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VOICES / A FORUM FOR COMMUNITY ISSUES | Essay

Are Parents of Thieves Proud?

May 06, 2000|EVA R. YELLOZ | Eva R. Yelloz, a freelance writer and mother of four, lives in Sherman Oaks

An extra hour of sunlight gave my 14-year-old and his two classmates the opportunity to enjoy a longer day of springtime fun--skate-boarding. I gave the boys the usual orders: Stay on main streets, stay close to home, watch for cars coming in and out of driveways, no tricks in commercial parking lots and--very important--be back before sundown.

For good measure, I added one more concern: Take change for the phone.

Chores and shopping occupied my day off. Construction on our house kept my husband busy.

As the fusion of blue, lavender and orange began to spread through the early evening skies above Sherman Oaks, our front door intercom burst with our youngest's deepening voice. "Open the door, somebody!"

I greeted the returning skateboarders who stood before me. One boy had his skateboard wedged under his arm. My son and the third boy were empty-handed.

Where are your boards? I asked. My son answered in a hoarse tone, "Three guys jacked our skateboards!" I stood surprised in my doorway and did not fully understand. As if describing a movie they just saw, each boy related the incident, each offering a few sentences, telling me what happened to them.

After purchasing and installing new wheel parts at a skateboard shop on Ventura Boulevard, the boys rode their boards in the neighborhood. They headed north on Van Nuys Boulevard. Two of them tried a skating trick. My son flew off his skater's plank, landing on the sidewalk. One friend quickly jumped off his board to see if my boy was all right. While their two boards rested on the pavement, three boys who had been crossing the boulevard appeared next to them, abruptly seizing an opportunity.

In the blink of an eye, precious hard-earned property was gone, their wheels, their transportation, their after-school and Sunday fun. One of the boards had been bought from saved allowance money; the other came from working odd jobs. His skateboard was bought only a month ago, on his birthday. The three friends chased the skateboard thieves until they lost their trail, disappearing from view on a Van Nuys side street.

Walking home, they spotted and flagged down a police car. Calmly, my son's friend reported the incident while the officer filled out a crime report, an ordinary task for the LAPD but not commonplace for these kids, who follow the rules, do not violate curfew and respect public property. My husband and I, and the parents of the other two kids, are very proud of our boys' maturity and behavior.

What about the parents of these young thieves? Where are they? Do they have pride when they see their boys take off, rolling down their streets on their newly acquired skateboards? I wonder if they question them or worry about their futures?

Can we hold parents accountable for instilling morals and values in their children? We surely cannot expect the serious job of parenting our children to be done by teachers or clergymen. Mothers and/or fathers must raise their children by not only providing them with life's basic needs, but also by being examples for them, offering them daily doses of ethical behavior, lessons in honesty and respect for their fellow human beings and their property.

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