Monday, December 17, 2012

‘I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother’: When Parents Are Afraid of Their Children

By Susanna SchrobsdorffDec. 17, 2012

Most parents in the U.S. have spent the past few days imagining what it would be like to be the mother or father of one of the 20 schoolchildren murdered on Dec. 14 in Connecticut. Each detail that emerges from that stricken community brings many of us to tears. And of course we think, What if a madman came to our child’s school in a rage with a gun?

But there’s another group of parents who watched this horror story unfold with an opposite and perhaps more excruciating thought: What if the madman were my child?

Parents of mentally ill children and young adults can’t say they are afraid of their own children or admit that they know what it’s like to have bright children whose rages could, under circumstances they can’t predict, lead them to kill innocent people the way Adam Lanza is alleged to have done at Sandy Hook Elementary. And they can’t find comfort in the wake of a national tragedy by sharing their feelings around the watercooler like the rest of us.

But this week, one of these mothers stepped forward with an eloquent, wrenching cry for help that has echoed across the Web. In a blog post republished on the Blue Review titled “I Am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” Liza Long writes, “I live with a son who is mentally ill. I love my son. But he terrifies me …”

She goes on: “I am sharing this story because I am Adam Lanza’s mother. I am Dylan Klebold’s and Eric Harris’s mother. I am James Holmes’s mother. I am Jared Loughner’s mother. I am Seung-Hui Cho’s mother. And these boys — and their mothers — need help. In the wake of another horrific national tragedy, it’s easy to talk about guns. But it’s time to talk about mental illness.”

Long describes the love she has for her 13-year-old son, a brilliant boy who loves Harry Potter and has a “snuggle animal collection.” But according to her, this same child has also threatened her with a knife so many times that she keeps a Tupperware container for the days she has to collect all the sharp objects in the house. Nothing really helps, she says, not the powerful meds, the intermittent hospitalizations or what she calls a “Russian novel of behavioral plans.” She says she has trained her other children to lock themselves away for their own safety when their brother falls into one of his unpredictable rages.


Most commenters wrote to express their sympathy, but there were also many who wanted to tell Long she is not alone. These are people we don’t normally hear from unless a tragedy occurs. They are the mothers, the fathers and the siblings of boys like Michael. These are the parents who report having to hide their knives or sleep with their bedroom doors locked. And in some cases, the commenters are young men who say they are plagued by the same demons as Long’s son.


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