It’s a good thing State Superior Court Judge Peter Bogaard sits on the bench in Morristown, N.J., rather than Cherokee County. Had he been presiding here over the case occupying his time these days, he might have turned Rachel Canning over his knee and paddled her behind.
Rachel’s parents may have reason now to regret their child-rearing methods, because at least on the surface, the girl seems to be spoiled rotten – or as we sometimes say in these parts, “rotten as an Easter egg in August.”
Like many teenagers, Rachel objected to rules set by her parents, who evidently took issue with her alcohol consumption and an objectionable boyfriend. Two days before she turned 18, Rachel ran away from home and declared herself free of parental constraints. But now, the flighty girl has come to her senses and realizes she can’t support herself without a lot of hard work, so she’s opted instead to sue her parents for $650 a week in child support, payment of the rest of her tuition at her Catholic high school, and of course, attorney’s fees.
Predictably, there are two sides to this story. The parents say Rachel was disrespectful, repeatedly broke curfew, wouldn’t do her chores, and hung out with an unsavory boy. Rachel claims her parents are abusive: She blames them for an eating disorder and says they “pushed” her to get a basketball scholarship. For their part, the parents say they helped her get over her eating disorder and paid for a private school so she could get more playing time on the basketball court.
We’ll never know the truth. Maybe the Cannings are lousy parents, but if pushing a child to excel is abuse, then any one of us would be guilty as charged. Where is the proof of abuse, and why wasn’t it mentioned before Rachel decided she needed some cash?
It seems more likely that the Cannings heaped another type of “abuse” on their daughter – by giving her everything she wanted, instead of everything she deserved. And now that she’s reached adulthood, she wants them to keep on giving. But the Cannings’ attorney says that while Rachel could go home anytime, she can’t have her cake and eat it, too. Since she “emancipated herself” and is now 18, her parents are not legally obliged to support her.
You have to feel sorry for poor old Judge Bogaard, who is as much a victim as anyone else. He denied Rachel’s initial petition, although the case isn’t dead in the water. And he pointed out such a lawsuit could lead to teens’ “thumbing their noses” at their parents, leaving home and them demanding money. He asked, “Are we going to open the gates for 12-year-olds to sue for an Xbox?”
When you consider how “entitled” many youngsters feel these days, you have to concede that’s exactly what could happen. And that’s one reason why, regardless of whatever background comes with this case, Rachel should not be awarded the money she seeks. Another reason is that some young people suffering from “failure to launch” syndrome might use the verdict to remain on the parental teat forever.
Most parents will financially help a needy and deserving adult child, if they can afford to do so, because it’s the right thing to do. That’s as it should be, not through force and legal action. In a case like this, the only ones who will benefit are, as usual, the lawyers.
Figuratively speaking, and to paraphrase the old nursery rhyme, the court should whip the girl soundly and put her to bed.