What possesses an eight grade child to kill herself? Where would she get the gun? How would she know how to shoot the gun? What is her mindset that she took the time to give away her personal belongings to her friends before she put the gun to her head? And mostly, why didn't her parents know that she wanted to end her life?
Eighth grade is young. You are 13, maybe 14. That's still a child to me. And children need to be talked to constantly and watched and listened to.
My daughter is 12. She will be thirteen in February. I can't imagine not knowing what's going on in her head. Long ago, I established a relationship with her that was open and trusting. I ask her questions, not just "how was school, honey?" but "what was your day like? anything interesting happen?" I give her the openings and let her in. I don't stop her from talking, even when she's telling me about who said what to whom and where they said it and who got mad. I don't stop the repeated stories, the mundane stories or the bitching about smelly gym lockers, because if I stop listening to the little things, she won't tell me the big things.
It breaks my heart to see that a child of that age was so despondent that she took her own life. How could there not have been signs? Or did someone see the signs but choose to ignore them?
I see so many parents who have all but tuned their child out. I know, just from listening, which girls are going in which direction. I know that the girl around the corner will end up doing drugs and alcohol at an early age, just like her brother. Her mother does not see what I see because her mother doesn't take the time to look. I know that one of Natalie's friends will end up being the slut in high school, most likely pregnant before 16. It's obvious to everyone but her family, because her family doesn't look.
I know my daughter inside and out. I can tell by just the way she blinks her eyes what she's thinking. I can tell by looking when she's had a hard day, when she's had a good day, when she wants to talk but is waiting for me to initiate the conversation.
She's entering a brave new world in seventh grade. The dangers of peer pressure are heavier. The kids are more street-wise, a little sharper around the edges.
I know my parenting can sometimes be a source of contention for her. I don't drop her off with at the mall with her friends; I feel she's too young for that. I don't let her cross the 4-lane main street here because I don't trust the drivers on the road. There are certain friends whose house she cannot sleep over because I know the supervision is lax.
She may get mad at me sometimes, she may pout and whine when she is sitting home while her friends are roaming the streets aimlessly, but I don't care. I don't want to end up being that mother who cries herself to sleep at night saying "why do I let her do that?" I don't want her to be a statistic.
How does an eigth grader get to the point that she no longer wants to live? Why didn't anyone see she was headed there? There had to be some sign, some clue.
I obsess over news such as this. I put myself in the mother's place and I feel the heartache of not just losing a child, but knowing that I was in some way to blame. I will never let that happen.
Just talk to your kids. Listen when they talk, no matter what kind of gibberish they're talking. If you listen to the boring things, they will trust you with the other things. They just want someone to hear them.
This is what happens when no one listens, when there is no exchange of words, no one to hear what lies underneath the smiles.