Waking Wylie

Two weekends ago we were blessed with a gorgeous 80 degree Saturday.  I spent my time doing much needed garden cleanup and of course redecorating the back patio.  Yes, I'm one of those where my patio is like an extension of the house.  But I do actually spend a lot of time out there amongst the birds and the bees.

As I cut back the Mexican Petunia stalks, I must have unearthed a Mediterranean Lizard.  There on the patio stone, he lay alive but unmoving.  It was still early out so it was quite cool.  I know they need to warm their bodies for activity, so I gently scooped him up and put him in a nice area next to the fence and covered him back up with some leaves.  I prayed he would be alright as I do whenever something like this happens. My prayers are actually part of my daily talks with God, like when I see roadkill and I ask God to care for that animal in Heaven. Funny, I know.

I was alone since my son and husband were on the big college tour, and as I sat in front of the cozy, lit chiminea that evening, I wondered if that little guy would survive.  Silly me.

A couple weeks later I contemplate how someone can be so worried about the soul of roadkill, or even that tiny despondent lizard, and how yet others can plan the heinous murder of one of their own classmates.

What is even more scary is the response of the students when the police came upon them and asked what they were doing.  According to the news reports their response went something like, "We're burying a body." No deer in the headlights, "Um, nothing.  We're not doing anything.  Move along, nothing to see here."

At least if they had lied about it, I would know there was some semblance in their soul of error recognition, an acknowledgment that they were doing something wrong, even an, "Oh F#&K what did we do?!?"  Yet from what I can tell, there was none of that.  Just a matter of fact response, like it happens every day that we need help dragging a dead body through the woods.

What's more disturbing is had they actually gotten away with it.  Imagine their totally unfeeling, cold-hearted selves responding in class, "Gee I don't know why he's not here, he doesn't seem to be at his desk all week."

How does someone do that?  I still feel bad about that damned lizard, but I will be heartbroken if I move the leaves and see that I indeed killed him.  These young kids who haven't even started living clearly have no value for life whatsoever. Heartbreaking.

This incident is the same as the one which occurred nearly two years ago where two students shot another and attempted to stuff his body down the sewer drain.  What? Were they going to head to class and look around as puzzled and confused as the next student when the kid didn't show up anywhere and a massive manhunt was called?  Can you imagine them joining other classmates in the area to search for the kid at his last known whereabouts?  How does this happen?

Both of these crimes were reportedly over a girl. You know, something has gone massively awry when a student's first inclination is to rid themselves of a potential suitor.  "We'll just wipe the earth clean of this person, wash our hands, and be done".  How do you even elicit the support from someone else to do such a thing? Shockingly, there is no indication of remorse, that is until they get caught.  It's amazing what an orange jumpsuit and some bars will do to put the fear of God back into people.

Should my friends and I worry that our own sons are dating? Are there actually monsters out there that might kill them because they are dating a girl that someone else saw first? This is very disturbing.

I do not buy into the whole desensitization claims either. I don't buy into the premise that video games or television and movies perpetuate this. Even a child with Down's Syndrome understands the difference between right and wrong. Warm fuzzies and cold pricklies are undeniable.

We grew up watching Friday the 13th, Halloween, Texas Chainsaw Massacre, or even Weekend at Bernie's and the hilariously British Waking Ned Devine. We are no more predisposed to go out and slice and dice those around us or pretend dead people are still alive any more than our youngsters are.

Rather, I hold the opinion that everything starts at home, and clearly the parents need some help. There is no one perfect way to parent kids but there is a lot of common sense that needs to take place in child-rearing.

My kids have never been allowed to do anything without me knowing about it first. That is not to say I think they are perfect as they have made plenty of mistakes, but we have a very open dialog and I can sense when they are up to something or about to be up to no good because the signs are always there.  There is something incredibly empowering about being in tune with that sixth sense.

I cannot speak to what has gone on in the homes of these students.  I do know that things are not always as they appear on the outside because people have a way of hiding things they do not want others to know.  Yet from 20 years of experience I can feel confident advising any parent with young children that there are two incredibly important things they must do in their children's lives: they must know what is going on at all times, and they must nurture communication. Nobody under the age of 20 needs to be handed keys or have the door opened willingly for them without question, and nobody under the age of 20 needs privacy. Nobody.

I cannot say I have the recipe to having great kids, but what worked for us was a lot of hugs and kisses when they were little, mutual respect, a few spankings along the way, loss of privileges at times, the fear of God and some religious backbone, the wrath of Mom and consequences that mean something and actually stick, apologies when we are wrong, family Friday nights playing games when they were young, showing them we can laugh at ourselves because we all make mistakes, my staying home and working part time to be available for them after school, sitting with them at the kitchen table every day for homework through 8th and 9th grade so I knew what they were dealing with at school, consistent extended family involvement in their activities both inside and outside of school, talking nonstop about the values I wanted them to hold including giving advice even though they didn't want it, teaching them how to select friends and staying connected when I was less than sure about a few, not allowing too much isolation, modeling how I expect them to behave, encouraging them to participate in school and non-school activities, teaching them to grow a pair and stand up for themselves when necessary, also teaching them that failure is part of life, and finally having fun with them showing them life doesn't have to be so damned serious.

None of this takes any money, just inordinate amounts of time. Parents don't need to be 'stay at home' parents in order to invest time in their kids either. We have plenty of friends who both work full-time and are still very close with their kids. However I come back to one important distinction.  If you have no intention of spending this much time and effort on raising a little mini-me, then for God sake, keep your zippers shut because this is not a game.  This is for keeps.

Sadly this problem with these kids is not a school responsibility, but since schools play such a massive role in their lives there is nothing wrong with looking to them for assistance. But it will also take the assistance of community members as well.  It takes calls, meetings, walking the neighborhoods and talking to parents to figure out what it is they need help with. It takes talking with the students one on one to see where their heads are as well. There is something to be said for peer support groups where students get to see they are not alone in negotiating this weird, sometimes wacky, and often wonderful life. Adult mentoring is also important and it doesn't have to happen only in underprivileged communities.  If you think back in the news over the years, rich kids have killed too.

I know there are those that believe parents need to get off their duffs and get involved in their student's lives and stop letting others raise their kids, and still others that say the schools used to handle this sort of thing back in the day with paddling so why should parents get involved.  But I am too much of a realist to think that every parent has what it takes to raise a child.

I hate that phrase, "It takes a village." because it was used to mean entirely something else, but to overcome what has happened in Wylie, it will take the commitment of many adults and students in our community to want to fix this, for good.  It is too disturbing to hope it will not happen again without taking the time to investigate it further.  It has happened too many times already to be merely coincidence.

Learning to give kids just enough freedom but not too much is sort of like driving a manual transmission vehicle.  You learn through time where the friction point is on the clutch, let off too quickly and the ride will be bumpy, too late and it will be a little slow to start forward.  Relationships need nurturing and continued plugging in.