Yesterday, across town, a high school student brought a gun to school and shot five of his fellow students. At the time I write this, two of the victims have died, and the other three remain in the hospital. The details of why this happened are still being investigated, but there’s been mentions of bullying, and family troubles. I have been staying away from the sensational reporting of our local news, but enough of it has made it my way, that I have a picture of what is known right now.
Upon hearing the news from a Facebook friend on my way in to work yesterday morning, my first reaction was fear. Fear as a mother who has two grade school age children and wants nothing more than their happiness and safety. My whole being wanted to wrap them up in a little cocoon and protect them from the bad things in this world.
I didn’t bring up the shooting in our dinner time conversation last night. I waited to see if it had been mentioned in their school day yesterday, ready to answer questions, but none came. They are only in third and first grade, so their teachers might not have felt the need to talk about this event to their classes.
Bullying, however, did come up.
My son’s friend is a bit of a bully. He makes fun of younger children, and rarely has a nice thing to say to or about anyone. This perplexes my son, who has tried very hard to be friends with this young boy. They have been friends since they met in first grade, and hang out together at the extended care after school.
For about a month at the beginning of the school year, this boy wouldn’t talk to or play with my son. When my son tried to ask why, he’d been brushed off. Then, the friend started to try to get their mutual friends not to play with my son. Eventually, the boy apologized and they were back to being friends. No explanation was given.
Still, the questions remain. My son asks: Why does this boy say mean things? Why does he pick on younger children? Why does he insult people? Why?
The best explanation I can come to, simple as it might be, applies to all children who bully and all people who choose to act out of hurt and not love. They are somehow unhappy with their lives. The unhappiness can be anything, and might be hard for someone on the outside to understand, but I believe that all meanness comes from a deep unhappiness. If you are happy in your life, and have all that you need, then you will pass that happiness on to others. If you are sad, then all you have to offer others is that sadness.
My daughter jumped on that idea, and came up with home life reasons as to why children might be unhappy and therefore might be mean to others. Then they went through other children they knew at school that were mean, and tried to think of reasons why they would be unhappy.
My point wasn’t to analyze the state of their schoolmates, but was rather to teach them compassion and try to give them insight in to why people make hurtful choices. I am not trying to excuse these bad choices. We are all responsible for our choices. You can be happy because you choose to be so in spite of all that might stand in the way of happiness. But if you are never taught that you can be happy and choose happiness, how do you believe it? If you are a child and your examples are to be hurtful, how do you learn differently? Rather than excusing, I am only trying to understand, because I believe that understanding something allows you to deal with it and perhaps help to make it better.
My heart breaks for the parents who sent their children to school yesterday, and who did not have those same children come home. I cannot fathom that loss. My heart breaks for the boy who believed that this was the answer to whatever his problems were. My heart breaks for all children, everywhere, who are so sad that death is an option at the end of their stories.
Sometimes I worry that no matter what we do as parents, there are influences (media, movies, peers) that are beyond our control in the raising of our children. It’s that worry that makes me consider quitting my job and home schooling my children. Slowly, I let that worry pass by and allow myself to believe that the unconditional love I show my children and the compassion I teach them by words and hopefully by example, are what they need to prepare them for the bad and the good in this world.
As parents, loving our children, really and truly, is the best way to raise them to love themselves and to love others. A world with people that act out of love is a world worth working toward.
Thank you for listening.