Recently the New York Times posted a well written article by a girl who tried to befriend the Florida shooter years before the shooting happened. It caused me to reflect on how we so often are quick to try to fix the problems by putting band-aids on them and not looking to the root of the problem. Let's ban assault rifles they say. Let's crack down on bullying! Let's have tighter gun laws!
Now, yes, I do believe that we need to keep guns out of the hands of known criminals and have background checks on all gun owners, and yes I do believe that we need to stop bullying, but the root problem is not about the gun laws or the guns themselves. It is not even about bullying.
Many kids get bullied, many contemplate suicide because of the bullying, many commit suicide as a result, but in school shootings there are deeper issues going on than JUST being bullied. The kids are not just seeking out revenge on those who have picked on them, they are taking revenge on innocent and guilty alike. There are many factors that go far beyond the things that happen at school. I am not implying their problems have arisen at home, but I am sure there are factors there as well that played apart.
For someone to go to such extremes in reaction to whatever triggered them to take this course of action was not just a single issue the child had. That child was hurting, and hurting for a very long time.
So how do we stop school shootings?
Well, I think it begins long before they are in high school or middle school. It begins when they are little. Yes, a good friend may change the course of that child's life, but often a child who is deeply hurt will reject friendship even if someone reaches out to them. We need to reach that child before their heart has hardened and evil has set root.
Our society is very individualistic as far as families go. Each family lives in a house with closed doors and blinds on the windows. We like our privacy and we like our alone time. We do not want to be inconvenienced with other's problems, for we each have enough problems of our own.
We want to rest when we get home from work and veg out watching TV. Someone has to feed the kids, someone has to do the laundry, someone has to drive the kids to their extra curriculars. We just don't have time for others.
Where the problem does lie is that we are so busy with our own lives and our own families that the families that are struggling often get overlooked. The problem kid at school may get extra services during school hours, but when they are home things get worse and worse. Maybe their mom is an addict. Maybe their dad is in prison. Maybe they were physically or sexually abused. Maybe they get very little adult attention due to long work days a parent works in order to pay the bills. Maybe they have a mental illness that has gone undiagnosed because people dismiss them as being that "bad" kid.
The kids struggle at home and at school and have no where else to turn. They feel helpless and hopeless and lost faith in any kind of good in the world. They have been hurt and violated. They feel alone and their hearts harden. They lose sight of their own value and eventually the value of other people.
So again, I ask what can we do?
The bottom line is every single one of us needs other people. More importantly, we need people to help guide us and encourage us. Of course we need God and to follow His word, but He designed us to need each other. Us who know God, can turn to God, but who are those who do not know Him supposed to turn to.
We need to seek out the families that need an extra hand. We need to seek out the kid who needs a positive adult role model in their life. We need to stop labeling a kid as bad, but as needing love. We need to stop blaming parents, but encouraging them to live healthier lives. We need to not give up on those who make loving them hard. We need to not let kids or parents or families slip through the cracks, because we are so busy looking at our own lives and making sure our kids lives are great that we sacrifice the community. We need to be a community who loves and supports one another. But above all else, we need to see this need as urgent. We need to find the families that need the extra love and help before hearts are hardened.
No this will not stop all school shootings or violence or suicide, but it certainly would help. I believe the true root cause is that these children have no faith, no love, and no hope. Years and years of hurt have caused these three things to have no value to them. We cannot give someone faith, we cannot give someone hope. These are two things they can only find by seeking God. But what we CAN do is give them love. The younger they are when they see that love, the easier it is for them to accept it.
I am a redhead. This is not an excuse, but rather an explanation. Most the time, I will describe myself as a "strawberry blonde, emphasis on the blonde," because, well, I am somewhat of a blonde! But I also am very much a redhead. Temper and all.
This is hard for some people to believe, but it's there. I've worked on getting rid of it, but then out of the blue, I didn't get enough sleep, my toddler is whiny, I get a business text on my day off, then my teenager gives me a look. You all know the look. On a normal day, I might ignore it. On a happy day, I will say something snarky as I laugh and walk away. But then, I have my days, when my red hair gets the better of me, and I end up scolding her in a ten minute long lecture about respect, theology, and historical possibly made-up facts. Yeah, I end up in a tangent or two.
Then I rant for awhile to my husband who usually patiently listens to me, because he's pretty much amazing. Then he says, "I think you might be overreacting."
Or... as happened yesterday, my daughter meekly asked, "Can I ask you something? Like a serious question."
I sighed, "Yes."
Then she said, "Are you pregnant again?"
Oh, well... Yeah, maybe I was slightly overreacting. I mean, no, I am not pregnant. Maybe I have some apologizing to do.
Then I feel defeated. I think back of how I failed. I lament over the fact that I apologize way more than any mother should have to. I analyze all the ways I am lacking. I am not patient enough. I am hotheaded. I am too busy to sit down and enjoy my girls like I want to. I want time alone, then feel guilty because my girls just want me. I don't return calls as quickly as I should. I forget to pay bills. I show up late to appointments. Let's not forget the mountain of laundry, and my husband doesn't have clean underwear. My oldest is mad at me. My youngest still gets rocked to sleep, which I don't want others to know. The dogs are past due for their shots. I am failing. I am behind. I am just not enough.
Then I realize, I will never be the woman I think I should be. That person, that ideal, does not exist. Even if I could manage doing all the things I think I should be doing, then I would still have to sacrifice something else. I work on my husband's business. I babysit to help out a friend. I home-school. I do a lot, yet I think I should do more.
Truth is, I need to cut myself some slack. Forgive myself for not being superwoman. Forgive myself for not always having it all together. I'm not the only mom who loses it on her children once in awhile. I am human.
And by the way, yes I am talking to you mom. The one who is reading this, thinking of your failures. Give yourself some grace. Forgive yourself for your failings. And remember, you aren't supposed to be supermom. You are just supposed to love them, and raise them in the way they should go. And when you fail. Remember, if you were perfect, they wouldn't need God.
My father-in-law who is a very wise Godly man, works in an auto shop. Every three thousand miles I drive my vehicle to him and he changes the oil, checks the tires, and puts up with my incessant talking. One of those days when my oldest daughter was only five years old, I was complaining about something or other, but it had to do with a frustration I had over a decision my five year old daughter made.
Now, keep in mind, he raised six children into successful adults. Successful being the operative word, because I believe that if you want to know how to parent well, look at those who have gone before you. If you see someone who had results in any area of life whether it be business, parenting,or crafting that you respect then they are probably someone you should listen to. So I knew when he spoke that it came from years of experience with both trials and successes and a place of wisdom. So I listened.
Now, I don't remember what she did, so it must not have been significant, but it was a normal parenting frustration that I am sure all mothers and fathers have had and I was annoyed.
He patiently listened to me, as he normally does, then said something I won't forget. "Well, you cannot expect her to think like an adult, because she is not an adult. The only thing you can expect her to do is to think like a five year old. "
I know it seems like common sense, and there should not have been an epiphanic moment (not a word, but you get what I mean), but there was. As she has grown, I have had to remind myself of this fact over and over. I can only expect her to think like the age she is. A child's brain does not fully develop until nearly 25, which means you have done the bulk of your raising long before their brain is even done developing.
So sometimes, when my hot-head gets ahead of me, I will stop (usually after I get unreasonably angry and need to apologize) and reflect on what is really going on. More often than not, I realize instead of disciplining, I need to teach. Now there is definitely a time for punishments, but often children do not fully realize the ramifications of their actions. Even at eighteen when their bodies look full-grown, their minds are still maturing. Before we blow up (or if you are like me, after we apologize for blowing up), we need to stop and ask ourselves, what do they need to learn.
Now, don't get me wrong, if my daughters do anything that they know is wrong, there will be a punishment, but it's never just a punishment. Often, specifically with my older daughter who is at an age that can reason, there is a lot of talking. Explaining why there is a particular rule and what the long term natural consequences are. Lead her to what my adult brain already knows. Sometimes, she knows the consequences, so its good to have her explain them to me. She may not take them as serious because she is still just a child and has not seen or experienced life as much as I have, which is why patience is so incredibly important. They really don't know why something made you that angry, because they don't know what took you years to learn, often the hard way.
This piece of wisdom does not fully leave me unfrustrated when my toddler acts like a toddler and my teen acts like a teen, but what it does help me to do is to help them grow. Take them from the knowledge and understanding of where they are and try to stretch it just a little further. It also teaches me to be more patient and understanding when they do fail, for all children will. Heck us parents do too.
One of the qualities I like about myself is that I usually see the good in this world, specifically its people. It's something I have been teased about, even by my own daughter who says that in my world, unicorns poop skittles and fart rainbows. Kevin used to speak in the same tone as the "Twilight Zone" and say, "Nothing is as it seems, in the Angie Zone." I don't think I see a distorted view of the world, or didn't may be more accurate, I just saw what I wanted.
The thing is, I have had a harder time with this lately, and this is not a quality I want to lose. I have debated on why this is and attribute the negativity on Facebook for some, my own heart for most, the constant stream of negative news in the media, and listening to negative voices as well.
I have taken measures to keep my outlook on life. Limiting time on Facebook, spending time with uplifting people, regularly thanking God, but I feel I am my ability to see the blessings we are surrounded with each day.
I want that back!
People who see the bright side of things, do not do this because they are more privileged or had an easier life or just have not been knocked down in life; they see the world brighter because it is essentially a choice. I can honestly say that some of the most positive people I have met, have had some very hard things in their past.
I think I have decided to seek out the blessings in everyday life. I think I am going to start that journey today.... Does anyone have any ideas?
This Christian mom is far from perfect, but continually strives to grow and develop. She is an avid reader of both fiction and non-fiction and focuses a lot on personal growth. She loves to share what she has learned through her studies and her own failures, as well as walks alongside other mothers as they learn together the ins and outs of parenting.