The “What if’s”

I didn’t want to write about it. I haven’t wanted to read about it, watch stories on it, think about it. When my husband called me to tell me about the tragedy I was shopping for Christmas presents for my own children. I was blissfully unaware. With each piece of information he gave, I felt myself pulling away into the same separate space that I lived in when I was studying crime scene photos in school. It’s the same place officers, detectives, medical examiners, and others float in so they can do their job without spiraling into the emotions of senseless loss.

My clinical side kicked in and I listened only to the facts and concentrated on the issue of guns. I had to. I knew that seeing a child’s photo or hearing a name would fracture my heart and that it would be hard to stop the tears. I knew that writing about it would bleed my soul. But I can’t stay in my detached place. I’m a mother. I have three boys who go to school. I have a son with Aspergers.

I’d tried not to think about that part. It was easy to give Adam that diagnosis from just the few details I’d heard, but honestly, I didn’t dare think about a comparison to my own child. But as I hear the news refer to him only as a “bad man” and a “monster”, I have to write something.

Listening to the President name the children taken, I broke into tears. I thought about how it had been such a challenge to pick the perfect names for each of my own children. I thought about how all of these parents had done the same and how they’ll never call that child again. Adam’s mom also chose his name. She pictured a perfect child and watching his normal, wonderful life unfold. She didn’t expect what she got. None of us do.

I don’t know enough about them to truly give any insight into their situation. I can only comment on mine and the life I imagine Adam endured. Aspergers makes social interaction difficult. My son wasn’t withdrawn like Adam but I see that changing. Carson has always sought out interaction but hasn’t known how to handle it. He doesn’t know how to do small talk or tell jokes that others will get. He’s quirky and others don’t know how to deal with him. He’s been bullied. We moved schools because of it. At his new school he’s not bullied, he’s just politely ignored.

I volunteered at lunch one day and I saw him sitting with 3 other boys. The boys were excitedly talking to each other while Carson quietly sat beside them. I went over to him and sat down. “Do you ever talk to the boys?” I whispered. “No. I’m just not invited.” I had to fight back the tears. He got up and went to recess with the boys. They let him play football with them, but he’s clumsy. He came back inside three minutes later because he’d been hit in the eye. He was crying. I checked him out to take him home and while we walked he asked, “Mom, why can’t just once bad things happen to someone else? Why does it always have to be me?” He wasn’t wishing pain on others he just wonders why it seems to be so skewed in his direction.

That’s how he feels and I honestly can’t blame him. Why is he the one who the midwives had to screw up on? Why did he have to always be sick? Why did he have doctors who misdiagnosed him? Why is he bullied? Why is he the one who always gets hurt? I’ve watched him change slowly over the years. He’s been beaten down and his spirit dims almost everyday. He turns 13 next year. How will he survive middle school and all of the vicious idiots that age tends to produce? Will they kill the empathy he has for others? He has trouble making decisions and looking at the consequences actions hold. He has trouble controlling himself. I have to ask myself if he continues to be beaten down, ignored, ridiculed, could he become a man as troubled as Adam?

I’m not sure what all Adam’s mother did or didn’t do for him. I’m extremely active in my son’s life but I still feel that I haven’t done everything for him. There’s always guilt about what I could have done different. What if I hadn’t gone to those midwives? What if I had been to a different pediatrician? What if I hadn’t let them immunize him while he was sick? What if I’d switched schools earlier? What if I’d fought harder against administration that clearly made bad choices concerning my son?

Adam’s mother can’t ask those questions now. The living who interacted with him can. Did they do enough to include him? I don’t know. All I can say is that it’s really easy to ignore the weird, especially when they’re prone to withdrawal. We can’t do that. One kind word can change a person’s entire day. Inclusion, even a smile can give the hopeless some hope.

I don’t know why Adam chose to take out his rage on the most innocent of people. I do know from my past profiling studies that the killing of the mother is not that uncommon and pretty telling of the relationship. I can’t judge her without the facts. I do empathize with her life as a mother of a special needs child. She probably felt as lost as I do. But I don’t think she made a wise decision by keeping guns in her home.

I’m not against guns. I can certainly shoot a gun. I grew up with a rifle in our home. I knew damn well not to touch it, but I was a mature, cautious child without any disabilities. I will never own a gun as long as children live in my house and the main reason is that I know that children are curious and my son does not always think through the consequences of his actions. He’s very passive but even the most laid-back person will eventually cave under years of undeserved pain. I’ve seen him push down his pain and rage only to explode on his brother or another child that hurts him. What if we never find a way for him to work through his pain and the emotions he doesn’t completely understand? What if the years tick by and the abuse and hardships continue to bleed him of compassion? What if he suddenly cracked and couldn’t take one more ounce of pain? I can’t allow him access to something that can so quickly change the lives of others and himself. It takes an instant to pull a trigger and that can never be undone.

This is the time for us to use common sense. This is the time to do more in our mental healthcare system to support patients and their caregivers. This is the time to look at the reality of our world. Our weapons technology has far surpassed the weapons our forefathers used during the time they wrote our constitution. That was a time when land was stolen by force. We stole this country with guns and back then there was the real possibility of a foreign militia pounding down your door. That’s not today. There is NO need for hollow-point bullets. PERIOD.

I don’t know what the answers are on any of these things. I’m just a mother of three boys who could have easily been one of the victims. I’m a mother of a sweet, loving boy who still kisses me and wants to climb into bed with me and snuggle. A boy with Aspergers. A boy who has found no place among his peers. A boy who needs attention and inclusion from people other than his family. I’m just a mother who grieves for the 27 victims of Adam’s rage. A mother who grieves for the life Adam was dealt. I’m just a mother who grieves for her own son’s pain, fears for his future, and prays for change.

5 responses

  1. I am not sure there is one single answer, one single solution, one single prevention to the horrors in Connecticut a week ago. Perhaps like most major changes in this world, they start with one incident, one person, one small change that snowballs over time to make a difference in all our lives.

    As Tracey said, your boys are lucky in that they have you for a Mother – someone who loves them, takes care of them, but also speaks up for what is right and for change in a world where change is needed.

    My daughter felt horrible sending her kids to school last Monday – she said she couldn’t hug the kids enough, get enough ‘I love you Mom’s’ and was afraid to get them out of her sight, afraid they could be the next kids in the school room attacked for no reason.

    Just consider the issue of changing our games, movies, TV culture of violence, murder, mayhem, etc. That’s what we pay to see, that’s what we ‘want’, there’s not much money in another Mary Poppins or Sound of Music, so they don’t make them, and how do you suggest they make things that people don’t want?

    I hope our government at least makes some recommendations which will make a difference, however small, but maybe a start – but it remains to be seen.

    In the meantime, I’m glad you are out there.

    • We have completely desensitized our kids to violence. We’re creating a generation of sociopaths by exposing them to extreme violence during an age when they can’t fully comprehend the difference between reality and “play.” We have a lot of children killing children just to “see what it’s like.” We have to unplug all of this influence from our kids’ lives. I didn’t let my older boys have a shooter game but found out they were playing at a friend’s house. I caved and bought them one. I regret it. I should have been stronger.

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