Desperate times call for desperate measures. Or maybe it’s only that desperate people grasp at straws … and lawsuits. Bernard Bey, a 32-year-old homeless man from Brooklyn is suing his parents, citing that their lack of love and his sense of abandonment, has led him to his current state.
He typed up the suit himself, on a laptop in the Brooklyn shelter where he resides. He claims he did not have a fighting chance, and that his parents have made him feel “unloved and beaten by the world.”
Certainly, his story is rough: He claims that he was both physically and emotionally abused growing up. He ran away when he was 12 and has been in and out of the shelter system since he was 16. He has served time and been up on various drug charges. He has tried/is trying to make it as a rapper and music producer.
But his current project is to ask his parents for $200,000 in damages. The suit requests that they mortgage their family home and suggests that they purchase a couple of franchises, expressly suggesting Domino’s Pizza as a good idea. (Which makes me think his parents did steer him wrong because who likes Domino’s pizza?)
Bey’s parents, who are living in public housing, released a statement that they only partially own their home. Bey’s mother, Vickie Anderson, says, “He’s 32 years old. That speaks for itself. Welcome to America. Everyone in America has the same opportunity. Don’t blame the parents at this point.” Bernard Manley, his stepfather, reportedly responded to reporters with a string of curse words, the only printable quote being “He’s not my son.”
I couldn’t make this shit up.
Here’s the part that simultaneously breaks my heart and makes me say, Whaaaaaaaaaaaaat? Bey said he is willing to drop the lawsuit if his family invites him over for dinner.
Ohmygoodness. I mean, I doubt this is going to go anywhere—and we can’t have cases like this clogging up our courts—but if we could, the possibilities are endless. Already spiteful spouses could file nuisance suits, for things like forgotten toothpaste caps and dirty socks under the bed. Maybe I could file harassment claims on students who email me at 3 a.m.
Common sense tells us that helicoptering, the other parenting extreme, is unhealthy, and a new study discussed in Time says too much hovering can cause a lack of autonomy, depression and incompetence. Bernard believes his parents’ behavior during his childhood made him the mess he is today, but I wonder if the over-helicoptered will fail too—and sue their parents for … what’s the opposite of neglect? Hyper-holding? Where’s the line between being super supportive and insanely involved?
The lead author of the study in Time, Holly Schiffrin, says, “Parents are sending an unintentional message to their children that they are not competent. When adult children don’t get to practice problem-solving skills, they can’t solve these problems in the future.” I think of my children’s kindergarten teacher, whose mantra was, “Be a problem solver!” as a response to incidents as small as wiping up spilled milk, to situations as complicated as kids not getting along.
I think about my children and my students and the behavior I find the most upsetting: helplessness, or even worse, feigned helplessness. How easily they sometimes say, “I don’t know,” without apology.
But I’m thinking that maybe, if you don’t want your kids to sue you when they’re older, you should coddle them, since they will become so despondent, and unsure of themselves, they’ll never be able to get a lawsuit together.