In The Glass Castle, we are introduced to a family of six and we learn about the parents, Rex and Rose Mary, along with their behavior, attitude, personality, and the overall approach they have towards parenting their children. We all know that the bottom line to "good parenting" is to avoid any type of negligence toward your children. With further study into the book, one may come to the conclusion that Rex and Rose Mary do not fall under the category of "good parent." Rex and Rose Mary do not uphold their moral responsibilities to care for their children's basic needs due to their lack of supervision, stability, and their selfishness.
To begin with, Rex and Rose Mary demonstrate a lack of supervision in their parenting throughout The Glass Castle. For example, when their daughter Jeannette, was the age of only three, she was cooking hot dogs by herself, without any supervision whatsoever because her mother was busy working on one of her paintings in the next room, "…I felt a blaze of heat on my right side. I turned to see where it was coming from and realized my dress was on fire" (9). Due to this lack of supervision, Jeanette is forced to go to the hospital. Rose Mary thought that painting was more important than supervising her child, resulting in direct injury to Jeannette. Even with this incident, Jeannette's parents yet again fail to supervise their children during another situation, while living in Las Vegas. "One night...I suddenly woke up…I smelled smoke and then saw flames leaping at the open window…Mom and Dad were not in the room" (33). The children's lives were at risk at this point because their parents were not present; they were out at night, leaving their children unsupervised. Rex and Rose Mary's lack of supervision is in essence, negligence.
Concurrently, Rex and Rose Mary's inability to provide stability in the lives of their children is obvious throughout the book. "How many places have we lived?" Jeannette asks her sister, Lori (29). "We counted eleven places we had lived, then we lost track" (29). These quotes illustrate the children's constant moving around to the point where they are unable to recall all the places they had lived in. In addition to constantly having to relocate, the children in The Glass Castle lack stability in their lives because their parents are unable to conserve employment. For instance, Rose Mary finds a job as a teacher in Battle Mountain to finally sustain her children; however she slacks off and frequently fails to show up at her assigned classroom, pretending to be sick. The Principle of the school thought Rose Mary a terrible teacher. "Miss Beatty threatened to fire Mom, so Lori, Brian, and I started helping Mom with her schoolwork" (74). Rex also displays a careless attitude towards his employments and often loses them because of this. "He arranged to have himself fired because he wanted to spend more time looking for gold." The problem is that, because of his thoughtless decision to lose his employment, his children are the ones suffering, having to sacrifice for food. Consequently, the children suffer instability.
Simultaneously, the children are affected by their parent's selfishness. Rose Mary exhibits selfishness, on one occasion hiding a chocolate bar from her children while they were starving for food. "…we had nothing to eat…we were…trying not to think of food, Mom kept disappearing under the blanket…Brian yanked the covers back…next to Mom was one of those huge family-sized Hershey chocolate bars…She'd already eaten half it" (174). Likewise, when Jeanette finds a valuable ring outside her home, she offers to sell it to better improve the family's state, but Rose Mary refuses to let her sell it and keeps it for herself. Jeanette implores her mother, "But Mom...that ring could get us a lot of food" (186). Nonetheless her mother goes on to say, "That's true…but it could also improve my self-esteem…self-esteem is even more vital than food" (186). Rose Mary does not seem to care how her fancies affect her children. Meanwhile, the children's father, Rex, fits the definition selfish as well. In the course of the book, he battles alcoholism, which marks destruction in the lives of the children. Though he knows it harms his family, his own selfishness motivates him to satisfy his own desires. At one point, he impedes Lori's plan to move to New York by stealing her savings that she and Jeanette had accumulated when he knows it is of the best interest for his child. "Someone had…stolen all the money…I knew it was Dad…I couldn't believe he'd stoop this low" (228). Lori's search for a better life was almost hampered because of her father's selfishness.
We all know that parents must uphold certain moral responsibilities to care for their children's basic needs in order to be "good parents." Every parent wishes to be a good one and attempts to give it their all to be so. Therefore, why do we still find people today who are guilty of negligence towards their children? Often times it is because of a parent's absence of endeavor, effort, and struggle. Many parents lacking these qualities are usually the products of previous "bad parenting" as well. Although at times, Rex and Rose Mary did expose love to their children, we must also recognize that love alone is not sufficient in meeting children's basic needs. In this case, Rex and Rose Mary did not uphold their moral responsibilities to care for their children's basic needs because they failed to provide supervision, stability, and selflessness in order for their children to prosper.