When Your Child Grows Up to Be a Monster

by Bill Brenner on March 11, 2014

Like most people, the 2012 Sandy Hook Elementary School massacre cut me to the core. I blogged about it, trying to find a lesson for humanity. Having lost a sibling myself, I wrote an open letter to kids who lost a brother or sister, hoping to offer them something useful, if not comforting.

Mood music:

But I’ll be honest: I didn’t spend much time dwelling on the question of whether my children could ever grow up to do such a thing. Like most parents, I try hard not to consider such things. It’s too uncomfortable and implausible.

But after reading a New Yorker interview with Peter Lanza — father of killer Adam Lanza — I realize it’s an issue we can’t ignore.

The article has gotten a lot of attention from the mainstream media, and just about every headline captures a statement Peter makes deep in the interview: He wishes Adam had never been born.

That statement is all the more a kick to the gut because it comes after he describes a son who didn’t start out as a monster. In fact, Peter says, Adam started out as a “normal little weird kid.” He remembers playing LEGOs with his son and notes that he didn’t see things starting to go wrong with the boy until he was a teenager.

Since December 2012, Peter has had to live with the knowledge that his son murdered innocent children and educators. His last name has become poisonous, though he decided not to change it, determining that he can’t hide from what happened. Nor has he tried.

It goes to show how as a parent, you can invest heart and soul to ensure your children grow into forces for good. You can do everything right, in fact. And sometimes, that’s still not enough.

When I look at my offspring, I see two beautiful boys with hearts as big as the solar system. They are smart, caring and driven to overcome obstacles. Erin and I have put a lot of effort into making sure they turn out right, and we think we’re on the right track. Duncan is challenged with ADHD and mild autism, but he’s made huge progress in recent months. We’re very proud of him.

Staring at that picture, it’s inconceivable to me that they’d grow up to be anything less than awesome.

But Peter Lanza thought that once about his son.

Don’t get me wrong. I’m not bracing myself to watch my kids go down dark, twisted paths. Most kids grow into good men and women despite a variety of obstacles. The dark seeds are few and far between.

But still, you never know, do you?

As parents, all we can do is take life one day at a time and embrace the precious present. All we can do is be the best parents we can be.

I’ll keep doing that, and I’ll pray hard for Peter Lanza. I hope the man can find some peace.

Adam Lanza

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