But also, as the article suggests with their title, it is really hard to tell whether a child is a real risk, or just an unruly child who will, ultimately, grow up into a fairly normal and reasonable person. After all, some of the most interesting people (especially creative people) went through unruly periods in their younger years. I imagine Charles Bukowski, or Jack Kerouac, were nightmares to raise. I think it’s especially interesting from a parental perspective:
Anne is a strict disciplinarian, she said, particularly with Michael, who she worries would otherwise simply run wild. She mentioned an episode of “Criminal Minds” that terrified her, in which a couple’s younger son was murdered by his older brother. “In the show, the older brother didn’t show any remorse. He just said, ‘He deserved it, because he broke my plane.’ When I saw that, I said, ‘Oh my God, I so don’t need that episode to be my life story down the line.’ ” She laughed awkwardly, then shook her head. “I’ve always said that Michael will grow up to be either a Nobel Prize winner or a serial killer.”
To be fair, he could be Henry Kissinger, you don’t have to pick just one. But it’s impossible for parents to identify what’s going on with their kids accurately in part because there’s not really a ton of research regarding whether or not the kid even has problems. However, there are reasons for that, too.
John Edens, a clinical psychologist at Texas A&M University, has cautioned against spending money on research to identify children at risk of psychopathy. “This isn’t like autism, where the child and parents will find support,” Edens observes. “Even if accurate, it’s a ruinous diagnosis. No one is sympathetic to the mother of a psychopath.”
But look. Let’s say there was a system to enable us to tell whether or not you had a child who was likely to hurt others. Let’s say we did put a ton of funding into being able to determine, Minority Report style whether or not your child was likely to attack and harm people later in life. Then let’s assume that it was determined that, yes, you were dealing with a cold blooded psychopath.
As a mother, would you be able to send your child away?
I don’t have children, but I’m under the impression that the love you feel for them is pretty intense. Like, the most intense. I’ve done some pretty dumb stuff for people I loved who were not even related to me by blood.
I do not think that, if it were someone I loved, even if I knew they were “bad”, I would have the strength to send them to jail, knowing the horrific conditions that exist there. I don’t think I could. I think the guilt would cripple me.
But one thing that I do think we can agree on is that there needs to be a support system in place for parents who are dealing with angry children, whether those children are angry because they’re rebellious teenagers or they’re angry because they are deeply mentally ill.
The part of the article by Liza Long that troubled me most was the part where she remarked:
On the intake form, under the question, “What are your expectations for treatment?” I wrote, “I need help.”
And I do. This problem is too big for me to handle on my own. Sometimes there are no good options. So you just pray for grace and trust that in hindsight, it will all make sense.
It seems terribly sad that we do not have more support systems in place for the mothers and fathers who are dealing with this. Because the only option should not be to “lock them up” or “let them kill themselves.”
Picture via We Need To Talk About Kevin