Sunday, January 22, 2012

Amazingly Enough, In Spite of Us Parents, Most Kids Turn Out Alright

I think it is safe to say that pretty much all parents worry about their children's future. Of course we worry about their health and safety, but I'm talking about something else; I'm talking about worrying about their future as in, "Can they get a job after getting out of school?" "Will they be productive members of society?" or, even worse, "Will they straighten out and stay out of jail?"

Some parents might laugh at that last one but I don't. I didn't. When my two older daughters were junior high school students, I seriously worried if they were ever going to straighten out and fly right. In fact, in my oldest daughters case, I was so worried that she'd lead a life of crime, wind up with no family and be homeless, that I didn't care if she married this Yakuza gangster guy she was hanging out with! I actually thought my daughter marrying a Yakuza was probably a good thing. Please refer to and article that I wrote six years ago entitled, "Yakuza: Japanese Modern-Day Cowboys"

My oldest daughter was seriously dating a Yakuza a while back. She still could be, I don't know. I hope she is. I wish she'd settle down with a nice, hard-working guy who makes a decent living. When my ex-wife found out that Diane (not her real name) was dating this Yakuza-guy, everyone on their side of the family freaked out. They called me and told me to do something. "Do something about what?" I asked. I was happy about my daughter dating a Yakuza. I mean, every family needs a doctor, a lawyer, and a gangster in it to keep the family together. What's the problem? Some readers may think I jest here, but I certainly do not.  

Awww. How cute! Who could have know that a few years later they'd be criminal monsters? Here we are celebrating 七五三 (Shichi-go-san) 7-5-3 children's day.

Seriously folks, these two seemingly honest and cute little girls had started growing up and heading for big trouble. 

By 12 years old, my oldest daughter had become "Gaki Taisho" (ガキ大将) "Boss of the kids" at school. By 14 years old, she was constantly in trouble and in danger of being expelled. By 15 she was constantly in trouble with the police and getting arrested for all sorts of dumb things like stealing motorcycles and whatever else wasn't bolted down.

I think when she just turned 17, she did something really bad (for the umpteenth time) and almost had to spend one year of her life in Juvenile Delinquency prison. This would have been a very bad outcome because, as statistics show, once in prison, a huge percentage of those spend the rest of their lives going in and out of prison so the police and court systems are hesitant to send young people into prison in the first place. Thank heaven for that! 

The second daughter, whom I had never imagined to be the terror the first one was, was also guilty of many crimes and, as a 15-year-old, actually the mastermind of a group of minors who were committing grand larceny. So bad were her and her friend's crime escapades that they drew the attention of the  Metropolitan police of Tokyo and, I'd find out later, that a three-month dragnet was set out to catch them. Oh and catch them they did! And, when they did, to my total and utter astonishment, it made the front pages of every major Japanese newspaper in the country!

Now, I'm all for thinking big and when I was 17, I was arrested and made the front pages of the newspaper, but that was only local. My daughter, at 15, made national news! (Kind of reminds me of Richard Branson's teacher telling him that he's, "Either going to prison or going to be a millionaire.")

Former crime syndicate leaders

What made the news so shocking was that this crime syndicate that had been busted by police sting was guilty of devising a brilliant plan whereby they stole in the neighborhood of over $10,000 a day, in broad daylight, right on video camera, and the police had no idea of what they looked like!!! (How's that for the creative mind of children?) 

The police thought they were out to catch old time Yakuza gangsters who had come out with this brilliant plot. But the police were dumbfounded when they arrested the perpetraitors of this devious deal and they were all 15 & 16-year-old girls!

Yeah. 15 & 16-year-old girls with their Hello Kitty bags and designer clothes and stuff. Real desperadoes!

I couldn't believe it either. I think I started off on a three day drunk when this news broke. Thank god my wife handled all of this for me. I was too much of a wreck to do anything...

What I looked like (and felt like) in those days

I wonder if these two girls didn't do these things to make me pay more attention to them? That could be the case. Come to think of it, I was too busy working and too busy being a doofus to be too much of a good father. I blame myself for these incidences. I wrote about these regrets once. I summed all this up in, A Message For Fathers: Most Men Die With Regrets

I have four children. Julie and Sheena were born to my first wife. That wife and I divorced after seven years of marriage and I raised those two girls by myself. I remarried three years later and Wendy was born. When Wendy (17) got sick as a baby and then recovered from cancer, she wasn't able to live with her sisters for at least 6 years due to chemo-therapy treatments so her mother and I divorced and Wendy went away to live with her mother. 

I remarried again for the third time and Wray (8) was born.

Julie and Sheena often had trouble at school and sometimes with the police when they were teenagers. I regret that I didn't spend enough time with them, but with trying to pay to raise them, I didn't have the time I needed. I hired several nannies and they raised them. One nanny was the main one, but she wasn't full-time. I will always regret that I missed their childhood and didn't spend the time with them that I should have.

Yes. I didn't spend the time with them that I should have. That time is now gone. I wish I had paid more attention when they were school kids. But, I think, as the public education system falters in the USA and Japan, I could be a symptom of one of the reasons: Today's parent does not spend enough time with their kids and expects the school and the teachers to raise those kids and teach them in the parent's place. This, folks, doesn't work well and I think we have 40 years of history to prove it.

My I get slightly off the subject for a moment?

The other day, I had a nice exchange with a friend, Andrew, who runs the It's a Wonderful Rife blog. Andrew was a professional teacher in Japan and writes some very interesting stories about his life here. Andrew has asked me why the teacher's in Japan take such a strong parental role in raising the children and why they are reluctant to notify the parents of trouble. He asked me "Mike, are the parents are ever notified of wrongdoings by the children?" 
I responded: 

"Andrew, nowadays I think, the school's are ever reluctant to tell the parents about the hell the kids are raising because of how many useless and incompetent parents we have running around "raising" kids ... My wife was just telling me this morning about a father who was unhappy with some sort of discipline his son's school meted out to his son. So unhappy was this father that he decided to show some parental guidance and express his displeasure by going to the school at night and setting it on fire. Well, as "Mr. Firemountian" (火山) was trying to light the school on fire, someone saw him and he got his butt arrested. Funny that."

I continued; 

"Let me tell you about my girls when they were 14 or so... Terrors, they were. They'd do all sorts of things, pranks, hijinks, felonies... Yes. You read that last one right. I'd get calls from the school... Other times I'd get calls from the police. The oldest daughter got arrested for something and then was put of "juvenile delinquent" parole for a year where she had to appear before a parole officer once a week otherwise she'd have to sit in jail. I was such a useless father that at one time, these calls from the school, the police, and being summoned by both, got to be so much that I finally told both the school and the cops, "Don't call me anymore!" I also told my daughters, "Look, do what you want. Just don't have the police or the principal calling me anymore, alright?" Oh the memories!"

By the way, this little episode shows the troubles the schools and police have with parents. I didn't think I was a bad parent (I realize that I was a terrible one now) but the school and the police (juvenile division) are actually reformers and are trying their best to keep the kids out of future trouble. They are trying to connect with the parents and communicate so that they can work together to keep the kids out of trouble and from falling in with the wrong people. What are they to do when the the kids aren't nearly as screwed up as the parents?

Is it any wonder that the kids are screwed up when they have parents who are people like me?

Let me tell you about another vignette about another girl who was my oldest daughter's friend when they were both 14 years old or so. One day, this girl, I think her name was Yuko, came over to visit. She stayed over night at our home a few nights. I would find out later that she was arrested by the police, put in handcuffs, and taken to the big Shibuya police station. What she was arrested for I never found out.

Shibuya Police Station. Seat of Government power and incompetence.

Anyway, this Shibuya police station is one of the biggest police stations in all of Tokyo. Get this: While she was sitting in handcuffs on the forth floor of this huge police station, with cops crawling around everywhere, this 14-year-old desperado escaped! No kidding! She told me that, when no one was looking,  she just got up and walked into the women's restroom and then walked out of the building like nothing happened. When she told me this, I just couldn't believe it. How incompetent could those dumb police be? 

I never did find out how she got the handcuffs off either but knowing my oldest daughter, that wouldn't be a problem in the world.

As she and my daughter were telling me all this stuff my eyes grew wider. Look, I wasn't an angel when I was a kid either and had been arrested a few times before myself (pranks and raising hell) so what these kids were doing didn't really surprise me. But when she and my daughter told me that Yuko was making good money collecting $400 a pop being a prostitute for businessmen coming up from Osaka, I hit the roof. They told me that Yuko had to go right then and meet this guy for a business transaction. I said, "No!"

I told her to stay there and got a hold of her dad and what a mistake that was! This father was even more useless than me! He didn't care about his 14 year old daughter prostituting herself at all. All he cared about was if she was going to join a motorcycle gang with my daughter or not!!!! Really!

I wanted to slap him. These two girls had drawn pictures in their junior high school class notebooks that showed pink colored 50cc motor scooters and called it something stupid like, "Pink Dragons" and this terrified Yuko's father. "Order them to not make a bike gang!" the father pleaded! 

Yeah. Really scary stuff

What a poor excuse for a dad. And I thought I was bad. The drawings of the "Pink Dragons" motorcycle gang looked vicious and deadly. Yeah. Real deadly. It all looked like something "cute" you'd see in a Japanese comic book like Sailor Moon would have as her evil twin sister; they even had their own colors and cool pink matching jackets and pants and everything!

And this father was worried about their comic book fantasies more than the sick fantasies some pervert was going to have with his child. Get that? HIS OWN CHILD I wanted to strangle him. WHAT PLANET WAS HE LIVING ON? 

Moron! I hope Yuko has turned out okay. Maybe she met a nice guy and got married and, at 21, has three kids, a husband who drinks too much and works very hard in a blue collar job like construction or driving a truck. The typical Japanese blue collar family; they don't have a lot, but they have each other and that's enough. I do wish that she is happy.  

But back to my girls... The few escapades I've described above (and those are just a few) were a long time ago and luckily for me (and my daughters) they straightened out and now have good jobs where they are doing what they like to do... In spite of my poor parenting. The oldest is a professional jazz singer who is signed to one of the most famous agencies in all of Japan and will have her album debut this year and the second one is pursuing her dream to be a world-class lighting director and is now gainfully employed at the most famous concert/dance/event hall in Tokyo. 

As for other kids who had troubles before: Several years ago, I hosted a very popular morning drive time FM radio show in Tokyo and we'd often have events whereby I could meet the listeners and the fans. Sometimes hundreds of them would attend these get-togethers. We became friends. Many of them told me of their own youth; some of them were trouble-makers; in trouble with school and the law. Some of them had spent time in jail. But many of them told me that, one day, they realized on their own that they had to straighten out and stay out of trouble because daddy and mommy aren't going to be there forever to help them. Now, these folks have jobs and families and people (big and little) who depend on them and love them very much.

It is the way it should be.

So parents, I think the times comes for all of us to worry about our kids. But fear not! Be patient and try to understand. I always try to remember the crazy stuff I did when I was young.

It seems, no matter how much we, as parents screwup our kids, it seems to me that, in most cases, somehow they are able to judge what is right and turn their lives out for the best.

If your kids are in school now and get into some sort of trouble; instead of you, the parent, telling them that they need to pay more attention, perhaps you, the parent, should pay more attention to them. 

It couldn't hurt. 

Make sure that your kids know that you love them and care.... If they are having troubles at school or elsewhere, find comfort in the fact that these things usually pass. Try not to be a negative part of this experience.



boo said...

"stole in the neighborhood of over $10,000 a day, in broad daylight"

These two would have great careers at Citibank.

Anonymous said...

Have they been productive in their hopefully non-criminal lives with their obvious talents?

diego.a said...

Will you have guest posts from different members of your family? They must know a lot from their careers and raising you from punk rocker to respectable businessman. Unless you are afraid they will get back at you for revealing their past lives ;)

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