Here’s something to add to the list of things no one has ever said, “Parenting sure is easy.” It never ceases to amaze me when I look at families and see children being reared in the same environment by the same people who turn out so different. My family was like that, as was the wife’s. And though I believe I have been a bad father in many ways, the Kid stretches his wings and catches the sunlight and I see glints of the man he can become as he dons his prom night tuxedo. It almost seems that my failures as a father don’t really matter, that if I replayed the tape and re-did my role knowing what I know now, things would not be all that different for the Kid. And for that I’m grateful.
Peter Lanza was not as lucky as I was. His son transformed into the monster that murdered children and their teachers at Sandy Hook. The New Yorker has a well-written article about the father of the monster, and even with 20-20 hindsight there is nothing that I find that I can condemn him for. Sure he made mistakes. He worked too much and pretty much left his ex-wife to manage their son’s brief, imploding life. Yet the same two people raised an older son successfully, and much of what both he and his ex-wife did others have done with varying degrees of success. Adam Lanza didn’t have the tormented childhood that other psychopaths have. No, his demons were all built into him, born with him.
His father states calmly that he wishes Adam had never been born. That is what we as human beings need him to say to prove that he is one of us, but for a father to say and mean it is itself a tragedy. I truly pity him, his ex-wife and their surviving son. It’s almost as if there are two dice throws when a child is born: one for the child and one for the parents. A child may achieve greatness or infamy regardless of his upbringing, while parents may be the best or worst and still raise high-achieving children regardless.
Perhaps these are the lies a poor father tells himself when he looks at his grown son and realizes that there’s no way to fix the mistakes, that all the time that laid ahead to remedy them has gone, evaporating into the air like a hot breath on a cold windless night.