By now almost everyone has heard about the horrible shooting massacre that occurred at the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado, on July 20, 2012. This story is so horrible on so many levels. I was surprised to learn that the theater where this tragedy took place was only about 15 miles away from where the Columbine shooting took place a number of years ago. I can't imagine the horror that replaced the excitement of being among the first to see the much anticipated installment of the Batman movie series. However, one statement struck me in the head like a hammer.
"A San Diego woman identifying herself as James Holmes' mother spoke briefly with ABC News this morning. She had awoken unaware of the news of the shooting and had not been contacted by authorities. She immediately expressed concern that her son may have been involved. "You have the right person," she said. "I need to call the police," she added. "I need to fly out to Colorado." These words gave me chills. Why? Because it raised questions of what if. What if this horror could have been prevented? What if the lives of those victims could have been spared?
Any parent out there knows their child, for better or worse, and what that child might be capable of. You know that this particular child you can be a little more lenient with, while you'd better watch his/her sibling like a hawk. A parent knows which child will nurse a pet cat's broken leg, and which child is more likely to break that cat's leg. Children, even those raised in the the same household, have different personalities, ambitions, and natures.
What was so shocking about the alleged mother's reaction is how she immediately accepted that her son was probably the shooter. Most parents would have been screaming to the top of their lungs that their child would never have done such a thing. They would have demanded to see proof. Even in the face of live video of their child committing such an atrocity, they would have insisted that the tape had been photo-shopped and their child's face inserted in.
But not this mom. She reacted as if she knew. It was almost as if she'd expected to hear this news someday, while hoping against intuition, that it would never come to pass. Like any parent, she immediately wanted to get to her child. But missing was the blind faith that her child would be proven innocent. Missing was a need to hear her son's side of the story before she made up her mind as to his guilt or innocence.
I submit to you that it is the parent's responsibility to harness those tendencies that might harm the child or society; and, where they cannot reign the child in, it is their responsibility to seek professional help for the child. Do I blame this mother for her grown son's actions? Of course not! What causes my heart sorrow is the thought that this might have been avoided if different actions had taken place as she'd watched him grow. We can't turn back the hands of time, but we can try to improve the future.
This is an open letter to parents of young children today. I'm talking about from the age of around five to the early teens. I know this is a busy society and these are difficult economic times in which both parents are often required to be away from the home long hours trying to support the family. But, though parents may be tired, I implore you to make the time that you do spend with your children quality time.
Observe their moods, behaviors and, especially, their social interactions. If you notice, feel, or just slightly suspect something is amiss, please talk with them. If you can't make any progress, don't be ashamed or afraid to reach out for help. Talk with your child's teacher, pastor, or anyone available. If all else fails, get the child counseling. There are many counselors that specialize in children and or family counseling. Whatever you do, don't just ignore the problem and wait for them to grow up and get out from under your roof. It won't work because sooner or later, the chickens will come home to roost.
Finally, my prayers and thoughts are with the families and friends of the victims of this American tragedy.