Life is overwhelming

Published 11:33 pm Friday, October 10, 2008

At times, life is overwhelming.

No doubt, Gary Staton—the Nebraska man who made international headlines for legally deserting his nine children at a hospital a couple of weeks ago—has been overwhelmed lately.

Nine children. I love kids, but the mere idea of being personally responsible for that many children—educating, feeding, clothing and, most important, loving them—would give me a panic attack that wouldn’t end until the youngest hit 21.

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Staton also lost his wife, the kids’ mother, to a brain aneurysm 17 months ago and subsequently lost his job. Obviously, he was justifiably stressed and in dire need of help.

But Nebraska’s new Safe Haven Law, which permitted Staton to legally dump his kids, isn’t the kind of help the father needs.

Most states, including Virginia, have a version of the Safe Haven Law, which allows parents to leave unwanted children at hospitals, police or fire stations without fear of prosecution. It’s a good and necessary law that has probably saved a lot of young lives—when used as intended, mostly for newborns born to young girls who are still children themselves.

Most states have age limitations for the children they will accept under their Safe Haven laws. But Nebraska lawmakers, for whatever reason, made their Safe Haven Law applicable to any child under age 19.

The state’s lawmakers have opened a Pandora’s Box with this legislation, which went into effect in July.

We are an inpatient society. We’re so used to finding instant solutions to problems on the Internet that we expect to find the same instant gratification in the less tangible issues in our lives.

Don’t get along with your spouse? Get a divorce. Don’t get along with your boss? Quit your job. Don’t like something? No worries, just trade it for a new, improved model.

While there are cases when it is the only good solution, people today are much quicker than previous generations to bail on relationships without trying to fix the problems.

Now we can do that with our kids–at least in Nebraska.

Think about it. Your 15-year-old kid sasses you yet again. In the past, you may have tuned him out, grounded him for a month or even slapped him into next week. Now, at least in Nebraska, you can just give up, turn in your kid and wash your hands of parental responsibility.

Being a parent is hard work, a responsibility that requires a lifetime of commitment and tough decisions. Kids aren’t used cars; we can’t allow parents to trade in their children like junked-up cars.

This law makes it far too easy for frustrated Nebraskans to do just that.