Monday, May 23, 2016

By The Book

When I tell people that I am reading Susan Klebold's book, a lot of them look at me in wonder. Some of them are wondering who Susan Klebold is. Once I have explained who she is, the next curiosity is why I would subject myself to such a chore. Ms. Klebold is the mother of Dylan Klebold. Her son was one half of the deadly force that swept through Columbine High School back in April, 1999. She didn't write a book about the horror of that day, though there is some recounting of the events before, during, and after. That book has been written already. She wrote a book about grief. It's what survivors do.
In a world that searches for someone to blame, Susan and her husband Tom would be prime candidates for a truckload of it. It was their son that was responsible for the deaths of twelve students and a teacher, along with another two dozen wounded and countless hundreds who will be forever traumatized by the terror he wrought. Wasn't it their fault that this monster was unleashed on the world? How could they not have known that they were raising a killer?
As it turns out, it wasn't easy. Raising a child under the best possible circumstances is no walk in the park. Striking that perfect balance between love and respect, authority and permissiveness, and all those tricky maneuvers that create the perfect upbringing. But what happens when all that care and confidence gets replaced by nagging doubts and fears. If you trust your kid, because that means you've done a great job as a parent, then you open yourself up to all the things that could go wrong when those undeveloped brains start making choices that may not be in the best interest of the village. Hopefully these are thoughts that run in the vein of "maybe I can skip that math final," or "I wonder what Mountain Dew tastes like when it's mixed with rum." Those kind of choices have a pretty quick turnaround.
The kind of choices Dylan Klebold made took his mother sixteen years to process. This clever boy who played with Legos and loved to watch old movies with his parents shot up his high school. How could this have happened? Sixteen years hasn't made it any easier to bear, but Susan Klebold, mother of one of the Columbine Killers, has taken it upon herself to try and understand how murder, suicide and all that hate found its way into their "normal home."
It's not a secret, exactly, that mental illness played a part. Or, as Ms. Klebold refers to it, "brain illness." It's not a secret that trying to manage those developing brains and personalities is a challenge in the best of circumstances. When everything is "normal."
Until it isn't. Susan Klebold wrote "A Mother's Reckoning" to try and understand that moment when everything stopped being normal. So much of what I read in the "before" sections made me think about my own son that when things went so terribly wrong, I couldn't help but start to question my own exemplary parenting skills. Ultimately, that was not her goal in writing her book, but she maintains that if any life is saved by asking those tough questions, then sharing her experience will be worthwhile.
One of the first entries into this blog was titled, "Dylan and Eric didn't get it." I wrote it from the lofty view of being a father of an eight year old. What I knew then would fill a page. What I know now would fill a few more. I read the whole book, and I still don't get it, but I want to. That's why I read Susan Klebold's book.

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