You can raise ’em in squalor, and it ain’t no crime.
You can stuff ’em under a couch, and it ain’t no crime. At least not yet.
You can shake ’em to death, and it ain’t no crime. At least not much of one. Not when the medical examiner’s office misplaces the key evidence in the case.
For that matter, you can misplace a kid entirely, and it ain’t no crime. At least not in Florida.
Of course, these are three relatively high-profile examples of questionable parenting, the kind of parenting that leads to tragic consequences, the kind of consequences that get splashed across newspapers, television screens and online media.
But what about the little lapses in child-rearing that occur every day in every city in every state in the country? The little lapses that seem to become a little more commonplace each year?
Take education, for example. You can opt out of participating in your kid’s schooling and nobody bats an eye. Maybe you’re too busy to help teach them. Or maybe you’re too stupid (I mean, I’ll be damned if I can understand how math is taught now). Or maybe you’re just too lazy.
Whatever the reason, you’ll probably end up blaming your kid’s crummy grades on bad teachers. Or a bad school system. Or Common Core standards. And then, when your ignorant kid goes on to raise ignorant kids of their own, the cycle gets repeated, because they, too, refuse to accept responsibility. Well, looks like you taught them something, after all.
And then there’s nutrition. You can feed your kid until they’re “too obese to walk,” according to a recent political commercial, and it turns out it’s all the fault of the soda pop companies.
Not poor nutrition. Not junk food. Not lack of exercise. Just soda pop. And nevermind who gave your kid the pop to drink in the first place.
Or how about emotional stability? You can raise your kid in an environment of hate and abuse, treat your spouse and child with utter contempt, and it ain’t no crime. At least not until they come of age and decide to shoot up a church.
Or how about prejudices?
Raise them to hate blacks, just like you do. Ain’t no crime.
Raise them to hate whites. Same thing.
Raise them to hate Jews, or gays, or Catholics, or Hispanics, or the police, or Protestants, or Asians, or men, or Muslims, or women, or whatever.
In all likelihood, they’ll probably repeat the cycle when they grow up. But don’t worry. It ain’t no crime. Not unless they decide to put your words into action.
Or how about fatherhood? You can impregnate as many women as you want, and take no responsibility in raising the children, and it ain’t no crime. At least as long as you don’t skip out on child support. Though don’t be surprised if your kids grow up disadvantaged. Or repeat the cycle when they come of age.
Or how about motherhood? You can have multiple children from multiple men, and it ain’t no crime. But, again, don’t be surprised if your kids grow up disadvantaged, or repeat the cycle when they come of age.
It’s amazing what you can get away with in this country when it comes to having kids.
Unlike, say, a car or a house or a gun, items you’re required to register to own and bear responsibility for while in your possession.
It’s passing strange. You gotta be 18 to vote. You gotta have work skills to get a job. You gotta have good credit to get a loan.
But absolutely any idiot can have a child.
• Bill Wimbiscus, former reporter and editor for The Herald-News, has lived in Joliet for 25 years. He can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.