Sitting on my couch, scrolling through my email, I came upon one about Roanoke, Texas on Yahoo. That is very close to the school where my kids go, we eat dinner there at times, and it is a lovely town. Maybe you remember your response to the news: Parents Protest Student’s Killing Children Book. But I am an odd duck and my first reaction was an odd one: “Grant in fantasy what you can’t grant in reality”. You may have had thoughts like, “Glad my kid doesn’t go there”, “Texans are crazy”, or “My child is staying home for the rest of their life!” Our first thoughts aren’t always our best. I don’t want to write about the boy, or the school, or the parents. They are all doing their best with the information and situation they have. Smarter people than me can work on that.
What I am interested in exploring is our reactions to these kinds of stories. How do we respond to large scale tragedies that weren’t? How do we think about the child who wrote such a graphic book? What do we want to tell our kids to help them to understand something on the edge of madness?
Doing the work I’ve done, I’ve met violent kids, heard violent stories, helped families where life didn’t go as planned. What would I suggest to a parent who brought this book to me and asked me for a recommendation? My gut says I’d need to meet the kid and have the parents talk to the school. My gut says, this isn’t the whole story and that no one who writes about killing his classmates in such gory detail in public is without pain of his own. Finding the likely place of pain, with the help of the parents, whether biological, social, emotional, or familial, would be my first order of business as his therapist. Building a relationship with the child and his family would be the second, and most important, as that would help me teach him to cope, to connect, to ask for help in a safe way. I would first and foremost be a healer.
My husband on the other hand, may have a totally different thought process. He, likely, would think about protecting his kids from bad things happening. He would be wondering how to assure the safety of his babies and only when their safety was assured, would he think about that child who wrote the book as a person. He would be first and foremost a protector.
The story on the news was about parents who were concerned that the school could do little to help the situation. Most appeared to be protectors who wanted the school to be an enforcer—to enact some sort of consequence on the child. Schools aren’t well suited as enforcers—they have their own rules, but many times, don’t regulate what happens off campus. And did the child do something wrong yet? Would he have ever acted upon his fantasies? Do we want to regulate thoughts and expressions? The best enforcers for children are parents, involved, supported, trained parents.
What Our Response Says About Us
In the end, the biggest thing we can say about our response, is that it tells more about us, our expectations, our beliefs than anything else. As a healer, I believe there is pain and danger in the world but that it offers us the opportunity to connect with others and grow. This is healthy. Protectors believe that the world must be made safe for all. And this is healthy. Enforcers believe that bad actions should be followed by consequences which will deter bad actions in the future. And this is healthy. We need all of these perspectives to have a healthy society and when we tilt more toward one, and discount or blame the other, it is not healthy. Only wisdom can provide the balance between understanding, consequences, and safety. So my prayer, and I hope yours, is for wisdom for all involved. If you, like me, wish you could help in some way, stop-write out a prayer to your higher power in the comment field on this blog. And wait to see what He will do. He can work great things in tragedy.