“A Mother’s Reckoning” by Sue Klebold, mother of Columbine killer.

I knew I had to read it. I favourited the NY Times tweet with the intention of getting into it when I had time to click on the link: “Readers respond to “A Mother’s Reckoning,” the memoir by Sue Klebold, mother of Columbine killer Dylan Klebold http://nyti.ms/21bYr0z  

It had happened in 1999, the most horrific school shooting in the USA in history. I remember watching the horror story unfold on CNN. It was easy to try to make sense of the unimaginable tragedy with the “mentally ill white boy raised by naive idiot parents who didn’t do their job” dismissal that I was going to use again and again to explain the all too frequent occurrences of mass shootings in the USA. 

But here was a well written and reasoned review of a memoir penned by the mother of one of the teen-aged killers, a boy who took his own life too and I was intrigued. I suspended judgement long enough to be curious about her own processing of the events that took place and the role of her offspring in them, and by extension, therefore,  her own role in the tragedy.

I bought her book.


And last night, waking up drenched in sweat (that’s happening more and more frequently these days…did somebody say perimenopause?) I quietly exited our bedroom and took up residence on the couch with the book. I am only a third of the way through, and maybe I’ll do a full review when I finish the book. But I’m compelled to share my thoughts at this stage:

Sue Klebold is extremely articulate. This may seem like a trite observation to do with the horror story that she’s writing about. But it is important. Her use of language and choice of words leave you with no questions as to what she’s trying to say. It allows for the reader to enter her space and mind and form their own conclusions. She’s not looking for absolution. She’s not looking to unburden herself. She’s not trying to protect her son. She is simply adding extremely valuable data to a conversation that is mandatory in today’s society

We do the best we can as parents. Sure there are horrid parents:abusive, substance abusers, mentally ill persons incapable of nurturing the ones in their care, etc. etc. But most of us try to do the best we can with our children, hoping and praying that they turn out healthy, happy and fulfilled. Listen, we don’t get a manual with each child. And we act and react with filters brought about by our own experiences, dreams and fears. It’s all we can do. And for most of us, our imperfect actions come from a place of perfect motive, that of love for our children. And yet in Sue Klebold’s case, what she got was a son who took lives and dreams, and shattered families including his/her own. Why? Why? Why?

Love: it keeps us going. In the weeks and months following the shooting at Columbine, as Sue Klebold tried to understand, to mourn, grappling with grief and guilt, as she navigated her forever altered existence through the fog and haze of a mind and soul trying desperately to cope, close friends and family supported her with love, practical love. They reminded the Klebolds that they were loved. They cooked for them. They shielded them from the understandable hate directed in full force towards them. They helped them screen calls. They took them into their houses. They helped her mourn the son she lost. They attended without judgement as she faced the inevitable guilt she felt. 

I found myself crying, having to put down the book at least 3 times to sort out my own reactions to what I was reading and to wipe my eyes so I could go on. I wept with regret for the mistakes I have made as a parent. I wept hoping and praying that God Himself would compensate for my own human weaknesses and mistakes that I made in tending to the blessings and gifts he had bestowed upon me in the form of my children. I prayed for wisdom. I wept with the complete understanding of what True Love is, myself having been buttressed from below, above and around at a very difficult time in my life by love devoid of judgement. Without love my own story could have had a very different ending.

And so I read on, intrigued by her own story. It is a tough story to tell and I am glad that she has done it.

Happy Mother’s Day…lessons I am learning, issues I am contemplating…

A very happy Mother’s Day for all the mothers out there struggling today. Yay me. On Mother’s Day we celebrate an  image of That Mother who selflessly gives of herself, the nurturer, the provider, the all wise, all knowing sage who instinctively knows and gives exactly what is needed to fruit of her loins.

She became a mother in pain, as she carried another life inside her for 9 months, painfully ejecting that independent life into the world. Her needs automatically became secondary to this new tiny dependent.

Remember the stages? Helpless infant leaving you to guess what was wrong. Cute toddler who amazed you every day with each new discovery. Amazing toddler who shocked you with every display of an independent personality in the form of tantrums and preferences. Interesting child learning basic skills like the 3 Rs and coexisting with other human beings. That teenager who makes you proud and exasperates you in the same instant.

I’ve watched enough movies and read enough books to know why some mothers struggle: children with mental illnesses, children who are ill, mothers themselves who battle substance abuse, who struggle with their own parenting skills because of what they lived as children growing up in a dysfunctional family context.

This is what I want for my children, and suppose most if not all mothers want, in spite of any personal failings: happiness, independence, self-confidence and a sense of fulfillment in life. If I’m to be perfectly honest, I don’t want my children to make mistakes, especially the mistakes I made. I quake at the thought of pain and wasted time that they will experience with a misstep.

LESSONS I AM LEARNING, ISSUES I AM CONTEMPLATING ALONG THE WAY

Mistakes are a part of life. How arrogant of me to accept my own mistakes and the role they have played in my own development as a person and then rail and rage and despair when I see my own child heading in the direction of a possible Mistake.

Why does the specter of a Mistake frighten me so much?

What is important to me may not be equally as important to my child. And that’s ok, because we are not the same person.

We are not the same person. We are not the same person.

Why do I tolerate people in my professional and social spheres that are different from me, and then do everything possible to get my child to see the world through my own filters?

My child is not that other child. And my child is my child for a reason. I was gifted with this child for a specific reason.

The greatest gift I can give my child is the same gift I must give myself: love, acceptance, and an opportunity to learn and move on.

The things that I am intolerant of, that I react harshly and violently to, that I sit in judgement of are often things that I see in my own self that I wish were not so. 



MY CHILD, MYSELF.

This really is harder than I thought, and as I try my best to navigate, to do the right thing by my children, I am forced to face uncomfortable truths about me. I have had to confront my own personal failings and own them. I have had to confront and deal with the things about myself that I loathe, that I wish weren’t so, that I see reflected in my offspring. I’ve had to draw on wells of patience and love that I didn’t know existed, and give some of that to myself as well.

I see my child trying to cope with life by avoidance. I see it in myself as well.  I see my child afraid to make a mistake. I see that in myself as well.

And I also see myself eventually pushing past the fear of failure and I hope my child sees that as well.
I see myself making the effort to be brutally honest with myself, if with no one else, and I hope my child sees this as well.

I see myself trying new things, taking up challenges (eventually, in some instances, after prolonged procrastination) and I hope my child sees this as well.

I see myself learning to forgive me, blunder after blunder, pressing through despite guilt and self recrimination, and I hope my child sees this as well.

And I see sharp wit, humour, keen intelligence, political awareness, empathy, the soul of an artist, eloquence, a gift for self expression, determination, several degrees higher than I see in myself and I shake my head in amazement and awe and respect, and I secretly high-five myself with glee and say to myself: my child will be ok. Please God, make them be ok.

WHAT IS FOR SURE

I love my children. I hope I have been able to convince them of that. I hope they conclude, if not today, then hopefully someday, the same thing I concluded about my own mother: her actions were not always perfect, but her intentions towards us always were. I have no doubt, that my mother’s love is real and fierce. This I know. And at 47 years old, I am grateful for her love. It has supported me, saved me, kept me going.