Tuesday, August 16, 2011

THE HARDEST DECISION YOU MAY EVER HAVE TO MAKE

Conflict is what keeps a story interesting, fueling the momentum. The deeper the protagonist’s conflict the more a reader or audience watching a film becomes invested.

There’s truth at the heart of every great struggle in a book or movie. However, a recent event in the news made me wonder if art truly does imitate life. I’m sure you’ve all heard about the riots that happened in London. Everyone over here in England is still talking about it. When I discovered that the mother of a talented athlete, who was going to be a 2012 Olympic Ambassador, had reported her daughter to the police for being one of the rioters, I immediately wanted to know more about that family. For research of course, not because I’m nosy.

After the mother had seen her daughter in TV footage of the riots, she called 999 (911 equivalent for those in the USA). Although she described the decision as “gut-wrenching”, what intrigued me the most was that she had reported her child without even having a discussion with her daughter first.


I’m not a parent (unfortunately my canine kiddies don’t count here), so I have no idea what that woman might have gone through emotionally prior to phoning the police. I do believe I would have spoken to my child to at least find out what led them to participate in a mob before I took any action.

In my book PARADOX, my heroine is faced with turning her father over to authorities in exchange for saving herself. The crux of her dilemma is that she doesn’t believe in betraying family, no matter what. Giving up someone you love can’t be easy, but is it always so clear cut that you could make the decision in minutes, perhaps hours? Or does parental instinct drive some to protect their child, not from punishment, but from ruining their future for a mistake?

In the book Before and After by Rosellen Brown (movie adaptation starred Meryl Streep and Liam Neeson), the mother and father decide to aid their son who accidentally killed his pregnant girlfriend rather than see him go to jail. The complex characters are beautifully flawed and we understand their journey as they grapple with making the decision. If you’ve watched the television show Friday Night Lights, then you can’t forget how far Landry’s father, a police officer, went to cover up his son’s crime of murder. There must be something emotionally honest about the choices of those parents for it to resonate with readers and audiences.

So, what would you do?

Please see the poll in the sidebar. Feel free to elaborate on your choice with a comment.

52 comments:

  1. Wow, I don't want to comment on the mother without knowing her motives but WOW. That would make at least a great short story, just that one incident. Nice blog BTW!

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  2. What heart-wrenching position for a parent to be in! All I can say is, I would never turn one of my children in to the authorities without even discussing the situation first. Then I'd have to weigh the extenuating circumstances, and take into consideration things like how likely it is the offense would be repeated.

    I don't know. Tough all around.

    Which, of course, makes it great fodder for fiction. ;)

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  3. Libby ~ I thought it was fascinating as well. I'm not judging the mother. The riots were horrible, people were injured and businesses destroyed. Some think the mother was right, others disagree with her actions. It did make me wonder.

    Linda ~ My husband and I discussed the situation at length. We both agreed that if we had children we would definitely speak to them first.

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  4. You're right, that is some compelling conflict. I have a fourteen year old son and, while he isn't the type to get into trouble, I don't really know what I'd do in that situation. If he hurt someone, though, I think I would be inclined to make him face the consequences of his actions. If it was just participating in the mob mentality and he threw bottles at a store front I might leave it at a stern home punishment. Tough, tough call.

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  5. Having four grown law-abiding offspring (as far as I know!) I can put myself in that situation all too easily. I guess what I would do is sort of a combination of answers in the poll (which I entered!)

    1. Yes, I would talk with them
    2. I would be sure they had a good lawyer.
    3. I would expect them to come with me to the police. Demand, indeed. I guess I believe that actions have consequences, and if they haven't learned that yet they need to As my mother always said, you can choose your actions. You cannot choose the consequences. But I'd sure want a good lawyer alongside so that the consequences would not be magnified by the emotion of the moment.

    Beppie (although Google thinks I'm Mom!!!)

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  6. Hi Isis,
    Great and thought provoking post. I agree 100% with Beppie (Mom-lol.) I would talk first. Find a good lawyer and then expect them to go to the police with me. It sounds as if this mother had issues with her child before and therefore skipped the important steps of asking why and going with your child.
    Good conflict for stories.
    Cheers~

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  7. Those are really hard decisions. I don't know what would prompt a mother to call the police on her daughter. Perhaps she was afraid of her daughter getting hurt. I know I would have a horrible time making a decision in those circumstances.

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  8. Not being a people parent, I'd have to look at it as a dog person, having had the same breed of dog since 1972 and being deeply involved in creating a bloodline of handsome, intelligent dogs with good personalities. If my dogs have acted badly while competing (showing aggression while chasing the lure is the main infraction), even if they are not "caught" by the judges, they are not allowed to compete again until their attitude changes and I let anyone interested in them know about their attitudes. Granted this doesn't have much to do with raising children but you have to wonder if this was "the final straw" for the mother, seeing her child risk her future for something so senselessly destructive

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  9. L.G. ~ A tough decision. It must be agonizing for any parent to imagine making it.

    Beppie ~ Brilliant, balanced response from a mother who loves her kids. Yours are lucky to have you. Good lawyers can work wonders.

    Nancy ~ Seems like many agree that a conversation should definitely happen. Glad to know there is another mom out there who would make sure they're child had solid legal representation.

    Clarissa ~ Who knows the dynamics of the family, but I'm sure it wasn't an easy choice for the mother to make.

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  10. Mona ~ I'm a canine mom as well. We definitely discipline ours by taking away toys, and yes we even remove their dog collars (they really love their collars) and put them in time-out. That's probably a little TMI, but my point is consequences are necessary. I'm only wondering if I would have gone to the police or punished my child myself. Hard decision.

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  11. I have no idea what I'd do. I don't think I could go straight to the police without talking to my child first. I hope I never have to make such a choice.

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  12. Isis, I feel sorry for all involved with that family. If the mother had tried to talk to her daughter, or reach her to talk to her, and hadn't been able to, I can't blame her for what she did. Her daughter was endangering her life and her career even if it was for a cause. There are other ways to speak out besides with a mob.

    I'll take your poll.

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  13. I just can't imagine making that decision. Gut-wrenching.

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  14. Carol ~ Every parent hopes they are never faced with such a decision.

    Sandy ~ There are plenty of peaceful ways to express yourself and support a cause. It was poor judgment on the daughter's part and hopefully their family will be okay.

    Robin ~ It's ashame the mother had to ever be in such a position.

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  15. Tough decisions. Maybe the daughter had been in trouble before and her mother wanted her to face the full consequences this time. I have two teenage boys and my instinct is always to protect them. However, my husband's a cop and his instinct is that people should obey the law and if they don't, they have to suffer the consequences. We'd probably do a combination of talking and facing the consequences. The problem with always protecting children is you're not doing them any favors. What if their behavior gets worse? What if they turn on you? We have friends whose son is in prison for murder awaiting trial. I don't know if they protected him in the past, but bad behavior unchecked usually leads to more bad behavior.

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  16. What a horrible decision to face. I really don't know what I'd do, until I'm in that situation, I guess. We'll probably never know all the factors involved in that mum's decision.

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  17. I learned a long time ago never to judge others. That being said, as a parent, I couldn't imagine calling 911 on MY children. Again, I don't know HER circumstances. No judgment here. My heart goes out to anyone forced to do such a thing.

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  18. Carol ~ You make excellent points.

    Talli ~ All we can do is speculate until we are actually faced with the choice ourselves.

    Ciara ~ I completely understand and agree with your position.

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  19. This is a tough one, but I believe, I'd want to tear the hide off her first before I turned her over to the law. I'd definitely need to know what on earth she was thinking.

    Ya know, if I had read this in a book, I'd probably have some doubt as to whether a parent would really do this, but then I also know that some parents stand behind the principle of tough love.

    It would be interesting to know why that girl, who should have known better (Ambassador status and all) did what she did.

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  20. I've been in a position similiar to this and I called the police. No, life is not black and white, but I firmly believe too many young people don't understand the consequences of their actions.

    I didn't see this particular story, but if I had been in that mother's position I would not have waited to "talk it out". I would have assumed she made a bad decision and should be responsible for her actions.

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  21. Who knows what the child has done before. I think too often the kids are coddled and protected when they've done wrong. They don't learn that way. I've seen it firsthand. Maybe this mother wants to stop her kid from going down the wrong path, and thinks this will do it. I hope so.

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  22. J.L. ~ Spare the rod, spoil the child as my grandmother would've said. I'm not sure if I believe hitting is the answer, but maybe some tough love sooner might have prevented the daughter's actions. One can only guess.

    Nina ~ Wow, how incredibly tough that must have been for you. I admire your strength.

    Theresa ~ I hope the daughter accepts responsibility for her actions and moves forward in a positive way.

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  23. I thought about this for so long. I just don't know what I'd do! I know what the right thing to do is, but I also know that overwhelming urge to protect my children from anything. What a horrible spot to be in.

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  24. I read about that athlete. Hey, I'm with her mom on that one. I probably would've talked to her first though - you make the call or I make the call.
    Of course, I'm not a parent either...
    Thanks for posting my blogfest button in your sidebar!

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  25. You have to remember that parents are also thinking about how the child's crime will make them look. People look to the parents when kids are in trouble.

    When hiding a child's crime you have to wonder if the parent is protecting the child, or themselves.

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  26. Hi thanks for your kind words and the follow. I'm following you now.

    I'm with the mom, however, I would have spoken to my child first. I think that's the problem these days, parents let their kids get away with anything and everything.

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  27. Hi Isis. Thank you for coming by and following. I'm going back to reading you post and will come back to make a more relevant comment...LOL

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  28. I could never picture myself turning over a loved one. They'd have to do something really bad. It's something a parent should never have to face. You're write about conflict in writing. Without it the story is just blah.

    FYI: I gave you a Liebster Award today. :)

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  29. L.J. ~ It's such a personal question that I think it might be different for everyone.

    Alex ~ Looking forward to the blogfest!

    Sherri ~ Great perspective.

    MsMariah ~ Thanks for the follow. I have no idea how hard it is to be a parent.

    Wendy ~ Thanks for the follow.

    Laila ~ Wow! Thanks for the award! It's my first.

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  30. Hi Isis! Nice to connect with you today.

    And turning in your own daughter without speaking to her first? Wow. You have to wonder about their relationship. If it is true, it sounds like she would rather have someone else handle the consequences of her daughter's actions, rather than herself. How old was the daughter? A teenager, maybe?

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  31. My first instinct was to call the police without hesitation. I am a parent, and I expect my kids to abide by the law. But, I'd also want to know why. So, I'd probably call the offspring, letting he/she know full well that someone would be making a call or visiting the police. What a horrible situation.

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  32. Hi Isis, the riot's received surprisingly little coverage over here. I watched most of it on a TV channel based out of Spain. I too was astounded by the mother who reported her daughter. Dilemma's are the "stuffing" in stories. Too much or too little leaves you with a distorted picture. Conflict has to strike the right balance. Sometimes I walk away from a story because the conflict is too emotionally draining for me. But I'll walk away from a story if it's too weak too. I answered the poll, but I'll keep my answer confidential. ;-)

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  33. That's a hard decision. I can't say for sure what I'd do,but I think I would have to talk to my child first. I would not turn him/her in & send the police to pick them up. I would go with them to turn themselves in.

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  34. Liz ~ Great to connect with you as well.

    Kris ~ Thanks for the follow.

    Doralynn ~ So true about dilemmas being the stuffing in stories.

    Helen ~ I think you would take a great approach.

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  35. I hope I never, ever have to make that decision. How awful!

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  36. Wow... Tough one, Isis. I don't have kids either (too bad the canine ones don't count -- got lots of those), so it's, at best, a hypothetical question for me. I can empathize with the agonizing choice, with the moral dilemma, with the desire to protect your offspring against anything and everyone... But then again, I come from a culture of overprotective parents in general and suffocating mothers in particular. My head says "do the moral thing", my heart would argue the "moral" thing is to protect that child against anything and everything... Definitely food for thought. Thanks for sharing this.

    I stopped by for a visit and to thank you for your kind comment on my own blog... You've got a lovely place here! I'll be back :)

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  37. Lydia ~ You are certainly not alone in that sentiment.

    Guilie ~ Thanks for swinging by and for the follow.

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  39. That would be a very tough decision. I agree with talking to my child first. Seeing what's going on in their head before I did anything. If they were hurting people though, just because, then it might be a different story. Still, it would be the hardest thing ever. I'm here to protect my kids. You know? :) Nice to meet you! *waves*

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  40. Neelkamal ~ Thank you for following my site. I went to two of your blogs and I am now a follower :).

    Chantele ~ It is such a hard decision, but thanks for leaving your thoughts and for the follow. Nice to meet you as well!

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  41. You are so right. It would be a very tough choice to make and like you, would have talked to my daughter first. But eventually I will try to get her to take responsibility for her actions. I am not a parent either but at least that is what I think I would do.

    Thank you so much for following my blog. I am grateful for your interest.

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  42. Hi Isis,
    First of all, thank you for stopping by and joining my blog. I returned the favor and joined yours as well. The question you posed here is very difficult. Like you, I only have kids with paws ;) (no human kids) so I wouldn't know what to do in that situation. I cannot judge this mother for what she did, I imagine she has her own reasons. All I know is that you need to have courage to do what she did.

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  43. Murees ~ Great to meet you. You were super helpful and I hope a lucky writer gets a request for a full from the news you shared.

    Claudia ~ I'm not sure what I would do in the situation either. It was clearly a tough decision for the mother and I'm sure it did take a lot of courage. Your blog has lots of wonderful tips for writers. I plan to stop by often.

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  44. I would definitely talk it out first. Granted, if they don't want to, and they're of legal age, I have to understand that they are their own person. I'll always be their parent, but their choices in life are there's to make.

    Dicey question. I'd go with "Maybe."

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  45. I would talk to them first, and tell them that their life will be better without all the guilt. But that is a tough one. Too bad things got so out of hand.

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  46. Nice to meet you and your blog! Your website is nicely designed, too. :) Wow, tough decision. I would want my child to be responsible for his/her actions, but I'd want to know if it was an accident or a blatant act; this would make a diff. I went with "maybe." (it depends, but generally, yes I would turn him/her in)

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  47. Hi Isis,
    Thanks for following my blog. This is a tough question and after reading all of the comments above I decided that I would have to ask my child for their side of the story, even if I knew if was something they were definitely involved in. Then, I would give them the chance to do the right thing,(i.e. hand themselves in) and I would be by their side. I guess this is what's known as unconditional love. We might not like what children do, but it doesn't stop us loving them and helping them to choose the right path. Our courts have taken a very dim view of the riots and I feel it's the correct way to deal with it. Hopefully it will send out the message that this kind of behaviour is unacceptable and won't be tolerated.
    I pray we never see anything like it again.

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  48. Tough one and too much for my rattled brain today. Thanks for following my blog! I really appreciate it!

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  49. Great post! What a great blog you have here! I'm excited to be a new follower!

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  50. David ~ I really do think that talking first should be the way to start.

    Amy ~ Always good to focus on the positive.

    Carol ~ Nice to meet you as well. Thanks for the compliment. Brave choice by you.

    Valentina ~ You're welcome. It does send a message about unacceptable behavior not being tolerated, but I do like the idea of unconditional love.

    Bossy Betty ~ Love that title. You're welcome and thanks for the follow back.

    Curtis ~ I really loved the candid style of your blog. Looking forward to more posts from you.

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