I'm not a parent. I never will be. I can't pretend I know what it feels like to wake up in a cold sweat, wondering what your son or daughter will grow up to be or even if they'll make it home okay from that party or that date. That infamous phone call in the night and a voice at the other end of the line intoning those words that everyone dreads.
I can't imagine--and I don't think anyone really can--what it would be like to wake up and hear that your son has just committed a horrible crime or has just been arrested for something unthinkable, like rape or molestation or even murder.
The truly helpless victims are unsung. They're the family members that many unfortunately will blame. What's it like to be the parents of Jeffrey Dahmer or Ted Bunday? Do you blame yourself for something you didn't realize was happening to your child as he grew?
I just watched a movie called Beautiful Boy
, the story of parents whose son goes on a killing spree at school and then commits suicide. The movie did not dwell on the horrible details of the crime. It was all about the ruined lives of the parents and their hopeless quest to find an answer to just what went wrong with their son. It was about blame, fear and guilt. It was about the difficulty of finding forgiveness, especially of ourselves.
It was kinda heartbreaking.
My thoughts go out tonight to parents everywhere, to parents who have done their best and tried their hardest to raise their kids in this complicated world. I know the latter sentence does not describe all the parents on the planet ... if only it did! But even those who try can fail. Because free will is undeniable. And it manifests early, earlier than the law allows. And the human psyche is complicated and unpredictable.
I hope the world will show mercy to these silent victims. Because even the ones who appear stoic and aloof are suffering in ways we will never comprehend.
I didn't really get all of the movie. But I appreciated the muted, pained performances by Maria Bello and Michael Sheen. And even though I didn't really like their characters, I wished them peace and healing and some vestige of hope.
Because you never know.
Tonight just before 9:00pm I heard the sound of my own mom, gone a dozen years now. Her grandfather clock started to chime. On the rare occasion that happens, I wonder what she might want to say if she could. Tonight I hope I never gave her too many anxious hours and too many sleepless nights, worrying and wondering. It couldn't have been easy, not for her or for anyone who chooses to become a parent.