Tony Woodlief is giving voice to a fear that is perhaps being felt by many a parent these days:
I read that his mother has been in bed weeping since she heard what he did. His parents blame themselves. Perhaps they should. Perhaps they shouldn’t. Neither will make their boy not a monster.
There is a soul-sickness in the human monster, but there is a soul-sickness in me, and maybe in you. Why does it swamp the storm-tossed hearts of some, but not of others? Will it claim my child one day? Will it claim yours?
It’s easy to imagine this only happens to the bad, bad children of bad, bad parents. I had such a notion, back when I thought I knew how to be a good father. But most days, these days, I struggle to be a decent father. I snap at one of my sons, and I see his heart close up. I get caught up in work or distraction and a precious day is gone, another day I didn’t knit up the ever-fraying bonds between father and sons. I want to believe a parent has to be utterly negligent to yield a boy gunning down people on street corners, but then I think of that woman weeping in her bed over her lost, monstrous son, and I don’t know. I simply don’t know.
I want to get it right. I’m terrified I’ll get it more wrong than a father can bear. Does anyone know, before it’s too late, that he’s taken a wrong path? Can we retrace our steps?
Maybe it’s madness, and nothing more. I don’t sleep any easier at night, thinking on it that way. Why do some minds crumble? Will it happen to my child? Will it happen to yours?
I feel like I could pray all the days and nights I have left, and it still won’t be enough. I could get all the father-son moments right, and it still won’t save their lives, their hearts, their souls. God spare my child the madness in that Loughner boy’s eyes.
God spare us all from that madness, that soul-sickness.