All They Need is Love

We’ve all heard it: “As long as you love your kids, they’ll know it. That’s all they need.”

I call B.S.

One thing I’ve seen in the past year and a half of caring for children that are biologically related to another family is that you can love your kids and still be a totally crappy parent.

Don’t get me wrong. I am not trying to put myself above other parents. I suppose I need to put that disclaimer out there because it’s the thing to do. But, tonight, I am a bit angry, and sad. Not for our family but for the family of someone close to me. And tonight, it hits me that there really ARE some just plain crap parents out there. It’s not about us being better so much as it being about them being so epically bad that trying to take kids in for six months, a year, two years, almost seems like an exercise in futility because they will just end up back in that same toxic situation they came from and any good that has been done will get undone in the blink of an eye.

I am angry

Until recently, I had a hard time wrapping my mind around it. I could clearly see that these parents loved their kids. But they were crap parents. Did they not really love their kids? Were they just so good at manipulation that they had me convinced that they loved their kids when in reality they didn’t? Was I just looking at the situation hoping for the best because I cannot imagine WHY someone could mistreat a child? How could they do it and still say they love their kids? They HAVE to be liars. Yes, it was the only way I could make sense of it.

Events and experiences over the past few weeks have caused me to change my tune. No, there’s no deception going on here. It is possible (and in all of these cases, I’m fairly certain of it) that these parents DO love their kids AND they are crummy parents. Things like their own pride, denial, lack of education and even talent just plain make them lousy parents. It’s possible that I could love to play basketball. I might really enjoy it. But I might still be a lousy player. I may not want to take the advice of others because I am in such denial about the fact that I am no good and, after all, my love for the game should be enough. Or, I may just not have the natural talent for it, no matter how hard I work at it and how many people I listen to. I might improve, but there’s a pretty solid chance that I just won’t be a good basketball player. Almost anyone can play basketball, but simply put, not everyone is going to be good at it.

The system sucks, but it’s the system we have.

The reality is, the system is set up such that lousy parenting is not against the law. Violence and negligence is (the latter being a bit harder to prove), but being a bad parent is not against the law. So, as a result, kids get pulled from their homes because of an event. Parents (who love their kids) go through and fulfill the requirements (because they’re requirements – NOT because they think it’s needed), the kids go back, and the parents go back to being the lousy parents they are.

It’s frustrating.

These children deserve more. And while I am not a fan of kids being taken out of their homes willy-nilly, I get so bloody frustrated by the fact that there are so many who¬†are clearly not getting what they need in order to thrive but it’s not bad enough to do anything. Common sense and minimal critical thinking would cause anyone to come to the same conclusion but what’s being done is not illegal and, therefore, there is nothing to be done.

It’s awful.

I have no real point to make here. I have no solution either. And yes, I realize that I’m coming across as some pompous know-it-all who thinks he’s perfect (believe me, I don’t believe that at all). But one thing I do know is that kids need more than love. They need to know more than just that their parents love them. The conclusion I’ve come to is that the thing that separates good parents from the bad ones; the thing that makes the children FEEL loved AND important is when the parent is emotionally and intellectually ready to put the needs of their kids ahead of the wants of their own. Until a person is willing to do that, in my humble opinion, they have no business being a parent.

Note: Please understand this is a rant. It is frustration, but it is not me giving up. Instead, it is a reminder that we (I) have to work even harder to have as much of a positive impact as we (I) can on both the children and the system, while we (I) have the opportunity and ability to do it.


  1. Preston Beach

    Oh, yeah. Being a public high school teacher, I could join and add to this rant! But I won’t…you’ve already said it, really well. It is possible, however, to put the needs of your kids above your own, and STILL be a bad parent! Family is one. That includes the parent’s needs, but I get your point. Selfish parents make crappy parents!

    Starfish. “It made a difference for THAT one.” You’re doing your part.
    Have a cup of coffee and reflect on that, my friend!

        • MarcBenz

          There are enough cases (proof) of poor parenting in the “Animal Kingdom.” The difference is, in many cases, the “children” die of neglect or actually get taken in by other families. I’m pretty sure I’d rather have what we have than have the alternative but I’d rather find a solution. Unfortunately, that solution likely involves years/generations of education and culture change. Our pride will be a roadblock time and time again until we evolve to that point as a society.

          • Preston Beach

            “…so we beat on, boats against the current, borne back ceaselessly into the past.”

            From a purely evolutionary point of view, maybe this is supposed to be happening? Ha! You know I don’t believe that. I also don’t believe we’re ever gonna “evolve to resolve” this on a universal scale, without higher power intervention.

  2. MarcBenz

    I know you believe that. I don’t see, though, how it’s mutually exclusive. And the reality is, your actions in your life prove that you don’t believe that either. Assuming a higher power, that higher power gave us tools as humans to do good on earth, to make a difference. To choose not to use those tools and simply “rely on the higher power” is a waste of what that power gave you.

  3. Lorelei

    I love this conversation! Marc – as you know, I admire the hell out of you and Jessica for what you are doing. I’m sure that sometimes it seems futile, but as Preston said with the starfish analogy, you can make a big difference in the lives of these kids even in a very short span of time. Your love and care might give them hope to get through the difficult times and enough sense of self-worth to make better choices when they are in charge of their own lives. It might make them determined to be better parents themselves, or even (as it did with Jessica) to become a foster parent and help other kids like them in the future. You can’t know now what good your loving influence will do – you can only give what you have and hope for the best possible outcome for those kids. What you are giving of yourselves is priceless, my friend. It is HUGE. You are the magi. *HUGS*

    • MarcBenz

      As I was telling my friends (the ones affected and the situation which resulted in me writing the above rant), it’s nice to know that others experience some of the same things (the whole misery loves company thing) while at the same time, discouraging because it’s so common. Yes, I agree with everything you and Preston are saying. We can only do what we can do and you never know the ripple effects it will have. But sometimes, you just wish you could do something bigger/faster. Evolution takes long and patience is short. Not necessarily a good combo.

      • Lorelei

        I hear you. And I know the feeling you’re describing. Just keep reminding yourself that you’re doing what you can, and keep your eyes open for opportunities to make a bigger impact (as you have already done with sharing your story on radio/TV and this blog). I’m so grateful that there are people as selfless as you and Jess out there. Keep on keeping on, my friend!

  4. Stephanie

    I’ve read a few of your posts and never actually connected the posts back to you specifically. I think this time I went to the post straight after clicking it so I knew where it was coming from.

    I’ve now gone back and read every single blog post. What you are doing is such a blessing to those around you.

    As for the “all you need is love”, this is why I tell worrying parents the following: “So long as you love your children and are trying to do what is best for them.” The key words being “trying” and “best” and “them.”

    • MarcBenz

      Thanks for checking in, Stephanie! Reading every single blog post is some commitment! LOL

      My experience has been that many of them don’t even have the capacity to think of or for “them.” I don’t really blame those parents. They’ve never seen it as an example and many of them grew up just trying to survive. Survival instincts really do involve more of a “kill or be killed” mentality and when that is how you live every day, it’s hard to even SEE other options when presented right in front of you. If there is one thing we’re learning and seeing, it’s that the older a person is, the harder it is to “reprogram” them. The problem really is a complex and deep problem and having observed what I have in the short time we’ve been doing this, my understanding of it has grown immeasurably. Wonder where I’ll be next year because I think I’m just at the tip of a very big iceberg.

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