I couldn't make it to the library to pick out a book for my moms' group book club, so my husband picked Nineteen Minutes by Jodi Picoult, for me. The book is about a 17-year-old boy named Peter who performed a Columbine-like massacre at his high school in the small town of Sterling, N.H., killing 10 people.
The book sounded like a downer, not really what I wanted to read during my precious few free hours in the evening. Every time I'd hear about a school shooting, I'd try to put it out of my mind as soon as possible, because inevitably I would picture my kids going through one. But my duties as hostess for this month's book club meeting forced me to pick up the book last weekend. I'm glad I did--it's one of the best books I've read in a long time. It managed to be wildly entertaining and at the same time get me thinking about some serious issues, like the affects on bullying on children.
While reading the book, I cried at times because I was so moved by what the characters were experiencing. The bullying Peter goes through in his school years really hit home with me because I worry so much about Ethan being bullied. His autism makes it especially difficult for him to read social cues and fit in with his peers. In other words, he's an easy target.
But time marches on, and Ethan starts first grade in four weeks. Soon he'll be at school more than he is at home, so I can't keep him with me all the time to prevent others from hurting him. I have to come up with a new parenting strategy to keep him from feeling completely alienated from potential bullying.
This book make me rack my brain for ideas to help ease the pain of being bullied. The one fault I I had with the parents of bullied characters in the story were that they were too passive with their kids, which is something I'm guilty of, too.
I stay at home with my boys because I want to be there for them and not have the stress of a job pulling me in different directions. But even without a job to juggle, I have a difficult time staying in the moment with my kids. I get so tired of my world revolving around their issues and problems. They'll be talking to me about something important to them, like dinosaurs, and I'll be half listening. And when their constant fighting drives me to the point of get-me-outta-here exasperation, I half-heartedly try to help them work through their problems while I count the seconds until they go to bed.
Nineteen Minutes made me realize all these mundane-to-me scenarios with my kids are extremely important to their well being. Once they become adolescents and start testing their wings, what you say to them becomes irrelevant unless they respect you. And the fact is, even though teenagers can seem like mini-adults who don't need supervision, they really don't know what the hell they're doing and crave guidance. The time you spend with your kids, letting them know you care about them no matter what happens to them when they become part of the big, wide world, will buffer all the hurt they will inevitably feel as they make their way.
13 hours ago