It would be easy to damn Peter Lanza for saying that he wishes his son had never been born, as he did in an interview published this week in The New Yorker. Not only did his son Adam kill 20 children and six staff members at Sandy Hook Elementary School, he terrorized them. All I can imagine is how victims looked in the seconds before taking their last breath as they heard and saw Lanza gunning down others inside the school.
Instead, I feel incredibly sorry for Peter Lanza and his ex-wife, Nancy, Adam’s mother, whom Adam also shot dead that day, Dec. 14, 2012. Peter Lanza’s interviews paint a picture of how a little boy with little problems grew into an older boy with problems that began to overwhelm him, then into a 20-year-old who had retreated into his own head and barely functioned. His parents tried to help him. The uncertainty they felt during his treatment and their will to make him better seem like a universal experience for parents faced with how to best deal with a serious issue involving a child.
Whether a child is in the hospital fighting pneumonia or is newly diagnosed with a disability or is depressed because of a divorce in the family — any challenge — you seek out experts and take advice. The information you’re faced with is consuming, confusing. When your child doesn’t respond to treatment, or is unable to, you try your best to accommodate by finding other ways to fix the problem. Sometimes they are not the best ways, but you believe you’re trying your best.
Based on his account of what happened as his son grew up, Peter Lanza might have made other, better choices. He admits that. He didn’t see his son for two years before the shooting because his son didn’t want to see him, and he regrets not trying harder to make contact, however disruptive that would have been to Adam and the household he and his mother created.
So when Peter Lanza says he wishes his son hadn’t been born, I don’t blame him. I could never imagine saying the same thing about my child, but his pain and sense of failure come through with the controversial words.