Like most Americans, I awoke this morning to the news of the tragic events in Aurora, Colorado. At first, there were few details. What I did glean was that an individual was in custody and that he was 24-years-old.
I immediately thought of Columbine, for obvious reasons. The more I replayed that and similar tragedies in my head, I realized that my generation has not only witnessed an inordinate amount of young people participating in killing sprees, but that there seems to be a pattern stretching back to Harris and Klebold.
I kept asking myself, “What makes a young person commit such an evil and unspeakable act?”
If there was a simple answer, we wouldn’t be having this discussion.
Although there was little information about the shooter early this morning, I felt as if I had him pegged. He had few friends, I imagine. He was an outcast... maybe he was bullied. Perhaps he felt like a failure because he dropped out of college or was kicked out. Something turned him into an angry young man. Maybe his family didn’t notice... maybe, they didn’t care...
Maybe I have it all wrong.
Time will tell.
Even before this incident, the behavior of my own boys, who will one day be young men, has always been a concern. Since my separation and subsequent divorce, I have learned to keep a watchful eye on my boys’ emotions and how they channel them.
Of course, this is something every parent should do, regardless of the family dynamic, but because I witnessed, first-hand, how a messy divorce can affect a child, I remain even more vigilant.
I remember quite distinctly that during the height of my divorce, my oldest child developed a “tic” of sorts. For nearly a year, he would subconsciously clear his throat, sometimes as often as 20 times in one hour. Eliminating any medical conditions, allergies, or throat problems, the behavior seemed to mysteriously happen out of nowhere.
It finally became clear that something was stressing him out. The tic was a comfort mechanism, therapists concluded, in response to some environmental stress. Although I never got to the root of it, once things calmed down around us, it stopped... as abruptly as it had started.
I’m a parent.
I pay attention.
I see the patterns.
So what does all of this have to do with the incident in Aurora?
No, I don’t think that my children are going to grow up to be the next Columbine shooters... but, what if I stopped paying attention?
What if I ignored these little changes and signs?
What if I wasn’t around to see and know what is going on in their lives and stick by them as they work through it?
What if I wasn't willing or able to get them help if they need it?
All I want is for my kids to be okay, to know that they are loved, to know that they are protected... to know that there is nothing for them to worry about.
Maybe if all of our kids felt that way we wouldn’t deal with such tragedies.