My son shared the news with me about a local high school boy who shot himself. An All-American boy, handsome and athletic, a football star with deep brown eyes and a smile that looked like he owned the world. Rumor or truth not yet determined. A fifteen-year-old boy who supposedly killed himself in his bedroom after being punished for throwing a party. A blunder of youth followed by a life-changing decision to end it all. Forever punishing those around him.
So much of this boy’s story makes me reflect on my children. The parallels between his family and mine are too much to ignore. He was one of four children, two boys and two girls, just like my family. He played football, attracted girls, and, on the exterior, looked to have it all. He’s how I envision my own son who’s only a few grades behind him. I thought about the boy’s sisters who lost a brother. Their unimaginable sadness the same as if my girls had lost their brother. As a parent, I feel this family’s grief. I hurt for them and they don’t even know me.
Suicides have steadily increased in our school district. Perhaps, say some, it’s an overindulgence of wealth or unrealistic expectations to chase adult dreams implored on children by parents who are out of touch with today’s reality. It’s been said that the pressures today are more intense than ever before. Factors that neither report cards, standardized tests, nor sports accolades reflects. The inescapable pressures of social media and the quest to have it all. Whatever the cause, no family is immune.
As word spread about the boy’s suicide, the comments on social media poured in on Twitter and Instagram, with hashtags of remembrance. There were those people expressing condolences, best friends and acquaintances, and others asking what happened innocently, never expecting suicide or his method as the cause of such tragic news. There were the few etiquette police telling people to delete comments asking how the boy died as if it were insensitive to write. The insensitive part was what this boy did to his family and friends, over an issue seeming monumental in youth and insignificant in time. A life that wasn’t yet lived enough to have it all in perspective.
This was my warning. I wonder if I’d notice the signs of impending suicide in my children. Am I building a strong foundation, communicating enough, and striking the right balance between disciplinarian and confidant to ward off suicidal thoughts in the turbulent teen years ahead? There’s no roadmap in parenting. All I can do is learn from this boy’s short life.