May 27, 2006

When your child accidentally kills another child.

An 8-year-old boy in NYC caused the death of an 8 year-old girl. He got into an unattended school bus and released the parking brake. As a parent, you think about how you would feel if your child died, but not so much how you would feel and what you would do if your child killed someone else. You don't picture your child becoming a murderer, but you may not think of how easy it would be for a little child to kill another child by accident. How would you go about being a good parent to your child after that happened?

20 comments:

Jacques Cuze said...

I would start with the parable of the pet goat.

Noumenon said...

Dude, that's almost inhumanly partisan. And to think you contributed to the parenting thread...

Jacques Cuze said...

Hmm, let me think.

The question is, how would I be a good parent to my child after my child killed another child in an accident?

I guess I would beat my child.

Noumenon said...

Well, I guess you could teach your child why to look both ways to follow the street after that (we can only teach them how). Or would they be able to comprehend that kind of permanence? Kids (and tribesmen) toss off references to killing people like it was nothing.

Pogo said...

Such stories seem the stuff of Greek tragedies. I was surprised to see the recommendations in the article itself, which read like something from the 1940s ("never ever leave the young unsupervised".

How does one turn a personal failure or mistake into something positive and life-changing? Not immediate forgiveness, not an eternity of blame, but perhaps responsibility. Responsibility to ask forgiveness and vow to live better hereon.

Redemption is the word I was seeking. How can a parent reliably guide one's own to that, especially one so young? My niece died in a car accident at 16, and the driver, the 'wrong sort of boy', reckless and foolish, never apologized or accepted his role in it. I always hoped he'd at least internally recognized what was required, but his subsequent actions suggested otherwise.

The self-imposed "Mark of Cain" is certainly excessive, but a simple mea culpa seems the barest minimum.

Michelle said...

I don't have children, but when I heard this story I did think about (a) how the boy feels now, and (b) how his family feels. The trajectory of your entire life can change in an instant, irrevocably, because of something stupid you did at 8 years old. I have a lot of compassion for the boy that did it.

Ross said...

When I was 15, I was playing with the 8-year-old (or so) child of some friends of the family, swinging him around by his feet. He thought it was the best thing this side of Disneyland, until I hit his head on a wall corner and gave him a nasty head wound.

He was fine, but waiting for him to come back from the hospital was the longest two hours of my life.

Elizabeth said...

Pogo, I'm sorry about your niece, and that this young man never responded.

Before I was born, my grandmother was killed exiting and crossing in front of a bus, by a car that sped around it to pass. The 16-year-old boy driving it came to my mother and was distraught; he also came to the funeral. My mother told me she forgave him because he took responsibility, and because she knew this would define him for life.

Aspasia M. said...

There's a short story that deals with this - The Stone Boy by Gina Berrault.

SippicanCottage said...
This comment has been removed by the author.
Noumenon said...

If you do that, Sippican, don't the terrorists win? I think you should do just the opposite and change your comment handle to quxxxo. Letting your thoughtful, nonpartisan posts be constantly associated with his name would be the worst revenge.

I'm so intolerant.

Seven Machos said...

Did this quxxoo guy change his name again?

Why, dude? Why do you keep changing your name? Seriously. I can't think of one good reason, and I really think it amounts to something approaching fraud.

Deceit doesn't become good manners or discourse. It's also sort of psycho.

vnjagvet said...

Sip:

Jaquxxxxxote is a classic provacateur. And his posts like the one above are a form of terrorism aimed at this blog.

Neomenon is right. Pleaes don't let his bs deprive us of your constructive and insightful comments.

Bissage said...

SippicanCottage: Please soldier on.

Here's hoping.

Pogo said...

Elizabeth,

Your experience tells of the peace that redemption and forgiveness can bring. Mine was an introduction to the kind of person who, if he has a concscience at all, it is but rudimentary. I have since met worse.

Little q here, the turd in the punchbowl, is a typical case.

And say it ain't so, Sippican!

Kurt said...

Michelle's comment about this tragedy reminds me of a professor I knew in graduate school. He was a professor of poetry and a published poet. As a child, he had accidentally shot and killed his brother in a hunting accident. I once heard him read some of his poems that dealt with the accident. I don't know that he ever really got over it. I wonder what advice he would give the boy's parents. I imagine this boy probably has little difficulty comprehending the gravity of the situation, and part of the challenge for his parents is to see to it that he isn't overwhelmed by his own sense of guilt.

downtownlad said...

From what I've read, this kid has been in quite a bit of trouble already. And for that I blame the parents.

If this kid had been raised properly, this accident would not have happened.

Elizabeth said...

Pogo, thinking about this now makes me grateful for my mom's grace in that moment. I know she grieved her mother, and always missed her, but she never expressed anger or resentment. You're right that her ability to forgive brought her peace. I hope the young driver realized what a gift he'd been given.

Pogo said...

Grace is exactly the word. I hope your mother was an adult when this happened; it seems an almost unbearable burden for the young. My grandfather lost his mom when he was a teenager, and he grieved her loss until he died, at 95.

Happy memorial day to you, Elizabeth, for your grandmother, who helped teach your mother about grace.

Sanjay said...

But if there's a question of how you handle your child post murder, this particular example seems like a terrible one. I mean, given the likely relative sizes of kids and school bus, it's unlikely the "killer" even was aware that the girl was hit, or could've seen it. It's kind of the "push a button in a room and someone far away dies" scenario, without even that level of premeditation. So it's hard to apply much to this event, and I get uncomfortable trying to think of an event where you might have the problem Professor Althouse describes.

By the way, that's how one handles quxxo -- just keep talking. And include him in the conversation if he surprises by actually participating in it himself.