Ottawa Citizen
Friday 16 February 2001

Bonacci case shows need for parental flexibility

Renata Coppola
Letter to the Editor
The Ottawa Citizen

Wayne Cuddington, The Ottawa Citizen / The family travail involving Teresa Bonacci, right, her mother Maria, left and her father Frank, rear, offers lessons to all parents about the need to keep lines of communication open as children mature, writes Renata Coppola.

I was very pleased to read about the outcome of Teresa Bonacci's case ("Hit-man plot nets house arrest: Two-year conditional sentence for Bonacci," Feb. 9). With the conditional sentence given by Judge Robert Desmarais, Ms. Bonacci will have the chance to redeem herself, and, most of all, to receive the psychiatric care she will need to overcome her problems.

At the same time, Ms. Bonacci and her family will have time to lick their wounds and, one hopes, be able to go on in a peaceful way with the rest of their lives.

She would never have been able to receive proper psychiatric care had she been given a prison sentence.

I hope Ms. Bonacci realizes how lucky she is to have a family like hers, especially a mother like Maria, who in spite of everything has stood behind her daughter 100 per cent throughout this long, painful ordeal that has unfortunately exposed this family's "dirty laundry" to the eyes of the people of Ottawa.

Teresa Bonacci's story goes to show how important the role of parents is in raising children, how vulnerable our children are and not only physically, and how much harm we can do to them by the way we sometimes deal with certain issues -- perhaps by being too strict or by wanting to assert our will with them, no matter what, without trying to meet them half way, without even trying to explain why the strictness, only because we feel so righteous, just "because this is the way I was brought up, and this is the way it has to be, or else."

Being a mother of two boys, who are now very grown up and with good heads on their shoulders, I am pleased and thankful to say, I remember all the times in the past, when they were younger, when I was tempted to assert my credos to them just because that was the way I had been brought up, and consequently that was the way it had to be with them.

But I didn't, because I knew that, had I done that, I would probably have lost them for good. Times change, times are not what they were when we were growing up, and therefore, in order to have a good and open relationship with our children, in order to have their continued trust, in order to be close to them, we have learned that it is very important to keep an open dialogue going with them and to show flexibility more often than not.

By this I do not mean overindulging and consequently spoiling them. A parent's role is very difficult today, more than it was when we were growing up; the challenges young people face today are many and so are the choices, and sometimes, even with the best intentions in the world, we parents end up making the wrong decisions and upset the very fragile apple cart that is a youngster's mind.

Let us not always blame the children for their mistakes. We, as parents, must share the responsibilities and, at times, the guilt, when serious mistakes are made.

Ms. Bonacci's parents have learned the hard way, albeit a bit late. But it's better late than never. Life is a learning experience. My best wishes go to Ms. Bonacci and her family.

Renata Coppola,


Copyright 2001 Ottawa Citizen Group Inc.