Thursday, March 10, 2016

A Mother's Reckoning by Sue Klebold

  • THE BOOK
    • A Mother's Reckoning: Living in the Aftermath of Tragedy by Sue Klebold
    • Published on February 15, 2016

  • THE PREMISE
    • Sue's son Dylan was one of the two killers in the Columbine High School massacre. Many people blamed the Klebold's parenting (or lack thereof) for the killings.
    • Her memoir talks about their utterly ordinary life before the massacre, their hands-on parenting of their two sons, and how she coped after the tragedy.

  • THE DETAILS
    • Sue points out that, while her son is definitely responsible for the murders, he also committed suicide that day. Dylan suffered from undiagnosed depression, a condition he successfully hid from his family and friends.
      • How many times do you read articles about suicides where the family left behind had NO IDEA that their loved one was suicidal? And in many cases they never know WHY.
      • Even serial killers have been able to hide their crimes from their spouses.
      • It seems obvious that Dylan Klebold also hid his suicidal intent from his parents and friends.
    • She recounts their lives after the massacre: 
      • They couldn't stay in their home at first.
      • They couldn't stay at a hotel because they would have had to use a credit card with their distinctive name to register, making it too easy for the press to find them.
      • They were blamed for the massacre and were receiving death threats.
      • Sue, on advise of lawyers, couldn't join any support groups for parents of suicides because then the lawyers of the people who sued them could subpoena the members of the group for testimony.
      • She talks about watching the "Basement Tapes" (unreleased to the public to keep copycats from emulating the killers) which featured the two killers outlining their plans and their vitriol for others, and a son she didn't recognize because he did not act that way in front of his parents.
    • Sue Klebold has become an advocate for what she calls "brain health" and "brain illness" feeling that the terms "mental health" and "mental illness" are fraught and stigmatizing.
      • All proceeds of the book go to research and charitable organizations focusing on mental health issues.
    • She talks about how many parents miss the signs of depression and other serious mental health problems, especially in teenagers.
      • We almost expect our teens to waver between rude or surly and sweet or loving. How do you know when it could be a more serious indicator of trouble?

  • MY COMMENTS
    • It is SO EASY to judge other people, isn't it?
    • There are certain things I could not make my son do no matter what we tried. Here's one small example:
      • He would NOT bring a jacket on almost any boy scout outings no matter the weather, including snow camping. I felt like such a terrible parent and assumed they must be judging me: a mother who doesn't even make sure her son packs a decent winter coat in his backpack! I finally approached the scoutmaster and apologized, telling him I tried to get my son to pack his jacket and he said don't worry, we know it's his way. I felt relieved that I wasn't blamed. And I stopped buying my son jackets. He's 22 now and still rarely wears jackets. It's definitely his way.
      • But WHAT could I have done differently? He was packing his own camping gear. There was no room for me to sneak it in. Some form of punishment? Some sort of loss of privileges? Yelling? Bribery? None of this worked! Even the scoutmaster couldn't make it happen!
    • My son also has had bouts of depression and I didn't realize it for a while because I was concurrently dealing with my own health issues. Once I was well again I was right on top of it. I hope I was able to help him by detailing my own issues with depression and to let him know he is not alone.
      • But we in 2016 are so much more aware of depression in teens than parents were in 1999, right?
    • You really feel for Sue and her family. They lost a child, every parent's worst nightmare, and their child was a murderer, compounding the nightmare fourfold.

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