There was a case in the news this past weekend, wherein a 13-year-old 8th grade boy received an email from his school some time on Wednesday afternoon/evening, regarding a late or missed assignment, and 30 minutes or so later left his home and wasn’t seen again. While they had rain in the area on Wednesday, there was a heavy snow on Thursday. Finally, Sunday, his body was found on the family’s 13-acre property, face-down in a shallow creek, covered with snow. An autopsy performed on Monday revealed the cause of death to be self-inflicted gunshot wound.
The family is likely fairly well-off financially, given the size of their property as described in various news articles, and this young man was enrolled at The Shipley School, a first rate K-12 prep school located in the same neighborhood as Bryn Mawr College and Villanova University.
This sad news led my wife and me to a discussion of the intentional or unintentional pressure some kids are put under by their parents’ expectations. Being a public school kid from a poor rural area, I thought of this from the miserable kid angle, that maybe he took his life because he felt he’d disappointed his parents or couldn’t live up to their high expectations. My wife, who attended a prep school in the Boston area and graduated from Virginia Tech, told me that she had more often seen such pressure being self-induced by the child/young-adult, as they became hyper-competitive with their peers. She told me of a young man she knew who was attending a very exclusive mid-Atlantic liberal arts college and had maintained a straight “A” record; in his senior year, he decided to take a Phys Ed type of elective class, for which he earned a “B” grade. Despondent over his perceived failure, he jumped to his death.
This boy’s death is a tragedy for his family, friends, and community, but it could have been worse, as we have seen time and again. This obviously distraught boy could have turned that gun on his family or schoolmates/staff; scenarios which could have played out to even greater loss of life. Are there lessons to be learned by the rest of us, about this near-miss parricide or school massacre? We are often very busy in our lives, and while we think we are providing every opportunity for our children, sometimes our intentions run astray or are misinterpreted by our children as pressure to succeed and live up to the desires and expectations of family and/or peers. When the lines of communications are kept open between parent and child or school staff and child, it is easier for us to monitor our kids or for them to tell us when they are burning out or hurting. Sure, they don’t want to fail us and may say nothing—and that may be the situation in this case—but it is the best we can to for our children and ourselves.
Groove of the Day
65° Windy and Clear