I've spent the weekend replaying that conversation, in disbelief that I've said this out loud to someone other than my therapist who hears it nearly every session. But I'm not the only member of my family thinking this. Just today, an immediate family member asked me, "Do you think this is something your son could do someday?"
Our eyes met, knowing the answer.
My eight-year old son has seven locked-down psych ward hospitalizations under his belt for being a danger to himself and others (namely, his mother). He has fought his way through life so violently that he has endured multiple injections of Haldol (a chemical restraint used in prisons), physical restraints to a bed, physical restraints by six armed guards at once, hundreds of physical restraints by therapists and counselors, medications that could tranquilize an elephant but somehow can't always tranquilize him, and excruciating time wailing in the so-called "Quiet Room" in the psych ward.
He is a child who snaps, who can become clinically psychotic and utterly dangerous.
But this is only one small, albeit loud, aspect of my beautiful child. He is also a child who took the candy canes he received from St. Nick to school so that he could share them with his classmates. He is the child who loves his brother so much that he offered to share his bedroom, even though there are two. He is the child who looks out for kids that bullies pick-on, and stands up for what is right. He is the child who hates imagining the day his parents are dead and gone because he loves us so much. He is the child who pines for his friends who no longer attend his school. He is the child with the purest of hearts, but a mis-wired brain.
"God gave him to us," said my family member. "He is our responsibility. It is our responsibility to him and to society to make sure this will never happen."
I looked at this family member all sorts of funny. As if I, or anyone, can stop a person in the height of a crazed, violent episode! Having been simultaneously the victim and the "first responder" during raging, dangerous situations, this idea that somehow it is my responsibility to ensure peace seems audacious at best, and utterly impossible in reality.
But it is just this sort of thinking that will allow another Adam Lanza to strike again.
It is my responsibility to keep my son subdued as I have managed to do these many years. And do you know what? It's your responsibility, too.
Rather than insisting that we mourn and not talk about gun control today, we must talk about how to keep firearms and other deadly weapons from the hands of the mentally unstable...not only for their safety but for our own.
Rather than not uttering Adam Lanza's name so as not to provide him any more infamy, we must talk openly about how mental illness manifests in people...not only for their safety but for our own.
Rather than distancing ourselves from "the crazy people" in hopes that they don't bother us, we must understand how to help them...not only for their safety but for our own.
Rather than imprisoning people who are mentally ill, we need to provide them effective treatment...not only for their safety but for our own.
Rather than stigmatizing people who see therapists, we need to positively support them for getting the help they need...not only for their safety but for our own.
Rather than bashing psychotropic medications and focusing on their negative side effects, we must encourage people who need these medicines to take them...not only for their safety but for our own.
Rather than dismissing alternative medicines as quackery, we need to praise people for searching for help...not only for their safety but for our own.
Rather than secularizing the daily lives for those who are faithful, we need to foster the ideals of the Divine...so that all of us who pray may lift up those who need it most.
Imagine, for a moment, being the parent of a child who lost their lives at the hands of a shooter. It is a no-brainer that you would give away all your worldly possessions just to have your child back. If these lives are so precious to us, then we must be willing to help fund treatment and research for mental illness. Why not take that extra $5.00 in your pocket that you'll spend on a cup of personalized coffee, and give it instead to a charitable organization serving the mentally ill?
As for my responsibilities this week, I'm meeting with a special needs attorney, an at-home behavioral consultant, my own therapist, my son's therapist, and a state agency that provides support for those with mental illness...all so that I will NEVER be Adam Lanza's mom.
As for your part, please, I beg you, take responsibility.
Christina Shaver is the founder of Hopeful Parents.