This post is just me rambling about something that has been in the media of late and has consumed my waking thoughts over the past couple of days. I feel like there isn't much more to say and there is too much to say to adequately address it anywhere. I am writing this mostly to get it out of my head. It really is ok if no one else reads it. I have other things to write about that might come more easily if I try to put this to rest.
A mother in M*lton M*ss*chusetts will bury three of her children this coming weekend. For the rest of her life she will live with the grief, the guilt, and the unanswered questions that will likely see no end. Her daughters aged 17 and 5 were killed by her 23 year old son. Another daughter, aged 9, witnessed the tragedy and was also injured by her brother. I cannot begin to understand what this mother is feeling or thinking. I cannot guess how she will make sense of this incredible tragedy. I cannot imagine how she can continue living. I cannot begin to conceive of what she will do to help her remaining daughters (the injured 9 year old and a 21 year old) cope and heal. Everyone who has heard or read about this story, including myself, has an opinion about this. I see some of the comments on the news stories and details of the tragedy with comments on people's blogs. Some are drawn in by the tragic details, horrified by the tragedy, and/or relieved that it did not/could not/would not happen in their communities. Most of us believe it could not or would not happen in our homes. Yet it does. It did for this family. I am sure that mother went to work that day not realizing nor imagining how her life would change forever in a few short hours.
I find myself thinking how fragile this all is. How important faith (not necessarily the religious kind although that might be there too) is. I find myself wondering, does a mother really know when her (troubled) children will or will not be fine. Where is that line? How do we bear witness to the problems our troubled children have and the behaviors they exhibit (aggression, violence, substance abuse, whatever) and know if they will be OK or not? How can we tell if/when we and our other children are OK? How do we know if we have done enough or if there is more we should do? The simple (but inadequate) answer is we don't know. Yet, we have to believe that we will know otherwise we couldn't continue to do the work we do to raise our children right. We have to go through our days and make choices and decisions as if we do know because if we, as their mothers, don't know, how can we expect anyone else to know and to care? I don't know if this is making much sense but I guess what I find myself thinking is that when I watch my troubled children's behaviors and aggressions towards themselves or others, or hear their hateful words and threats I am still convinced that I can reach them. I can help them. I know them. It is not them but their issues that make them do and say such horrible things. I can explain (to myself at least) why these are just words and I can believe they won't act upon them beyond a certain point. After a particularly intense meltdown or outburst I watch my child calm down and seem genuinely remorseful and apologetic and I view this as progress and renew my vow that home is where they belong. Even so I alarm the children's rooms and lock my bedroom door with my youngest safely inside (just in case.) It's different I know. My children are little. They have documented diagnosis and explanations for their violent behaviors. They have PTSD. They have documented histories of abuse and neglect and are products of that environment and experiences. Her son was a 23 year old adult. He made bad choices, got in trouble, went to jail, smoked pot and drank. So it is all very different I tell myself. Yet I also ask myself, at what point do we have to see our children's problems and behaviors differently? And more importantly, can we? Can I?
I am not completely sure why this has haunted me so much that I feel compelled to write about it. I have been unable to push it from my mind after several days. I think part of it is that to a small extent I do know the community where this tragedy took place. I lived minutes from it and frequented it often. I have friends who live there. It is a well-established and very affluent suburb of B*ston (where we lived until recently). In fact, one of my former teenage foster children (who has RAD) came from that community. She was a classmate of the 21 year old surviving sister who is a really nice girl from what little I know. My partner C. was their high school teacher AND also taught her 23 year old brother who committed these violent and atrocious acts. She knew him as well as a teacher who really cares can know her students. I met him once, after he graduated high school. He helped us find an MP3 player. We were in a huge electronics store and he was so proud of his new job. He smiled as he warmly hugged my partner C. and reminded us she was one of "the good ones" who "really helped" him in high school. Her first words when I told her the name of the people involved was "No, not ____. It couldn't be him." She recalls a polite, smiling, great kid even though she knew he was troubled at times. She has cried on and off since she heard the tragic news. (She isn't a crier, I am.) She wonders aloud about what we (the collective we) as educators should know and do to help troubled students and our troubled schools. I wonder how we prepare teachers to work with these issues. How do we prepare parents? I wonder where his issues began. I wonder if school helped or hurt. I wonder what could have been done differently. I wonder if I want my children going to school. I wonder what signs were missed or never sent. I wonder if even when we see the signs we can make different decisions that are also painful and difficult. I wonder if those decisions help or hurt. I wonder and I wonder and I hope and I hope and yes, I cry. And I hold my children tighter.