Posted by Bonita Jewel
I read an article today that both grieved and angered me. I felt sick in stomach and heart after reading it. The utter evil at work in this tragedy was so apparent it’s frightening. The article told of a 12-year-old girl stabbed 19 times by two classmates, both also 12. Although the article used the word “friends,” I would not dare to use that term for this act of violence. The girl escaped within a millimeter of her life, literally. If one of the multiple stabs (many close to her vital organs) had been a margin closer, she would have died.
As appalling as those details are, the reason the two girls tried to kill their classmate is the most shocking of all. They had apparently been very interested in a website (I will not put the link here because I don’t want to cause any more interest in a website that has likely already gotten way too much attention by this horrible situation.)
It seems that the website caters to horror stories rich with gruesome details of death and murder. Many of the short stories posted to the site are written as articles or news flashes. In other words, they look to be true. A very popular character in this website is so evil that the prerequisite for becoming one of his “minions” so to speak is to murder another person. After the two girls tried to kill their classmate, they were said to have headed for the highway, their destination being this character’s mansion up in the mountains.
I have a hard time processing this heartbreaking incident on a couple of levels. For one, motherhood and parenting is a huge thing for me. Ever since I became a mother (and even well I was pregnant with my first child), I was awed to the point of overwhelmed with the responsibility of being a parent. The need to train a child, not just educationally, but socially, morally, spiritually. The need to show them how loved they are by their parents and by God. The responsibility to help them understand that their lives have a purpose and that they can grow up to do amazing things, wonderful things for humanity, for others, for themselves.
The incident cut me deeply in the area of parenting. I’m sure many points of view will arise over the next days and weeks regarding the parenting (or lack of it) in the lives of the young perpetrators. As I know virtually nothing about these girls’ lives or that of their parents or their home relationships, I cannot say much without judging where judgment is not warranted, which I don’t want to do.
But two facts are apparent, at least from my perspective.
One: There was unobserved Internet activity going on.
Two girls, 12 years old, were spending far too much time on a site that promotes horror and murder and god-knows-what-else. This was either unnoticed by their respective parents or brushed off as unimportant. I might be considered a helicopter parent (or a paranoid one), but tragedies such as this make it apparent that no amount of being careful or monitoring a child or tween’s internet usage is too much.
How long had they been reading all kinds of gruesome stories? How much time was spent on it to where their sense of reality was so warped by a strange sense of subordination and obligation to this horrific character?
I don’t know. Who knows what else was going on in their lives? Perhaps a divorce and neither parent felt inclined to step in because they were afraid they might break the thin thread of communication they had with their child. Perhaps it happened at another friend’s house (using the word “friend” loosely) and the parents assume that everything was alright when it really wasn’t. Maybe the parents both worked and the girls’ older siblings looked after them so that there was no way to monitor the situation.
Again, Wisdom says, “Judge not that you be not judged,” and doubtless there was so much at play that no single factor could be the sole cause of a decision to attempt murder. But the fact remains that there is something seriously wrong with internet input that warps two girls’ mind to believe that they could first get away with such a terrible act of violence, that such a twisted character would desire such a thing of them, and that there was no sense of the sanctity of a human life. The worth and value of every person is so sacred that I cannot fathom two children even considering, much less performing, unspeakable violence against another mere child.
Two: Communication with children was not a strong point.
This part concerns me. I don’t know if its society, western culture, advice from peer groups, or a combination of many factors, but it seems that the way to parent these days is to take a step back. To let children make their own decisions. To let them come to their own conclusions about life, beliefs, points of view, and morality. As much as we might agree, in theory, with certain aspects of this approach, and as much as we need to let our children experiment and learn and grow (which is synonymous with making mistakes. We as adults make mistakes and learn by trial and error) … there has to be a limit. A line must be drawn in the sand somewhere.
At the very least, we need to teach our children to understand the sanctity of life, the sacredness of every person who walks on this planet. Although I’m mixing two issues here, there has to be communication between parent and child.
And it isn’t easy. Out of my three children, two are not natural communicators. Sometimes I’ve found myself resorting to play guessing games to discover the core of some issue. I’ve found certain tactics that help them naturally open up so I don’t have to beg them to talk (it’s so much easier when they volunteer information).
But there has to be communication between parents and children.
And there has to be a mutual respect and love at the foundation of this communication. A sense that the child is accepted, loved, and can ask questions, vent frustrations, and be themselves without fear. This is a learning process for me. I’m better with their questions. But sometimes when one of my children vents a whole lot of negativity, especially when it has to do with how “bad” their lot in life is, I get bugged; I see that they have so much to be thankful for and I tell them that (which can sound like a broken record). I’m still trying to strike a balance between letting them speak and helping them tweak certain points of view, allowing them to process certain opinions or difficulties that they’re facing.
But I can’t imagine such a complete breakdown of communication and transfer of information that a parent would not see something so serious going on in the heart and mind of a child. Two girls had been planning to murder a classmate for months. Were they just really, really good at hiding? Or (and this thought scares me) were the parents just disinterested? Uninvolved? Busy with their own lives, their own pursuits? I can’t judge, especially because I know how short I fall in these areas in my own parenting.
Three families should be starting their summer vacation. Three tween girls should be looking forward to a summer of fun, of swimming in the pool with friends, of laughter, sleepovers and stargazing, chasing the ice cream truck. But these three families, and these three girls’ lives will never be the same. The perpetrators are being tried as adults, facing up to 65 years in prison. They will have to live with the consequences of their horrible decision at a time when their thought processes could have been guided, and their pastimes monitored, by their parents. What difference would that have made?
There’s no way to know, and the reality is so sad.
And the third girl. Wow. I don’t know the fears she will face in the years to come, the panic attacks that might strike her in the middle of an innocent activity, the issues with trust that she will most likely have for the rest of her life. I can only pray that somehow she and her family will find healing and comfort and will be able to live not just a semblance of normalcy but a truly joyous life free from the grief of heart, spirit, and mind that such a tragedy can bring upon them.
But the part that affects me the most is that we allow these things to continue. We allow sites available to children to be filled with despicable acts and gruesome material. We say, “Well, people shouldn’t look at these things if they can’t handle it” or “They must have some mental disorders that keep them from processing these things correctly.”
In reality, it is plain wrong to expose growing minds to horror. It might be simplistic, but in my mind, it’s that simple. No matter whose fault it is, something is wrong. Seriously wrong. How many tragedies will continue before we wake up? Will we ever wake up? Or will it always be a case of “Too bad, so sad, let’s get on with our lives in the real world”?
For some, life will never be the same.
For us, life should never be the same.
A loss to one is in some ways a loss to all. Another drop off grief that makes a fallen world fall lower, another teardrop of nature that has already lost so much beauty.
How many tears will humanity cry before reaching out to the only One that can wipe the tears away? The One who promised healing, forgiveness, and a life of abundance, free of the horror and anger that we so readily embrace? Our choices, in many ways, determine our reality. And our deepest and truest reality can be something of beauty and bliss.
I guess, as with so many other things in life, one person can’t make a decision for all. But when it comes down to it, everyone has the power to choose their own destiny, to make the choices that will determine their future and others’ futures as well.
Now that I’ve oscillated from practical to philosophical, I should probably stop before I digress any further.
I guess all that I can say, all that I can hope, is that parents will open their lives and hearts to their children, will offer the very best of themselves, will choose to do the difficult thing even if it means having their children let go of some friendships that are clearly not healthy, or some aspect of “fun” that is obviously not in their child’s best interest. It might seem like a small thing. Too much work. Too much time. Just let it pass.
But the tragic incident conveyed the worst-case scenario (and it could have been worse; thank God the girl survived). It is clear that as parents, we must step up to the plate, embrace the responsibility, and see that children are the greatest gift and the greatest calling that we have right now.
There is no greater task.
There is no greater joy.
And there is no greater love than for parents, through their love and guidance, to point to the greatest Love of a Father who always welcomes with open arms all who come to Him.