Judgment outlives a mother

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I must be the only one in the country who didn’t know Patsy Ramsey died.

It wasn’t until the story broke last week about an arrest in the decade-old murder of JonBenet Ramsey that I realized her mother was dead, too.

Ovarian cancer took Patsy Ramsey at the age of 49.

Now it’s time for another confession in the case: For a number of years I blamed that poor woman for her 6-year-old’s death. I didn’t believe Ramsey actually killed her daughter. But I was pretty loose with my judgments about her parenting and its impact.

It was the beauty pageant stuff that did it.

It just didn’t seem right to me that a mother would dress up a 6-year-old child the way JonBenet was decorated and put on parade. There were pictures of the little girl in lipstick and high heels. There was a pageant photo in which the child wore a feathered headdress like you’d see on a Vegas showgirl.

I wondered: Why would a mother want to make her little girl look like a grown woman? Maybe that was what attracted her killer?

It was easy to pass judgment. And it was wrong. People who don’t have kids shouldn’t go around telling parents how to parent, right?

But it creeped me out.

At 6, kids are supposed to be learning to read books and ride a bike. They’re not supposed to worry about messing up their curlers or learning to walk on 3-inch heels. It was hard to buy all those stage mothers’ claims about how much the kids enjoy competing in pageants.

But maybe JonBenet Ramsey did enjoy it? Maybe it was an ideal way for this particular mother and daughter to spend time together.

Whatever it was about, Patsy Ramsey’s idea of parenting shouldn’t have been an indictment against her in the murder of her little girl. She must have been in unbearable pain. And she must have been grateful for all those pictures of her smiling daughter

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