On Tragedy and Parenting

In a few days, I will have a piece go up on the NY Times Motherlode blog about the way tragedy has rooted itself in my family. And will not ever go away and how Dave and I deal with that as people and now, as parents.

I’m scared for the piece because I know what people will do and I don’t want them to do it–Blame the parents.

This is what always happens. And I see it happening already. It’s not even 9am in Iowa. We are just waking up to the news of the tragedy in Colorado and, as a nation, we’re still reeling. We are still trying to grasp something firm–facts, answers, reasons. But I can tell you right now, they won’t be good enough to help you understand. Nothing ever is.

And in the national confusion, we are already doing what we do so well. Blaming others. Blaming the parents. Blaming the movies. Blaming the video games.  I’ve read books on crime. On criminal pyschology. I’ve watched movies. Taken classes. Gone to therapy. Gone to church. Attended lectures. And yet, I still don’t know why someone I love is still married to a child molester. I guarantee you, the reason you are clinging to and that thing you are blaming? It’s just a red herring.

And I understand why we are so quick to blame. We want reasons and understanding. But we also want to separate ourselves from the situation. If we can blame this tragedy on bad parenting (parents who let their kids watch violent movies, play video games and shoot their friends with toy guns) then we can distance ourselves. Then, we are allowed to say I don’t do that. I am safe. We want to judge others so we can exculpate ourselves.

The truth that I’ve learned is that you are never safe.  Our lives are always petering on the edge of tragedy. You can do everything correctly and still wake up one day to learn that your son is in jail. Your daughter has been molested. Your sister is on drugs.

Parents are the easiest to blame. So are movies. So are guns. But in the end, those aren’t the disease they are just the symptoms of a sickness we all suffer from. The truth is this: Someone’s soul was screaming out in pain to an indifferent and silent society and in the end, that person made the decision to make that pain manifest.

And we all suffer.

Put down your blame and open your heart. Instead of flailing wildly for something, anything, to separate yourself from this, so you don’t have to look down the ledge and see just how close we are to being both victim and perpetrator,  just cry in relief and in fear and in sympathy and in kindness.

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