This weekend marks the one-year-anniversary of something outrageous that happened in my neighborhood. It is so outrageous yet true, and I think ultimately related to parenting, that I wanted to share it.  First, a bit of background:

We have a long alley that runs behind our house.  Most people in our neighborhood just see wood fences on other properties when they look across the alley.  But, a couple houses have city streets running perpendicular into the alley, directly behind their property. Our neighbor, whom I’ll call David, owns one of those houses. When he and his wife bought the house, they were assured by the realtor that even though it looked kind of ominous, with a street running directly into their back fence and only a few feet between the fence and their bedroom, it was safe. On the alley side of their fence, the alley has a high curb due to a storm drain underneath.  And, there are two reflective warning signs on posts in front of the fence .  The fence is made out of brick, as is the house.  And the fence is reinforced with rebar.

One night last summer, as David and his wife were asleep, they were almost killed when a drunk 19-year-old girl, already with two DWI’s under her belt, sped down that street around 2 a.m. and into the alley, jumping the high curb, plowing down the warning signs, crashing through the “reinforced” brick fence and through the brick wall of their bedroom.  The impact was so forceful, pieces of furniture from a bureau backing up to the alley-side wall flew across the bedroom, through the opposite wall and into an adjoining bathroom.  David attributes their Tempur-pedic mattress with saving them, since it folded up around them “like a burrito.”  (They still suffered injuries, including a broken wrist.) At first, he’d thought a bomb had gone off.  (Amazingly, just a few  doors down, our family was not awakened by the crash or the sirens that followed.)  Later, after we’d seen the damage as we drove down the alley and noticed the pile of broken furniture waiting to be picked up, David showed me photos from the accident on his phone. How weird to see a car halfway through a bedroom. David said that after he painfully climbed out and over the tangled wreckage that had been their bed, he confronted the driver, who was climbing our of her car at the same time, seemingly unharmed.  I was dying to know what she said first. “Did she apologize?” I asked.  “No,” he said.  “The first thing she said was, “How do I look?”

Apparently she was worried that she’d been disfigured or cut up by the accident. Not about whether she’d killed someone or caused tens of thousands of dollars in damage.  There was never an apology, and never has been an apology since.  David said she was taken into custody and quickly bailed out by her parents (or bonded out? I’m not sure of the correct term here).  “Are you kidding me!?” I asked.   They bailed her out, just as they’d no doubt done previously.  How did she even have a car to drive? If my child had (God forbid) one DWI, let alone two, I think the city bus would be her primary mode of transportation for a long time. But driving while intoxicated, almost killing two people and wrecking their house? Shouldn’t your “adult child” driver experience “police custody” longer than a couple hours? I’m thinking longer than a couple weeks…

David and his wife thought about selling their house and moving away after the accident.  Instead, they now sleep in a different room. Even though the girl was insured by a large, well-known insurance company, they have yet to collect anything from her insurance for the medical bills and costs to repair the house and fence.  If you were parents with any kind of integrity, wouldn’t you perhaps, in addition to jail and rehab, have your child actually get out there in the hot sun and work with the crew to fix the large, gaping hole that had to be covered in plastic sheeting for days? Maybe bring some meals to David and his wife? Write an apology letter??????  The more helicopter parents there are in this world, ready to fix their child’s problems so their child experiences as little pain as possible, and then act like it was never a problem in the first place, the more unsafe we all are.

3 thoughts on “When Helicopter Parenting Results in Tragedy

  1. TWO DWI’s???? Seriously?? Wow. That story just chilled me to the bone. It has always been my goal as a parent to NOT end up like the parents of that girl. Some day they are going to realize they can’t bail her out of a morgue if they let her maintain that behaviour. I worked as a nurse for 8 years before becoming a SAHM–you never forget the first time you cut the clothes off a drunk teenager who’s been tossed around so much, broken windshield is inside her underwear.

    I agree with you–if that had been my kid, I would have allowed her to feel the full force of the law the FIRST time (and my province has very strict drunk driving laws) and yes, she would have helped clean up the mess and apologized with words and actions.

    Those parents should be ashamed of themselves. Do they really think they are helping their daughter??

  2. This is a crazy story. I have 2 twenty-something kids along with my 2 1/2 year old. People are crazy. Apparently the parents never held the girl accountable for anything- the parents created that monster.

  3. This story floors me! I cannot imagine letting my child behind the wheel with one DWI much less two! And if she had done this, I would be having her help fix the place by hand and doing anything to help the family. The guilt of what could have been would have killed me!
    I thought it was a parent’s job to raise productive adults–not some kid who will need her parents for her entire life. And she was more concerned about how she looked?!!! Shocked….

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