PETULA DVORAK

For parents, Tucson's nightmarish questions reverberate

Tuesday, January 11, 2011

What are Jared Loughner's parents thinking today?

Do they blame themselves for the rampage allegedly committed by their son that killed six people and gravely injured U.S. Rep. Gabrielle Giffords (D) in Tucson on Saturday? Should we?

In a parenting climate that is fraught with mixed messages, conflicting studies and thousands of theories, mothers and fathers across America are taking a moment and perhaps shuddering at the thought of their children doing something horrific. Inside plenty of parental hearts this week is a probing self-evaluation of whether red flags are waving in their own homes.

"My child listens to heavy metal. Is that okay?"

"He's wearing black! All the time!"

"His drawings are all war scenes."

"He is sullen and reclusive."

When something like this happens, we pounce on the obvious signs we think we would have caught. The incoherent video rantings, the diary full of violent thoughts, the dark drawings. Wouldn't a good parent see all of this?

Infuriating, adolescent ticks will register on parents' danger scales. Lots of earnest talks will happen in heinously messy bedrooms this week.

Parents want to know what to look for and how something like this can be prevented. Answers are scant because the few parents who have been in that unimaginable hell have little to say to us.

After Eric Harris and Dylan Klebold made the word "Columbine" shorthand for "school massacre" in 1999, their parents were the objects of a nation's scorn.

They didn't speak out, defend their children or their parenting while we were all dissecting their kids' clothes and hair and plans.


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