My son and Adam Lanza

My son didn’t turn in his math homework.

A straight-A student, he brought his grade down to an F.  This has happened before.

The weird thing is, he does it.  He just doesn’t turn it in.  I’ve heard it’s a middle school thing.  The excuses range from “I left it in my locker” to “It wasn’t in my folder” to “I couldn’t find it in my desk.”

Huh?  True, it’s not like he committed mass murder, but still.  It makes me wonder how well I know my son.

And it made me think about that woman who wrote, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother,” after Newtown.  She was on a PBS special this week and she talked about how she carries a Tupperware container full of knives, hammers, and other sharp kitchen tools in her car in case her son attacks her again with a knife.  He was 10 at the time.

She said they live on eggshells, terrified of the next violent eruption.  The child himself said he hates it, but can’t control himself.

Probably a lot like Adam Lanza.

I realize that, in the scheme of things, not handing in homework is a minor thing, and something my son will probably (hopefully?) grow out of.

But this ability to lie so well worries me.  What else don’t I know about my child?

I don’t for a minute believe he’ll grow up to be the next Adam Lanza.  But how well do any of us really know our children?  Lanza’s mother knew her son was troubled, warning babysitters never to leave him alone.  But did she ever suspect he would shoot her in the face, or spasm into such a violent killer?

Probably not.

We’ll never know what ghosts and demons haunted Adam, and in the end, it doesn’t matter.  Twenty beautiful little children are dead.  A neighbor has a fir tree in his yard decorated with 20 tiny turquoise paper angels and though I don’t need a reminder, it jolts me once again every time I run by it.

The PBS special noted that love and caring can sometimes dissuade a child from violence. If only it were that simple. But what choice do we have?  We took Phillip’s computer and iPod away, and removed the (prized) lock on his door. We can nurture and support and love our children, and apply discipline when it’s needed (I admit I’m weak on that), and yes, be alert.  But does it really work?

I don’t believe punishment would have worked on an Adam Lanza, but a consistent, disciplined, loving approach to raising a child is most likely the answer.  Adam Lanza’s mother probably wished she only had missing homework to deal with.

Parenting is tough, confusing, maddening work.  And often, like me, we don’t have answers. But we’re all in this together.  We have to stick it out, do our best.  And keep our fingers crossed.

Deborah DiSesa Hirsch is a writer living in Stamford. Her blog is


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