Rachel Canning is an 18-year-old teen from New Jersey who is suing her parents over the education they promised her, but then defaulted on ... because she refused to break up with her boyfriend who they feel "might be a bad influence on her". She has had her college fund frozen, but perhaps most shocking is that her parents have refused to pay her last semester of high school, as well. Her parents' reasoning: She didn't obey the house rules, so this is her punishment. Her entire future is now in the hands of the court system.
Contrary to the endless barrage of tweets, posts, and comments, Rachel Canning is not a quitter or a brat, nor did she run away to live with her boyfriend. Quite the opposite, actually. Rachel Canning is a bright, opinionated, determined young woman who is fighting for her future with the hardest of tasks: She is fighting for her future, against a society that assumes her guilt, while attempting to steal her education away from her own family.
If you skim the reports of the situation, it's easy to get on the side of her parents. How dare any child demand anything when she isn't even willing to compromise or be inconvenienced by the rules of the house. As most of us have experienced — if you want something from your parents, follow the rules. Personally, if I had to struggle to pay for my child's education and then that child disrespected me or dismissed my requests, I wouldn't be in any hurry to assist them with anything. But in researching the situation with the Canning family deeper, I came to a realization: Her "rebellion" is nothing of the kind. Her behavior — while not in line with her parent's wishes — has nothing to do with struggle, sacrifice, betrayal or breaking rules. This story is about an age-old issue: coming of age. Young adults struggling to branch out and come out from under the protective shelter of their parents' wings to choose their path — and possibly make mistakes. In short: This is about control, and about a family so focused on maintaining that control, that they've lost sight of what's truly important: family relationships, trust, livelihood, and an adult's right to choose his or her future.
Rachel has repeatedly earned her place on her school's Honor Roll, and has also been been accepted at several universities — with scholarships pending — participated in athletics and cheerleading, and by her parent’s own admission, is a "good kid".
My bottom line: The punishment does not fit the crime. Her future is being taken away because she is making a choice that does not align with her parents' personal views. In essence — under the guise of "protecting her" — her parents are punishing this splendid, young adult for having the courage to make her own choices. And with this extreme comes a harsh reality: It nullifies the great accomplishments Rachel has achieved up to this point. They have raised a wonderful daughter, but are willing to throw all of that away to be "right". As I see it, Rachel kept her end of the deal by doing her best and giving her all throughout school and sports and activities, and now her parents are simply backing out on her because she made a choice they don’t like. She is just a young adult who is doing what all young adults do: making choices, (potentially) making mistakes, stepping in to her independence, and becoming a woman with her own thoughts, beliefs and direction.
Perhaps most alarming is society’s quick-to-judgment outlook on Rachel's situation. Endless people are fast to label her desire to succeed as being spoiled, entitled and bratty. Can any one of us actually say that if our child were as bright, educated and determined as Rachel, that we would be OK with an admissions counselor denying her diploma, acceptance to college, or use of her scholarships or college fund because they didn't like her boyfriend? Of course not. But according to the side of Rachel's parents, we should't argue with their decision because they make the rules, so if we don't like them... "Tough sh*t! Welcome to the real world, kids!"
If we were truly honest with ourselves, none of us would tolerate that decision for our child, because we would know that would mean a death sentence for their career and their future. Yet we cheer for the punishment and suffering of other people's children which we would never inflict on or allow for our own.
I hear all the people saying "She is an adult ... she needs to grow up!" But here's the thing: She is trying to grow up. But the facts say her parents seem to be afraid to let her, perhaps because part of growing up includes making our own decisions ... and mistakes.
From my perspective, Rachel's parents aren’t realizing that their daughter is an adult; a young adult, but still an adult. Did they expect her to follow in lockstep into her 20s and 30s, only offering rewards and assistance contingent on submission? Rachel deserves to be able to finish her high school career, move on to college, and begin that career she has worked so hard to attain. She deserves all the opportunities and blessings her parents promised her so long ago when she was a little girl ... even though that was before she had a boyfriend — and an opinion — her father didn't like.
A message to Rachel's parents: When you raise a girl to become a thoughtful, strong, independent woman, you can't hold her down and stifle her and still expect her to blossom into all that you taught her. You obviously did your jobs well. Now, trust her to use what you taught her wisely.
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