter keys that don’t look like regular keys for Mercedes Benzes and BMWs.  I used to always walk them back to the school, because as an adult I knew each one of these keys costs a ridiculous amount of money.  Every time I took the keys to the school I was told by the school I shouldn’t bother, the parents would just replace them anyway.

Weekends meant a lot of these boys would come back to my neighborhood as a meeting point to go to parties, mess around with their girlfriends, and dump their liquor bottles after parties.  The best story about bottles were the kids who tried to dump them in our trash.  My neighbor at the time (who was a psychologist by trade), stood there and made them take every bottle out of the trash.  They whined and protested and she kept it simple: they could deal with her or they could deal with the local police.  And yes, I still have still photos somewhere of this.  I remember one kid saying “you don’t know who my parents are”.

And all this time, through to present day I am told by parents of teenage girls that teenage boys are much easier to deal with.

After seeing this news report, I might be inclined to agree.

This girl Rachel got a bit of a smack down by a judge yesterday.  He told her no.  I am guessing that doesn’t happen very often.

N.J. judge denies teen honor student’s request for emergency funds in suit against parents 

Rachel Canning, 18, won’t get $650 weekly child support or payment of her private high school tuition from estranged parents Sean and Elizabeth Canning, a judge decided Tuesday. But a second hearing on the suit is scheduled for next month, and the Morris Catholic High School senior could still force her parents to pay up her impending college costs.

By      / NEW YORK DAILY NEWS

Tuesday, March 4, 2014, 6:45 PM

A judge Tuesday ruled against New Jersey teen Rachel Canning, who sued her parents for expenses and education tuition after she says they tossed her out of their Lincoln Park home last year.

Morristown Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard appears to have agreed with an independent investigators’ assessment of the home atmosphere: that the high school cheerleader and lacrosse player is “spoiled.”…..“We love our child and miss her. This is terrible. It’s killing me and my wife. We have a child we want home,” Sean Canning told The Daily Record of Morristown, N.J. “We’re not draconian and now we’re getting hauled into court. She’s demanding that we pay her bills but she doesn’t want to live at home and she’s saying, ‘I don’t want to live under your rules.’”

Rachel Canning has lived in the Rockaway, N.J. home of classmate Jaime Inglesino. Inglesino’s father, John Inglesino, has foot the bill for the girl’s lawyer fees, more than $12,000 thus far.

So I looked up this Rachel’s father on Facebook along with her.  I did that after Facebook, being Facebook I saw a comment by a friend of a friend talking about this Canning family. What she said prompted my further look:

“Father was police officer and chief in this town and….they still live there (he retired and now works in another town as town business admin.). Family has had personal struggles, but really nice family. Love the mother, very involved…. I think Rachel has headed down wrong path. Broke my heart to watch judge read ruling and Liz (mom) cry and Rachel not react. As hard as I remember those [teenage] years being, I cried a lot over arguments with my mom and dad…..That other man [parent of friend] is too involved. He should be siding with his peers not with children’s friends”

canning family

This person’s comments are nice and measured.  And see this is the thing: small towns always have gossip about the families of people who hold public positions so don’t you think if this girl’s parents were so awful or abusive to the point Children and Youth would have to step in or should step in that people would have heard of it?  I found this public photo of the family on Google and sorry, as a photographer you learn to pick up certain things in photos, and maybe my radar is off, but what do you see here?

This is what Rachel’s dad has to say:

father 1

father 2

father 3

father 4

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And then there are the photos of the parents and this student-sues-parentsgirl at yesterday’s court hearing.  The parents in tears, the teen smiling and showing little other than that. I am sorry, but the more I read, the more I feel for the parents.

girlsCourt testimony seems to paint a picture of parents trying to not lose a kid to partying and bad influences, so I guess I don’t get why the parents of this friend of hers has inserted themselves here? How is their business to influence someone else’s child? If this was an “at risk” teen, maybe I would feel differently but what I can’t escape is this is a teen who was told “no” and didn’t like it.

Rachel Canning has two Facebook pages.  Her new one is very much in the public eye and she is “sharing” publicly.  I wonder if she is being coached? Or does she think at 18 she knows best in the sharing/over-sharing department? Does she want to prove our case or paint herself cleverly as a victim in overpriced jeans? Or is she just a messed up kid ?

brat 1

brat 2

Is it the responsibility for every parent to reward bad behavior? Because if this girl is an honor student really being wronged, why wouldn’t she be one of these kids applying for scholarships and financial aid? Is it just me, or might that be too much work?

And I have to admit this gal needs a dose of reality because not every parent can afford to send every kid to college as much as they might want to. And I know and have known kids who had less than nothing who figured it out and got the education they wanted.

I think this girl is about to learn a very valuable life lesson of who to trust and listen to OR she will continue to hold everyone else responsible for her life and her decisions.  I hope it is the former and not the latter.

N. J. teen sues parents but loses first round in court

Rachel Canning wanted $650 in weekly child support, plus the payment of her tuition at Morris Catholic High School. But a New Jersey judge denied her initial request. “Are we going to open the gates for 12-year-olds to sue for an Xbox? For 13-year-olds to sue for an iPhone?” he asked.

By David Porter, Associated Press / March 5, 2014

A northern New Jersey honor student who has sued to get her parents to support her after she moved out of their home had her initial request denied Tuesday by a judge who cautioned that the case could lead to a “potentially slippery slope” of claims by teenagers against their parents.

Rachel Canning had sought immediate relief in the form of $650 in weekly child support and the payment of the remainder of her tuition at Morris Catholic High School, as well as attorney’s fees.

State Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard denied those motions but ordered the parties to return to court on April 22…..Court documents show frequent causes of parent-teenage tension — boyfriends and alcohol — taken to an extreme. In the filings, there are accusations and denials, but one thing is clear: the girl left home Oct. 30, two days before she turned 18 after a tumultuous stretch during which her parents separated and reconciled and the teen began getting into uncharacteristic trouble at school.

In court filings, Canning’s parents, retired Lincoln Park police Chief Sean Canning and his wife, Elizabeth, said their daughter voluntarily left home because she didn’t want to abide by reasonable household rules, such as being respectful, keeping a curfew, doing a few chores and ending a relationship with a boyfriend her parents say is a bad influence. They say that shortly before she turned 18, she told her parents that she would be an adult and could do whatever she wanted.

She said her parents are abusive, contributed to an eating disorder…Canning wants the judge to declare that she’s non-emancipated and dependent as a student on her parents for support…

But this raises a conversation with parents.  What rights do parents have as far as discipline? Should they be more concerned about being popular with their teenagers, or about being their parents?

Now maybe these Canning parents didn’t handle every conversation well with their daughter, I have no way of knowing.  Do I believe that the relationship issues between adults affects kids? Sure it does, but does that mean every teenager should rise up and sue their parents?

If she wanted to leave, she is now 18.  But it seems to me she didn’t necessarily want out of Hotel Parents, she just wanted her own way. I mean let’s get real if you are a woman: did your parents like every boyfriend? Isn’t boy drama just a part of growing up?

Of course with girls especially, there is that whole forbidden fruit thing.  The parents say no and they work harder to get around them. However, as much as it pains me to say it, for the most part my parents were right when they said “no”. I for one just didn’t want to hear it.  Do I think they could have phrased things better and as a new parent do I try to improve on what passed for teen-parent communication back in the day? Yes to both.

I feel strongly about kids trying to respect adults.  I do not see teens as equals to adults.  I think a lot of kids are more intelligent than adults, but now that I am the adult I kind of get the other side of the dynamic.  And it’s hard.  You want to be their friend, yet you literally have to be the grown-up.  You think you are saying the right thing and half the time it falls on deaf ears….face it if it is longer than two or three sentences I think all teenagers hear is the “waah, wahh, wahh” that Charlie Brown and Peppermint Patty used to hear whenever their teacher spoke.

I admire the super patient among my friends.  I will admit sometimes I don’t get it, a lot of times I don’t get it….but I try all the time to get it.  I will admit I get hurt feelings when I try to make a super awesome dinner and it gets pushed around the plate or  my teen just shows up late. I will admit I don’t get the love affair with video games and dirty socks on the floor. And I know these are little things. But as opposed to some, I am so new to this, so this is all my learning curve.

And then I read about kids like Rachel Canning. And I hate to be all judgmental and mean grown-up, but I count my lucky stars.

But I feel for these parents.

So Rachel, I know you are out there lapping up your press. I can see it on your face in video and photographs and on your Facebook page.  Maybe you see yourself as a Real Housewife of New Jersey in training, or feel your parents should just cater to your every whim, but life doesn’t work that way. I hope you go to counseling with your parents and work it out. But do I think they should pay for you as a non-emancipated teenager living elsewhere? Nope. I hate to say I think you are being a brat, and I am sure it is not that simple, but that is how I feel. I also find your behavior selfish in as far as you as a kid don’t even realize your actions could say….cost your parents their employment and then where would all of you be, including your sisters?

And little girlfriend, I wish you could see how creepy it is that your BFF’s dad has so inserted himself into your life. Sorry, but the jaded adult in me just doesn’t see this as normal or good.

Love them or hate them, we only get one set of parents.  Don’t do something you regret. There is plenty of time to be a grown-up, my dear.  Go home. Actions have consequences, and I really don’t think you have a clue…..

 

real housewife of new jersey meets real housewives of chester county…

So tonight I went to a book signing at Chester County Books and Records.  It was for Teresa Giudice and her Fast & Fit cookbook.  Teresa is part of the Bravo Real Housewives franchise and she is on of the Real Housewives of New Jersey.

Now the last time I photographed a housewife it was Bethenny Frankel at Skirt in Bryn Mawr a couple of years ago. Bethenny was very nice and totally fun to photograph. And if you look at my photos you will see a couple of her now husband Jason – it was when they were dating, and before her RHONY spin-off.

But back to Teresa Giudice.  She was actually very sweet, and stopped mid signing to speak about a charity she is hot on, Nephcure.org.  There was a young woman there with Nephrotic Syndrome, and the whole thing was really very touching.  I believe Teresa said it was the charity she played for on Donald Trump and NBC’s Celebrity Apprentice.  Incidentally, Chester County’s own Congressman Jim Gerlach is an ambassador for Neph Cure.

I had a totally fun evening and met women from as far away as York and Lancaster, PA who made the drive to meet Teresa Giudice.   Teresa, incidentally is quite a knock out in person.  And again,  was completely pleasant and dow to earth, very different then the snippets of television persona viewers see on Bravo.  I think Bravo shoots something crazy like over 80 hours of tape to distill down to a 1 hour segment.

Some women I met are hardcore Real Housewife fans and told me about in essence a convention they went to – apparently the “wives” go on tour and these gals were showing me photos from Atlantic City.

Now let’s talk about Chester County Books and Records.  It is in the shopping center with the K-Mart and ACME.  That shopping center is the West Goshen Shopping Center on Paoli Pike. Now that shopping center has some good businesses and a wonderful ACME, too bad whomever is responsible for the property doesn’t give the exterior a facelift.

But back to Chester County Books and Music.  I love books, I love bookstores…and this is a giant independent bookstore.  I can’t wait to go back and explore!  Many thanks to Thea from the bookstore who does the events for letting me come in and take photos!  I hope to check out more book signings in the near future and just get lost in the books for a while.

If you were at this signing and want a photo, check out the set on flickr and message me via this blog or the Simple Shots Photography page on Facebook.