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Kaleidoscope of the Heart: The sins of the son are not the sins of the mom

Rika Kayama

Recently, a 22-year-old actor was arrested on suspicion of rape. The victim was apparently badly injured in the assault. This incident is, in a word, unforgiveable.

    This young actor has a famous actress for a mother, who appears frequently in drama series and on variety shows. The suspected rapist was often referred to as "that actress' son" in his professional life. In that way, you could say that he was not entirely separate from his mother, and so perhaps it's unavoidable that some people would wonder what she would do after her son's arrest for such a terrible crime.

    What she did was hold a news conference, bow very, very low before the assembled reporters, and apologize.

    Obviously shocked and despairing, she appeared thin and haggard as she faced the glare of the cameras. It was painful to watch. And then came the questions, quick and sharp as arrows, demanding to know about how she had raised her son.

    "I intended to do the very best that I could in my own way, but I think now that the way I raised him didn't go well," she said. I suspect that a lot of people saw this and wondered how far a parent's responsibility extends when it comes to the problems of their children.

    Parents naturally have an idea of what kind of people they want their children to be, and convey to them the ideas and rules of the household. However, no matter how much a parent thinks of their daughter or son as "my child," they are in fact separate human beings. It's impossible for any parent to completely control the thoughts and emotions of their child. It's also not something a parent should try to do. What's more, it's impossible for parents to police their kids' actions at every moment.

    Occasionally, parents with children who have developed serious problems come to my practice for help. In cases where the child is still quite young, up to about junior high school age, I often counsel that aspects of children's behavior change depending on how parents deal with them, and help the parents with that. For parents of kids in high school or beyond, however, I tell them, "It's difficult to help unless your child comes here in person." Behind this insistence is my belief that once a child reaches the latter half of their teens, their individual character, ideas and opinions should be respected.

    Of course, parents and children will always be family, so it's not out of the question for a mother to stand before the public and apologize for the alleged deeds of a son who is now detained and incapable of doing so himself. However, I think it is wrong to demand she admit responsibility, based in the way she raised and supervised her now adult child.

    It's a beautiful thing to see parents and children pooling their efforts and helping each other out. However, for people to immediately point the finger at parents and say "It's their fault" as soon as someone causes a problem is good for no one, parent or child. In this recent case, too, I would like to see the man who committed the crime be judged and punished severely. And I'd like to see his mother continue her acting career in much the same way it was before all this happened. (By Rika Kayama, psychiatrist)

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