Parental absence, parental delusion, parental failure
Things that have happened at local sporting events this spring:
• I saw pushing and shoving among adults in the bleachers at a high school lacrosse game. School officials and other adults had to step between the combatants. Meanwhile, the kids kept playing.
• I saw an adult punch a hole in the wall of a press box, stemming from an incident that had just transpired on the field.
• I saw the mother of a high school baseball player make a nuisance of herself because the coach of her son's team instructed his right fielder to take a few steps in. The batter hit the next pitch over the outfielder's head, prompting the mother to wonder aloud about the competence of the entire coaching staff. For somewhere around an entire half inning.
• Several athletic directors have escorted umpires to their cars after games.
• At a baseball game, I heard a parent yell, "Let's go Shawn, strike out Joe Cool!" This was in reference to a kid playing with his sleeves rolled up in 90-degree weather last weekend. The adult continued, "you know, you can be a good player but you should be a good person, too. Wearing his sleeves like that is a CIAC violation."
I share this mere sampling of what's becoming normalized behavior in the wake of what's also becoming normalized behavior: another mass shooting. It was little kids in Texas this time.
Perhaps you are unable or unwilling to draw the line connecting the two. Au contraire. The correlation is utter and absolute.
The bullets had barely found their targets Tuesday in Texas before they became ammunition of a different context: more weaponry to suit and fill all the agendas that inevitably erupt from such shootings. As if the victims, their families, anyone else with elementary school-aged children or anyone else with a shred of decency wants to debate the Second Amendment when precious life has been taken through abject tragedy.
Ah, but agendas and blame assessments are all the rage now, leaving any number of theories as to why Tuesday's events repeat themselves.
Know why they repeat themselves?
The answers are found in the houses of the aforementioned adults who can't control themselves in public. They punch walls, openly question coaches (and officials), create unstable environments and mock high school kids. Their behavior is becoming normalized. Worse, they cannot teach coping skills because they have none themselves.
And so we may ask with a sense of incredulousness why an 18-year-old would shoot up a school. I say it's parental absence, parental delusion and parental incompetence, borne of the same behaviors we see in the bleachers. At every game.
There is a reason juveniles aren't reflexively thrown in jail when they commit crimes. Their minds and brains are developing. They rely on parents and other adults to show them a light for the way. And this is where parental delusion becomes dangerous.
We as parents so obsess about our kids fitting in that we delude ourselves when they don't. We don't get them help. Or the right help. Or enough help. We fail them because we can't handle the stigma. And then when it's too late, we issue blame assessment everywhere else but where it belongs: the mirror.
Put it this way: The rhythms of nature have changed a lot less over the years than the rhythms of nurture. Our jobs as parents are to accept who and what our children are. To be there, love them unconditionally and provide the tools they need to cope and problem solve.
Not try to turn them into what we want them to be because it sounds good around the water cooler.
I fail as a parent some days, too. The difference is that 31 years of hanging around the bleachers and standing along fences at sporting events has shown me how to parent by watching what NOT to do. I try to catch myself in times when I need to be a better dad. Sometimes, it's nothing more complicated than understanding the difference between "WHAT ARE YOU DOING?" and "let me teach you how to do it."
There is no greater responsibility than parenthood. It's time we all started taking it more responsibly. Because the behavior that's becoming normalized is frightening, best illustrated in a tweet Wednesday from Utah-based reporter Erin Alberty, a Pulitzer Prize winner:
"I just told my third grader about the shooting," Alberty wrote. "She replied, 'Yeah. We had a lockdown drill today. There aren't very many hiding places in our room. The good ones all get taken in like three seconds.' Then she left the room."
This is the opinion of Day sports columnist Mike DiMauro