I know its hard to accept but…


This mother certainly isn’t the first I’ve ever heard tell this story. Not even close. I’ve heard this story so many times in so many ways it made me sad to realize how new this situation would be to most people reading.

Let me give you some advice before you read it; while you are reading it, try not to give words to that feeling of outrage, try not to let yourself say “well *I* wouldn’t stand for that! *my* kid would never do that because I wouldn’t let them!”

Every parent who has a child like this thought the same thing before theirs came along. Every parent thought they had the answer to all discipline and behavior issues. But how far did those thoughts go? Did you plan for what to do if your child has a meltdown because the movie has end credits? Do you have an answer for how to handle it when your child screams “NO I HATE YOU!” What about if they throw a chair at you?
What DO you do when your child turns rageful and tries to kill you?
What do you do when it happens the second time?

A lot of “normal” parenting is assuming your child will simply do what is expected of them. If that fails, you assume your child will be admonished by you and correct themselves. If that fails, you assume you will discipline them in some fashion and they will see the error of their ways and want to change their behavior on their own. You accept that this may happen a few times before they “get it right”.

You also assume that they will always stay within the bounds of “normal” behavior. You also assume you will be able to handle anything that happens so that there will never be an instance of behavior outside the “norm” In a nutshell, you assume your child will be more or less like you and everyone you know: have enough of a desire to please that you can work together to fashion them into a reasonably functional social creature. The rest, they will figure out on their own through social interaction.

Its an assumption, that’s what it is. For most parents its a perfectly acceptable assumption. However, there are times when that assumption is dashed to hell on the rocks of mental illness. You have to reconfigure parenting from the ground up.

I had to learn this lesson myself. My daughter does things that I never thought I would “put up with” in my own child. She consistently defies me and does things that damage her own experience. She will not accept correction. She will not “go along with the crowd” either. I’ve had more meetings about her behavior at school than I ever had with my first child’s entire school career. I am baffled daily at how “different” her behavior is and it tears me up – sometimes with sadness sometimes with fear and sometimes with anger – that I cannot seem to reach her, change her, make her “normal” in that respect. I see so much struggle ahead of her and there’s only so much *I* can do about it. I read about my friends who have daughters close in age and most of the time I want to cry because my daughter does not “measure up”

DO NOT start that “oh don’t compare them every child is different!” – how the hell do you know someone is “different” if you don’t compare them to someone else? Believe it or not there are baselines when it comes to behavior and development. To ignore that is to risk leaving a child with special needs to founder on their own. I would be a “bad parent” if I didn’t compare my child’s development to others her age. That isn’t me making qualitative judgments about her ‘worth” that’s me trying to figure out what she needs to progress.

Today, while we were walking, I was trying to get her to have a conversation with me that lasted more than a few seconds. This is possible sometimes but its fairly rare especially if I’m trying to discuss something outside of animated characters, princesses or fairies. I mentioned “electricity” and piqued her interest for a few seconds but her eyes glazed over once I went beyond two sentences and she still didn’t know what I was talking about. The next thing she said had something to do with balloons and fairies and a tv show character. This was one of the rare times I insisted she pay attention and listen to what I was saying. She did but that was the end of that conversation. Its not that she isn’t curious, its that she doesn’t CARE about the “real world” very much. Because its overwhelming and frustrating and takes forever to figure out. Animated characters are predictable and fun and simple. Being a princess makes the whole world beautiful and easy. Talking about science or reading is boring and difficult, let’s not.

And I don’t even have to deal with scary rages or meltdowns. Her anger is fairly light compared to most kids. Her stubbornness, however, is another matter entirely.

So yes, I bristle when people want to have the “guns are the reason crazy people kill others” conversation. Because “crazy people” are having a crisis in our country. They’ve been having this crisis since the 80s and they’ve been shoved in the back ground over and over and over. Now we’re at a point where fiscal austerity rules the conversation of social services and all I can see is more and more instances of lamentable violence.

How many times does an overwhelmed parent have to cry over the corpse of their child before we decide to tackle the issue of suicide? How many times are we going to hear about a juvenille being tried for A&B or involuntary manslaughter or murder before we decide intervention is more important than saving money by closing mental healht care access? How many times do we have to have this conversation before we decide to get to the REAL problem? The REAL problem is what’s going on with the people who do these things. And the REAL problem isn’t going to be swept under the rug even if we ban all the guns in the country. Crazy people are going to stay crazy, guns or no guns.
Yes, without guns they may not be so likely to shoot up a school or fast food joint. Maybe instead they’ll just kill their families with a knife in their sleep. Or maybe they’ll take their hallucinations on the road and kill YOUR family while YOU sleep.

But that’ll be okay because they didn’t have a gun?

Why is the conversation about guns more important than the conversation about mental health services?

When did objects become more important to “fix” than people?

Because let me tell you something to ponder: If you’re “crazy” and you don’t have a gun? You’re still “crazy”

If you’re on treatment and living your life functionally and happily? No threat to anyone?  Why does it matter if you have a gun?


2 thoughts on “I know its hard to accept but…

  1. I agree with all of this, but I’ll add that it really isn’t an either or situation. Yes, we need to actually care about mental health and mental health care in this country. Yes, we need an actual safety net that consists of many different parts. We do not need a one size fits all solution.

    We need to also be aware that there’s a good chunk of people who are dangerously mentally ill without anything being done wrong by the parents, too, as you speak of. This is not a crisis of parenting gone wrong and then sent out into the world. This is a crisis of mental health.

    Also, though, it is worth figuring out some sort of something we can do about the gun situation. We can’t put the genie back in the bottle on the sheer amount of guns available. We really are closing fast on their being a gun for every single man, woman, and child in this country by the sheer number of guns out there.

    And, yes, the amount of sheer people and damage that someone who has gone off the rails can damage really does matter. A near identical situation in China on the same day (as I’m sure you know) also involved 20 children, but in that situation there were 18 injured, and 2 seriously. That’s a lot different than 20 dead children and 6 dead adults (and I still refuse to name the shooter as one of the dead, though he matters to lots of people, I just can’t do it). The only real difference being that in China a knife was used and in the US guns were used.

    There’s no way to collect all the guns at this point. Is there anything we can do on that side also, though?

    Let’s address this from the two prongs, please. Preventative in mental health care and safety nets and limiting the scope possible by someone getting a handle on what we can actually change with the guns.

  2. I didn’t say it was an either/or situation. I said the conversation about mental health care needs to happen and it needs to stop being shoved behind the conversation about guns. You can put the two together if you want but I am tired of the mental health care situation in this country never having its national dialogue. No matter what happens, that dialogue keeps getting pushed behind some other object-oriented war among ideologies.

    This conversation has been patiently waiting to be had and its been told over and over that it needs to go send-place beside some other “more important” issue. But it never gets its spotlight. And I think that is tragic beyond words. My cousin sits in his trailer playing online wargames having a psychotic break from reality that occasionally threatens other people and he has this without guns. His mental health crisis is a daily occurrence that happens without guns. So his problem never gets national attention. But if he were to pick up a gun, suddenly everyone would care… about the gun. Where’d he get it, why does he have it, what’d he do with it.. no one will care about the tortured man behind that object. They haven’t cared yet and you’re telling me somehow him having a gun will make them care? I don’t believe it anymore. No one in this country will care until he hurts someone with a gun. And that shouldn’t be. He shouldn’t have to pick up a gun in order for someone to give a shit that he needs help. And he’s one of the “lucky” ones; he could be vastly improved with medication. But he has no health insurance, there’s no laws or budget to force him to get help so in that trailer he sits every damned day while my uncle brings him food and tries to make sure he’s content enough to stay inside. How would you feel if that were your child? And people told you they’d only talk about it if he had a gun?

    It’s sadly worth noting that I bring this up and forefront and the one and only comment I get still pulls the gun conversation back up front.

    Why is it so important to keep that in the spotlight? Why?

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