Sure, everybody makes mistakes— especially, in our teens and young adulthood. But how great would it be if our parents could snap their fingers, and make our messes vanish into thin air?
That’s what it looks like Arkansas Governor Mike Beebe is doing for his 34-year-old son, Kyle, convicted in 2003 with possession of a controlled substance, marijuana, with the intent to deliver, a class C felony under state law. And you might say that by pardoning his own child, the governor is behaving like the ultimate ‘snowplow’ parent— pushing obstacles out of his son’s way, as opposed to forcing him to face the true consequences of his actions, and live with a felony on his record.
On Wednesday, in an interview with Arkansas TV station KATV, Beebe said that before leaving office in January due to term limits, he will pardon his son, who completed a 3-year supervised probation in 2006. The governor explained that his son has grown up a lot and that while the Arkansas Parole Board only recommended Kyle Beebe for pardon on October 21, he wishes his son had asked him sooner. “I would have done it a long time ago if he’d asked,” said Beebe, “but he took his sweet time about asking. He was embarrassed. He’s still embarrassed, and frankly, I was embarrassed and his mother was embarrassed. All of the families that go through that, it’s tough on the families, but hopefully the kids learn.”
In his pardon request to his father, Kyle Beebe reportedly wrote: “At the time of my arrest I was living in a fantasy world, not reality. I was young and dumb…I am asking for a second chance to be a better son to my parents and prove to them that I am the person they raised me to be.”
But some strongly disagree with the governor’s parenting style, and accuse him both of over-indulgence and nepotism.
"Bad governor, bad father...bad example!" says Cindy Rae Mundy-Eno, in comments to a Yahoo News story on the governor.
"He'll never learn his lesson with Daddy bailing him out," comments Dan Matthews.
“Way to go Gov. Probably why the kid has a drug problem in the first place. Daddy keeps getting him [out] of trouble,” says Karen Douglas Gray.
“It’s a real concern, not just for affluent parents,” said Robert Pondiscio, a New York City teacher and father of a 16-year old girl, “but for anyone who attempts to make our kids’ lives friction-free. At some point, you run the risk of insulated kids from the consequences of their actions. This seems like a particularly egregious example.”
On the other hand, governor or not, Mike Beebe is also a father, trying to balance his public and private roles. “Parenting never ends, whether the child is 3, 12, or 33, we are still raising our children,” said Launa Schweizer, a Brooklyn, New York, middle school teacher and parent to two teenage girls. As a former principal of her daughters’ school, Schweizer recognizes the inherent conflict of interest in Kyle’s Beebe’s case. “I always asked another educator to weigh in on disciplinary matters concerning my own children," she explained. “In this case, it seems the governor was the only person who could grant the pardon, and it sounds as though the proper channels were followed.”
According to Lisa Endlich Heffernan, co-founder of Grown and Flown, a blog for parents of teenage and adult children, Beebe doesn’t sound like a "snowplow" parent.
“A snowplow parent steps in between their kid and the consequences of their kid’s actions,” Heffernan said. “But an understanding parent knows when the educational benefits of those consequences have run their course.” Once a child learns his or her lesson, she believes, the question becomes, would you do the same thing — in this case, accept a pardon — from somebody else’s kid in the same situation? As she sees it, a parent’s natural impulse is certainly do more for our child whenever we can, but we must also be careful to do no less for our own child as well.
For parents, whether this is “special treatment” seems to cut to the heart of the matter. “Would the governor pardon this person if it weren’t his son? I don’t know,” said Jordana Horn Gordon, who recently wrote about her own anti-snowplow approach, “no rescue parenting.”
In fact, Governor Beebe told local reporters he has already pardoned over 700 people, largely for non-violent offenses. And according to the Pew Research Center, attitudes about marijuana have undergone a rapid shift in public opinion since 2003.
“I actually think this is the perfect example of not being an enabling parent,” said Stephanie McCratic, of Bentonville, Arkansas. McCratic, who runs a PR firm Acorn Influence and is the mom of a 5 year old, believes the governor has two families— his biological one and the people of Arkansas. “He has to take care of his family too and it’s a very conflicting place to live in. But the truth is, he made his son come ask for the pardon. The governor didn’t volunteer it. And when his son had served his time and matured, he came to his father.”