Family Matters

Keith Richards’ Daughter’s Arrest: Poor Parenting at Play?

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Julia Xanthos/NY Daily News via Getty Images

Charlie Sheen’s increasingly unpredictable antics have pretty much dominated this week’s celebrity gossip. But other stuff happened too that was worth a raised eyebrow. Oscar winner Natalie Portman snubbed a designer who made an anti-Semitic comment. And Rolling Stones rocker Keith Richards’ daughter, Theodora, spent the night in jail.

That in and of itself is not so terribly interesting. Theodora, 25, was stuck in the slammer for allegedly scrawling graffiti on a New York convent and getting caught with marijuana and hydrocodone pills that apparently were not prescribed to her.

She’s modeled for Burberry and Tommy Hilfiger, she’s well-connected, and no doubt she’ll get off with little more than an apology and a story about what it’s like to be confined to a jail cell. She can swap tales with her dad, who’s racked up five arrests on drug charges. (More on Charlie Sheen’s Twins Are Taken Away from Him. What Happens Now?)

But I’m more interested in her mother, model Patti Hansen, whom the Daily Mail noted was also in New York — to bestow a parenting award. Hansen “had the unenviable task” of presenting a Mother of the Year trophy at an American Cancer Society gathering to her pal, Freya Schnabel, “and was seemingly unabashed at the irony.”

The Daily News crowed, “Perhaps unsurprisingly, Hansen was not receiving a prize herself.” Should Hansen have been embarrassed? Maybe, because of the prima facie nature of what happened — no one’s gotta be happy when a child gets cozy with the cops — but not because of any glaring irony. But the scenario does beg the age-old question of whether we, simply by virtue of being parents, are responsible for our kids’ behavior. When they’re young, possibly, but not really even then. We all know super-sedate parents who’ve been saddled with a wild child. (More on Time.comPerspective on the Parenting Debate: Rich Parents Don’t Matter?)

Recently, a distant relative came to visit. He complimented me on what well-behaved, engaging kids I’m raising (really, it’s true!). I thanked him and muttered something about it being sheer luck; he caught us on a good day. Because that well-behaved, engaging brood can turn into a bunch of demanding, entitled kids who don’t listen quicker than I can say, Put on your shoes. Now.

It’s easy to second-guess other parents and wax all holier-than-thou. I mean, really, how did Dylan Klebold’s mother not know what he was up to in the days before he shot up Columbine? But then I read her perspective in 2009 in O, The Oprah Magazine, felt her contrition and her horror. And I thought: it could happen to anyone. (More on Time.comThe ‘Mommy Brain’ Is Bigger: How Love Grows a New Mother’s Brain)

Sure, that’s an extreme example, but at the end of the day, we’re all just trying to do the best we can. Should Patti Hansen have recused herself from anointing another woman Mother of the Year? Perhaps, but only because there is no such thing.