Twelve days ago, we all watched the news and learned of the massacre of innocence at Sandy Hook Elementary in Newtown, CT. I did. I cannot even speak on the level of sorrow, the level of waste. We do not know which of those children would’ve grown up to lead out country, which could have held in their young minds the eventual potential to cure diseases. We’ll never know the future those young lives held because they were ripped from this world. I cannot imagine. Cannot. I looked at John, tears streaking my face, unable to put into words how heartbroken I was at that moment.
And how terribly frightened I am.
And now comes the part where I tell you some things that are not going to make me popular, but in my little space on the web, I can say this. Only here. I hope you will hear me out, that you will try to understand. I cannot speak these words to family, to friends, to coworkers.
When I read Liza Long’s post on her blog, “Anarchist Soccer Mom”, my heart dropped to the floor. Because I was thinking some of those things, but I never could say them. It is a terrible place to be in where you are truly afraid of the potential your child has to do harm. Not just harm to us, his family, but harm to others, to undeserving, innocent people. My child is not violent. He never has been. But I see in him a volatility that leads me to believe that the potential to turn that way is there, somewhere within him, if not managed appropriately. I have felt like this since Evan was very young, and so I have taken steps. No violent games. No violent toys. My husband, the veteran who has some valuable antique firearms, is barred from keeping them in this house. I’m not making a statement about gun control here. I am making a statement about my family. If the potential is there, why taunt it out of latency? People have hushed me when I have said this, citing that there are multiple ways to keep firearms in a home in a manner that a child cannot gain access to them. To those people, I will simply remind them of the time when Evan was really young and too independent (what I now know to be a sign of Aspergers) and we feared for his safety, as he would fail to wake us up before he would try to cook. No matter the solution, he would find a way to outsmart it. And that was to prevent him from wasting groceries or cutting himself on a broken glass. There is no way I will challenge his intellect to come up with a way around safety mechanisms that prevent him from gaining access to something as lethal as a firearm. And not only that, but I see how he gets interested in a topic almost to the point of obsession. So no. No guns. Not for my kid.
But this doesn’t help prepare us for the day when he will be old enough to do things without me, without my consent. Those days will come. So I do all I can. It is a constant uphill battle. I have good insurance. I have access to some of the best pediatric services in the world, and it is still an uphill battle. Look at the years his father and I have been screaming at the top of our lungs in a crowded room before someone finally heard us, before someone finally looked into the idea that what is going on with my kid is not simple hyperactivity, but something more. And after all of those years, when someone finally listened, saw what we saw, look how long we spent on the waiting list to get him help. And we still aren’t there. We’re getting there, but this is such a long process. Why? Why does it have to be? And if it is for us, with our resources, what is it like for the families at the poverty level, the families without insurance, the families in rural areas without access to the services to which we have access?
So then I find out that Adam Lanza, the gunmen, the cold-blooded killer of these innocents, had a possible Autism Spectrum Disorder, and I became flooded with emotions. All of the fears for my own child, given his history and what we are currently dealing with, came to the surface. Became palpable. And I want to label this Lanza kid a monster not fit for human life. But in his descriptions, I see my son, with his big brown eyes and his tousled hair that is always just a little too long. In the descriptions of his family demographics and his upbringing, I see my family, my neighborhood. So I begin researching infamous names: Eric Harris, Dylan Klebold…Monsters, right? Maybe. But maybe these are just more names of kids we have failed. And those failures have multiplied exponentially to where they are manifesting themselves in even more kids we have failed–their victims.
I am in no way advocating violence, but something in our system is broken. We are missing things, huge things, that are creating costs with which we are not prepared to deal. We cannot handle any more loss of children. And while Adam Lanza was of legal age to be considered an adult, if he was truly like my son, I offer you this: my child is, chronologically-speaking, eleven years old. Cognitively, he is an adult. Developmentally, he is about nine years old. Emotionally, he is stuck somewhere between a toddler and a five-year-old. Was Adam Lanza really an adult?
And what of his mother? We can judge her all we want from our safe distance. From here, I can tell you that, if I would never dream of having a firearm in my house, why would she? I want to tell you that. But in my mind, I can tell you that coming to terms that your child is capable of taking such a turn is terrifying to think of. It is not for the weak of mind or heart. It is terrible to admit. Soul-crushing. Because we parents internalize everything. If my child is capable of such an act, what does that say about me as a mother? Am I, too, a monster? What did I do wrong? I have worked much of my adult life to obtain higher degrees to provide my children with more, better, best. I have sent my oldest to private school when the public school system wasn’t working for him. I have pursued treatment when something just wasn’t right. I have read the parenting books, followed the advice of experts. I have tried every discipline technique known, every reward system to motivate him. I have done all I know to do, and I still look for more ideas. But if my child were to do something like this, I would be the monster, and you would be judging me right now.
So while the media, the web, everywhere you turn, is arguing over gun control, over whether teachers should be armed, it is painfully obvious to me that we are missing the big picture. Something is broken, and we have to fix it. We need services to identify this stuff before it happens. We need to create a safe place for parents to turn to truly help their mentally-ill kids. We need to interrupt the downward spiral before a firearm even comes in the equation. We have failed these children. Yes, even Adam Lanza.