I have no idea how this post is going to be accepted…I may lose followers…I may lose friends…but I just feel a need to post.
I feel a need to post because the tragedy that occurred on February 14, 2018, in one of Florida’s safest cities is heart-wrenching. And I feel that I need to say something because it is weighing heavy on my heart. I know that this school shooting will become a hot topic for political pundits and lawmakers, arguing the stance of gun rights and the role of mental health – both for the right and the left, yet I feel that there is so much more that could be looked at – like the role of the family unit.
But here goes, love me or hate me, I hope you just appreciate a view that is the same as yours or if it’s different than yours, you’ll appreciate the fact that we live in the greatest nation in the world and have freedom of speech.
In 1999, the massacre at Columbine High School happened. I was in college, had just recently moved out of my parents home and my little sister was still in high school. I tend to get fixated on certain news-making events…this school shooting was one of them. I became obsessed. It was all that I watched on TV. One of the Vice Principal’s of my sister’s high school worked out at the gym where I worked and I quizzed her about whether or not my sister would be safe going back to school. Later there were bomb threats at my old high school, so I quizzed this same Vice Principal some more. I had to force myself to stop watching news about the tragedy so that I could get sleep. I just didn’t understand why someone would do something so horrific.
I didn’t understand who would hate people so much to want to do this. How could life be so miserable for someone that they would want to end lives – people they were barely friends with and some they didn’t even know??
Fast forward to 2/14/18, and I’m asking myself if I should discuss homeschooling with my ex-husband. And this is coming from a mother that knows that she would have to say prayers to the good lord above every hour in order to get through each school day because while I love my children more than my own life, I also know my limitations, and teaching them is not my strongest attribute…but I also know what I’m willing to sacrifice in order to keep my kids safe.
But then the conservative (really more of a libertarian), gun owning, side of me pokes her head out and says, “why would I allow idiots to scare me into taking my kids away from teachers much more qualified than I am to educate my three beautiful souls?”
It’s because I’m a mom and it scares the living daylights out of me that one day I’ll get the call that 17 parents in Parkland received today.
So much will be made of gun rights and mental illness in the next few days and weeks, yet nothing will change…nothing.
(this is where you may start disagreeing with me…)
Nothing will ever change. I stand behind those backing the second amendment and I also see some of the points made arguing the opposing stance and then I ALSO see the point of view arguing that it’s irresponsible gun owners that cause these issues or the lack of certain types of background checks. But nothing will ever change, regarding gun laws, because each of these views have valid points that can stand alone. We are a nation of great minds and hearts…these things won’t change – and in my personal opinion – this is what makes America great – the ability to have such a debate without one side being able to dictate to the other what will happen.
Then the debate about mental health will be raised. And yet, no one will have a perfect solution for this either. After witnessing and living in environments with people that are affected by mental health issues, I can tell you, firsthand, that one person, that I knew and loved, that was severely affected by bi-polar disease, was the most careful and educated and cautious, multiple gun-owning conservatist that I’ve ever met. My kids weren’t even allowed in the room where the guns were kept in massive safes, each with their own combination. And this was a man that knew his disease and was treating it.
Yet, what if you don’t know if you have a mental illness? How do you diagnose a mental illness, when a mental illness hasn’t been recognized?
Maybe no one realizes that someone is experiencing depression because this is the first person in their family that is experiencing it and the rest of the family doesn’t recognize the symptoms. Maybe the family brushes it under the rug as puberty and the emotional changes that go along with being 16 and feeling rejected by classmates. I had an amazing experience in high school but I wasn’t always accepted by the peers I wanted to be accepted by and I didn’t even think that the solution would be to kill a soul, so what would make someone snap and want to make this type of decision? Is there a sure-fire way to know what the trigger would be or what the danger signs are for every person?
The parents of this 19-year-old Parkland shooter will likely be in hiding for years to come…and can you blame them? (and maybe they’ll be different than previous school shooter’s parents and be terrible parents that handed him the guns, ammunition and bomb making schematics – only time will tell.) The parents of the Columbine mastermind only just recently spoke within the past couple of years about that horrific day. The guilt that must lay on their hearts, the record that they keep replaying in their heads of what they could have changed or what they could have done differently as parents has to be unimaginable and terrifying on a daily basis.
But this is the thing, or at least my view – when someone isn’t allowed to purchase a gun for one reason or another, yet they desire to do so, they will find a way. So focusing solely on mental illness as a way to cure America of these types of senseless tragedies is a weak strategy…in my humble opinion. And the only hope that this strategy would be successful is that a person would clearly declare that they are mentally unstable when purchasing a weapon. There may be ways that gun purchases could be regulated differently through a checks and balances system with multiple organizations to check for mental health, but think about it this way – if a person is mentally ill enough to want to harm people, don’t you think that they will be able to find a crazy way (pun intended) to make gun purchases happen anyway?
We always want a reason. We always want an explanation. We always want to be able to look at the situation and say ‘this is why this happened.’ I think that sometimes, there just isn’t a reason. There is just evil. Maybe we’ll find out that Cruz had this planned because he was bullied (and that’s a whole other issue), maybe we’ll find out that he lost his marbles and stole his parents weapons and decided to act out a video game that he played after being expelled from school, or maybe we’ll just find out that he wanted to be glorified on the news and receive attention, albeit bad attention. Whatever the reason ends up being, nothing will explain this tragedy to the 17 families now facing funeral arrangements for children.
Look within instead??
What if we take this and look at our own families…with the blinders off (as much as possible)? Would we be able to recognize a 12 yr old that is struggling to make friends? Would we show them how to make friends and cultivate friendships through our own example or would we tease them for being different? Would we tease them in front of their friends about how skinny they are and that they need to put some weight on if they are ever going to be able to play a sport? Or could we teach them how to be confident in their own skin because they’ve seen our example? Would we go out for drinks with our buddies, ignoring the fact that our kid asked us to help with a major project for school? Or would we teach our kid that their needs come before our own and then reschedule the guys-night for the next week?
I think sometimes the questions should be asked, “Are we serving our own needs before our kids or are we listening to them, watching them, spending time with them, relating to them, showing them that we care, disciplining correctly, talking WITH them not at them? Are we remembering that they didn’t make the choice for us to be their parent – WE made the choice to have a child and it is our responsibility to raise them in a safe, secure, and sound environment?”
There is COMPLETELY a time and a place for alone time, as an adult, parent, spouse, etc. but the kids should come first. They’ve never been 13 before – we have…teach them, guide them, respect them, love them. If you do the hard work first, invest the time and love in your kids first, then hopefully, if there are mental health issues, the issues will be clear, recognizable, and addressed early on…not ignored until they are 19 and the issue is so humongous that no one knows how to deal with it and the kids get ignored until they need attention so badly that they end the lives of children and educators.
I guess my point in ticking so many of you off with my viewpoints, is that I wish, in addition to the arguments about guns and mental health, there were more discussions about the family; about how ‘the family’ can cope, deal, learn from and become stronger after these tragedies so that other horrific events like Parkland were prevented because the family unit has been so closely knit that mental illness would come to the forefront faster. And that there was an accountability and love that was so strong that the desire to harm another human heart didn’t exist. Focusing on the family could be fun, cheaper, and could make this country stronger than it already is. I feel so fortunate to have come from a solid family and let me tell you – I wouldn’t have my sanity, after divorce #2, had it not been for my family and closest friends.
This morning when I saw my mom, I was very focused on confirming some appointments on my phone. My mom paid attention to my body language and felt as though I was sad and checked in on me a little later, when in reality I was fine – actually great – just super focused. But the pure fact that she cared enough to check on me meant a lot AND the fact that she’s active in my life enough to know my moods, sets me up for strength during one of the toughest moments in my life. It’s not just teenagers that need support sometimes.
Regardless of what side of the arguments you are on, there are families in South Florida tonight that are feeling the tremendous loss of a loved one, likely a child, that had their whole future taken from them in the blink of an eye. Their pain must be so great. Please keep #Parkland in your prayers.