Julian Hurley shouldn't have died.

WARNING: Rant ahead! I don’t intend to be politically correct or worry about people’s feelings. I’m getting on a soapbox.

In my job, I come across children every now and then who seem to belong to parents who really don’t want the job they signed up for when Tab A inserted itself into Slot B and a zygote resulted. Being a parent comes with multiple responsibilities, none of which require you to be your child’s friend.

Some of us are blessed with amazing relationships with our kids, but those relationships did not grow as a result of being friends. They grew because we taught them values, accountability, and respect. They grew because we let them know we believe in them, because we support them, because they know we have expectations for them and want them to have expectations and goals for themselves. They grew because we covered all of it in love – love when they’re adorable and sweet, and love when they’re difficult and challenging. We are the constants in their lives. They have to know we’re there, that every day we are going to show up for work – the work of being their mom or their dad.

We need to be involved. We need to put our kids first because that’s what the job requires. We need to know who their friends are, where they are spending their time, if they’re doing their homework, and if they’re not – why aren’t they? We need to just plain talk to them – make sure we know them as people. What are their hopes, their dreams, their fears? We need to offer guidance and strength, discipline and boundaries. And we need to be people our kids can look up to - people they want to emulate. We need to live good lives.

We don’t get a do-over when it comes to raising our kids, just ask Rhonda Hurley.

Hurley was released from the LaPorte County Jail on Monday – too late to save the life of her 4-year-old son, Julian. When she went to jail in September for welfare fraud, she left her 7-year-old son and Julian in the care of Jimmy Isbell, a man she said she’d known for twenty years. According to police, it appears as though Isbell had been abusing Julian for days – beating the little boy with his hands and his belt – until Julian died from his injuries on Friday. The older brother has been placed in a foster home. The oldest of Hurley son’s – an 8-year-old – lives with his father.

Hurley has told reporters she feels horrible. Julian’s grandmother is heartbroken. Yeah, I’m sure they are. The death of a child always makes us sad.

But what about a child’s life? Why didn’t the life that Julian was living – being forced to live because of the actions of his mother – make anybody sad enough to do something when it could have made a difference for that little boy?

Our children are our greatest gifts and responsibilities – for as long as our lungs breathe the God-given air. If you don’t know who your children’s friends are – find out. If you don’t know where your children are spending their time – find out. If your child is struggling in school, talk to them, to us at the school, about it.

Learn the word “no.” They don’t have to have everything they ask for. They don’t need to get to do everything they want to. “No” isn’t always easy, but sometimes it’s essential.

And for your children’s sake, if you’re doing something that could get you thrown in jail, stop it. Your kids need you – in every sense of the word – whether they’ll admit or not.

God knows, Julian Hurley deserved much better than he got in his four brief years on Earth.