Even before you have kids you wonder if you’ll be a good parent. After you have kids, you wonder even more. It can be pretty easy to be hard yourself. You really need to remember that nobody is perfect, and there is no such thing as a perfect parent. Even though we know this, there are times when you can’t help but feel like you’ve failed. However, I think the bar for parental failure isn’t as high as we think it is. The bar has officially been set at being charged with manslaughter for the murders your teenage child committed.
In the same way that C’s get degrees (see my transcripts for proof), it doesn’t take an extraordinary effort to prevent failure as a parent. But it does take some effort. Some level of attention needs to be paid to your child and their behavior. Seems to me involuntary manslaughter is a result of involuntary parenting.
While it is not always the case with teenage murderers, the warning signs with the kid in Oxford were obvious and abundant, and the deaths were 100% preventable. If only there was somebody in that kid’s life who could have been paying attention to him. Maybe even somebody who lived in the same house as him and would know what is going on with him on a daily basis. Maybe somebody who had an active interest in making sure he was developing properly. Somebody who could help him get the mental health treatment he so clearly needed. Too bad all he has was somebody to supply him the murder weapon.
I am not saying it isn’t the kid’s fault, or even that I feel sorry for him. He’s human trash. But I am saying he wasn’t born that way. It took years for this kid’s mental state to breakdown to the point where mass murder seemed like a thing to do on a Tuesday afternoon. Teenagers lack the self awareness to realize they are dressed terribly, so they can’t possibly be expected to have the ability to take corrective measures for their own mental health. It was the parents’ job to help, and not only did they fail to do so, they actively made it worse. The murderer’s choice to act was his own, the failure to correct the course he was on up to that moment is the failure of his parents. I know there is still stigma around needing mental help, but we live in a time where getting that help has never been easier. But I guess giving the gift of mental health isn’t as cool of Christmas gift as a murder weapon is. What will they give him for his birthday? A shiv?
I hope charging the parents for the crimes of the child becomes standard practice. If a parent can’t be bothered to take an active role in their child’s life because it is the right thing to do, I wonder if they would do it to avoid criminal charges? Sad that it might take the threat of prison to motivate a parent to give a shit, but I guess that is where we are. At least it would be something we could do to prevent school shootings rather than the nothing we’ve been doing since Columbine. I was in middle school when the Columbine shooting happened, and this year my daughter started school. For a generation we’ve somehow allowed the prioritization of an adult’s right to get a rager from owning a big ol’ gun over a child’s right to not get shot in the head on the way to math class. If we want at to allow easy access to implements of violence, then we must hold people accountable for when those implements fulfill their purpose. Make no mistake, a gun’s only use is to make something dead. Fundamentally no different from a bomb. But we’d consider the very idea of “responsible bomb ownership” completely ridiculous. Then again, nobody overcompensates by keeping a pipe bomb in the bedside drawer.
So for all the times you put something with peanuts in their lunch, forgot what time to pick them up from school, dropped them on their head, or even something so egregious as give them the wrong colored cup – remember, that doesn’t make you a failure. That makes you a human person. The bar to clear is not that high. Did you let tell-tale signs of violent behavior go unchecked? Did you purposely arm your mentally ill child? No? Then congratulations! You’re in a first place tie for parent of the year with everybody else who hasn’t produced a murderer.