The latest turn of the bizarre Rachel Canning saga should have all parents asking themselves. “What would we do?”
Presumably, the answer is, “Exactly what Sean and Elizabeth Canning are doing.” Yes, even after filing a law suit against her mother and father demanding that they continue to support her after she defied their authority and moved out of their home…even after accusing her father of vague inappropriate behavior and her mother of cruelty…Rachel asked to move back into her childhood home. And her parents said, “Yes.”
Why? Because that’s how ethical families behave. Because it is the right thing to do. Because children…and she is still a child, though the law now treats her as an adult…screw up, say and do reckless, irresponsible and hurtful things, act ungrateful and spoiled, and then come crawling back, asking for forgiveness, because they know they will get it.
Canning, whose ill-advised lawsuit against her parents made her a cultural villain and won her an epic dressing down from a judge, is fortunate that ethical parents don’t hold grudges against their children, no matter how much they may deserve them. The lawsuit is still alive, which will inevitably lead to accusations that the parents have taken their wayward child back to their bosoms for less than ethical motives. Maybe: I doubt it. I think Judge Bogart’s doubts about the wisdom of the suit—““What will the next step be? Are we going to open the gates to a 12-year-old suing for an Xbox? Do we want to establish a precedent where parents are living in constant fear of establishing basic rules of the house?”—will prevail in the next forum. I think Rachel is back home because she made a power play, lost, and is ready to admit that she isn’t the emancipated free spirit that she thought she was when she left.
I also doubt the Cannings are taking their daughter in to appeal to public opinion. They have always been seen as the victims in this case. The real villains, from what we know so far, appear to be the Inglesinos, the parents of one of Rachel’s friends and the ones funding the lawsuit. This was never the kind of situation that belonged in court, and shame on the meddling Inglesinos for putting it there.
I have avoided wading into this mess from an ethical perspective because the facts are so murky. Letting Rachel come home, however, after all she has put her parents through, is enough evidence for me to conclude that the Cannings understand and embrace the most important part of family ethics: unconditional love. As long as that survives, this tale may have a happy ending yet.
Sources: Washington Post, Fox
18 thoughts on “Family Ethics: The Rachel Canning Saga, Continued.”
Well-written piece from a loving father and a loved son. Thank you.
The Cannings have younger children. There is no way I would let her move back in. What are they showing to their younger children? She is a sociopath, no other way around it. I fear for their household, but I hope they send her far away to college as soon as possible, for everyone’s safety.
A transcription of one of the voicemail’s she left for her mother:
‘Hi mom just to let you know you’re a real f**king winner aren’t you you think you’re so cool and you think you caught me throwing up in the bathroom after eating an egg frittatta, yeah sorry that you have problems now and you need to harp on mine because i didn’t and i actually took a s*** which i really just wanna s*** all over your face right now because it looks like that anyway, anyway i f***ing hate you and um I’ve written you off so don’t talk to me, don’t do anything I’m blocking you from just about everything, have a nice life, bye mom’.
The fact is, now Rachel is an adult. The Canings have an even greater responsibility to their still-minor children.
A useful quote from “Criminal Minds”: “Dave, you know that all 16 year olds profile as sociopaths….” If the possible negative effect on younger children were the justification, every teen, or nearly every teen, would have to be sent away from home. I think Rachel is a jerk, but that this may be a turning point for her. The message—meh. If a parent sent that—say, Alec Baldwin—there would be cause for concern. Kids say “I hate you.” If you’re a good parent, you don’t take it personally, or over-react.
If she was still 16, that would be one thing, but she isn’t. Rachel Canning has also accused her father of sexual abuse, and her parents allege that she has relentlessly bullied her two younger sisters. Given the tone of the voicemail to her own mother, I believe that. What responsibility do they owe the younger sisters to keep such a person away from them?
The most likely reason is that the boyfriend ended up dumping Rachel, so she went back home with her tail between her legs. But I’m not as sure as you are that her parents should have let her. I’m willing to bet that she will continue to be a hugely disruptive force for every member of her family until she leaves again.
I don;t know that she’s a sociopath, but she is definitely a spoiled, entitled brat, and I wonder as to the nature of the relationship between her and Mr Inglesino. That is a pretty terrible thing to say to your mother, I agree, but children have tantrums, and that is definitely a tantrum carefully gauged to be as cruel as she could think. I agree about the concerns regarding the other children, and I would not let her move back in unless she agreed to go to family therapy. I definitely would not leave her unmonitored around the other kids.
18 going on 8. Or younger. 5 maybe. Hopefully she’ll grow out of it – most do – and will be hideously embarrassed in later life.
A good case for selective amnesia on the part of society, or a change in attitude to be more forgiving of youthful transgressions.
A bit unfair to those of us who left those behind at age 10, but for some it takes rather longer.
They do have a great responsibility to their other children, and this is a fantastic way of starting to fulfill that going forward – they’re teaching them “Even if you royally screw up, you’re still family, and we still love you.”
The important next step is, now that they’ve accepted her back, demand contrition and strict adherance to a set of rules established with the knowledge of a) what a spoiled brat she is, and b) what lengths she’ll go to in order to get her way.
She’s got a lot of contrition and restitution ahead before she can start hoping for leniency from them.
It wasn’t long after my 19th birthday that I decided to leave home to live with a “boyfriend” my parents felt was not appropriate for me. I was tired of their stupid rules. I remember my father called me and calmly stated that I was old enough to do what I wanted but I needed to bring back my car, my clothes, and everything else that he had paid for…which was pretty much everything. He also said that I would most likely need to find a job because he was no longer paying for my education. Or I could come home. I told my father that I would be home in fifteen minutes.
By the way, I was very immature and a brat who had no idea how well I actually had it. I cringe at some of my behavior at that time and hate to think that anyone would judge me now for my idiotic behavior back then.
Heh, I was thinking that of myself as well. I said terrible things to my mother (nothing as bad as recounted above, but still). Teenage girls can be the devil.
This is an excellent story, thank you for sharing it!
My son is 20 and fortunately has grow up into a man who knows to love his family: now my wife and I, in the future his own. But to accomplish that, he first learned to appreciate and to respect: not only his parents, but also himself and the world. I believe these three verbs – respect (the bottom line), appreciate, and love – are vital for his own happiness.
I feel sorry for Ms. Canning since she has just passed the best period to learn these in happy ways. The young lady does not need tuition, since the education she needs is free: How much should it cost to learn the three verbs?
If I am the dad, I would rent her a room (a cheap one in a nice neighborhood of your, not her, choice) outside, and lend her $100 a month for food until she is 20. No cars or anything else. At least for the protection of the family. At best, to take advantage of this last opportunity for her to learn. Tell her this: Want more? Make it your own. Then she will learn to appreciate. Want to come back home? Prove that you deserve (at least respect) the home AND you still love the family. Taking her back in right away is one more mistake. Helps no one and nothing!
Jaw-dropping. Two posts ago and you’re shrugging off the concept that a crime should be punished as it was committed. “He commited the crime as a juvenile? Well he’s an adult now so try him and punish him as an adult. Hey, the judge has the option to consider the juvenile angle. If he feels like it.” Then you turn around and hand-wave this girl’s nonsense as a poor little basically-child who shouldn’t really be held responsible for her actions, since teenagers are basically sociopaths.
Just because you think one is a “bad man” and one is a “misguided and spoiled teenager” doesn’t change that.
Anticipating a reply: Yes, I know there’s a difference between how a court handles a criminal case and how a family handles a wayward member. I’m talking about the justifications for each. The girl is a legal adult but you’re willing to admit that 18-year olds are stupid, selfish, and irresponsible and shouldn’t be considered to be as competent and rational as real adults. The guy was not a legal adult at the time of his alleged crime, which you ignore for reasons I still don’t understand. “The judge can choose to be lenient” is about as good as no protection at all.
I agree with your opinion of the girl’s case, that teenagers need some extra leeway for their stupid decisions. I’m just noticing a trend here, where if someone is a sufficiently bad man you start to conflate the “I want to see him punished” instinct with the “whatever it takes to punish him properly is ethical” concept.
I may be wrong here, but the ethics issue is about the actions of the parents. These parents are behaving ethically because they are trying to preserve something that is worth preserving, their family. The other story didn’t mention the parents actions and wasn’t about the parents.
Well, if setting children on fire and behaving like a spoiled snot were even in the same game and league, never mind the same ball park, you might have something there.
A criminal should be punished according to the crime. We give special dispensation—mercy—to children because they are children…not because they were children, or because the crime is any different because of the age involved. Nor is the state obligated to provide “unconditional love” for wayward citizens. Indeed, the state’s love is extremely conditional on keeping one’s conduct within required rules—try not paying your taxes.
I know you understand the concept of analogy, Luke, so I’m puzzled that the concept has eluded you in this instance. I see no ethical lessons whatsoever from the burning homicide case and the spoiled child litigant.
And let me add this. The burning murder crime was ongoing, and its alleged perp was not chastened or sufficiently remorseful to go to the authorities and say, “Now I am a man, and I realize that I did, in my childish immaturity, a horrible thing that ended a life, and this deed will haunt me forever. I throw myself on your mercy, and accept full responsibility for my actions.” Now, if Collins had done that, I might start listening to arguments that the murderer and his present day incarnation were sufficiently different to warrant what you seem to think is just. But he never confessed. He thought he had covered up a rape and an assault by burning up the witness, the victim, and the evidence.
“A criminal should be punished according to the crime.” The crime in question was a child attacking a child. How can it possibly be ethically acceptable for the prosecutor to not get the lead out and prosecute a crime quickly, then penalize the accused for the prosecution’s difficulties?
It’s a ridiculous can of worms and any ethical argument about the individual harm done is vasty overwhelmed by the end run around the law to give a worse punishment by waiting for 1) the crime to change from assault to murder, 2) the witness to give testimony just before dying to guarantee that he can’t be confronted, cross-examined, or verified, and 3) the accused to hit 18 so we can prosecute him as an adult.
If it works, what’s to stop every prosecutor who wants to chest thump about how tough on crime he is from waiting til every juvenile offender is 18 before filing charges? After all, protections to the accused are just impediments to getting the bad guy… that devil’s getting away in the forest, quick, hand me my saw.
Nonsense and bushwa. (I am trying to bring “bushwa” back into vogue:
“It’s a ridiculous can of worms and any ethical argument about the individual harm done is vasty overwhelmed by the end run around the law to give a worse punishment by waiting for 1) the crime to change from assault to murder, 2) the witness to give testimony just before dying to guarantee that he can’t be confronted, cross-examined, or verified, and 3) the accused to hit 18 so we can prosecute him as an adult.”
1. Crimes are not defined by the criminal, but by what is done. The system the crime is charged under—juvenile or adult—doesn’t change the crime, only its sentencing–because of the criminal as he or she stands in court.
2. All assaults where the victim dies from wounds changes into murder. There’s no end-around. It took two months for James Garfield to die–he was still assassinated. Soldiers who are eventually killed by the battle wounds, decades later, are regarded as being battle casualties. If Collins could have been charged, it would have been with attempted murder, not assault—or could have been.
3. Yes, Luke, I’m sure that the dying burn victim gave that deposition to make sure he couldn’t be cross examined, because he had a weird obsession with making sure an innocent Collins was changed with his attack that he really knew was done by a mysterious stranger.
4. A prosecution intentionally withheld so that there could be a prosecution as an adult would be blatant misconduct, and no judge would tolerate it. That’s not what happened here, nor would it ever happen. The longer it takes to bring a prosecution to trial, the harder it is to win it.
The bottom line is that a 13 year old who does this..
had and has no grounds to cry “injustice” for any punishment up to and including hard labor for life.