About “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”

This post — “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother” — is all over the internet today.

There’s certainly a discussion that needs to be had about parents, especially single parents, who are raising and caring for children by whom they are physically overwhelmed or threatened and the way in which our society does not offer accessible or affordable resources for those parents and children to deal with those troubling domestic situations.

This story, despite how heart-wrenching it is (this reads as if this mother is in crisis), makes me incredibly uncomfortable because it is about her 13yo son who is a passive player in his mother’s story and whose side we never get to hear. It is unclear if this child has consented to having his story blasted across the internet. I understand these lines are fuzzy because she is also telling her story. But he will never be able to remove this story from the internet and he will never be able to disassociate it from himself as long as someone can connect him to his mother. She paints her child in a light that is not positive and I just hope hope hope that he is okay with that being out in the world.

[note: I am not sure how most parent bloggers handle the issue of consent and if anyone has relevant posts about this particular subject, please leave them in comments because I’m extremely interested in this topic. I thought about this issue when I wrote about my son on this blog the other day, I think about it when I tweet his words out into the world, and I’m especially aware of it when I put his picture up on Facebook or a video of him on YouTube. There is no easy answer here and I certainly don’t have one but this topic is especially pertinent in regards to the phenomenon of this particular post.]

This issue as well as five other reasons that this post is problematic are addressed here: “You are NOT Adam Lanza’s Mother.”

I appreciate the motivation of people to send this article around because I think it stems mainly from a desire to view Nancy Lanza through a more empathetic lens and I agree with that sentiment. I know that is why people like this post: it offers a clue as to how a parent can be around a child who is sometimes violent (or who threatens violence) and who then appears, from the outside, to have not done enough to handle the situation. But the truth is that we still know almost next to nothing about Adam Lanza or his motivations or his own personal situation, and we seem to know even less about Nancy Lanza. So much of the information coming out of Newtown has been initially incorrect, sometimes just flat out wrong, completely unrelated to any actual truth. I await official confirmation from the people in charge of the investigation before we start claiming that Adam had some sort of diagnosable behavioral problem or mental illness (those are not the same thing). Same with how we determine the kind of parent or person Nancy Lanza was (and I’m mainly thinking of all the negative descriptions of Nancy that I feel like are everywhere).

For now, what we know is that Adam Lanza shot his mother, Nancy, multiple times in the head with her own gun in her own house.

Whether her relationship with Adam mirrors Liza Long’s with her son in that post linked up top, we will just have to wait and see.


UPDATE #1: Lindsay Beyerstein has a wonderful post about this on In These Times. My fear in writing this post was being seen as vilifying the author of the original post, “I am Adam Lanza’s mother.” No, I don’t like her choice to publish an account of her son’s life that doesn’t give her son’s side or that he hasn’t clearly consented to (Beyerstein and I disagree about this). At the same time, I think this conversation about the struggles of living with a difficult child should be happening even as I have no idea how to do that without telling these children’s stories without their expressed consent.

What I DON’T think we should do is judge the parenting of the author or try to dissect whether she’s sincere or calculating. My default is to trust mothers. That’s where I stand on that.

Beyerstein:

ASM is afraid that her son might be violent. She had the courage to voice her fears. Now she’s being vilified for trying to prevent another tragedy. Total strangers, again with no evidence, are lecturing her about her own son.

A mom just can’t win.

UPDATE #2: Sady Doyle has some feelings about this and they are worth reading:

The lack of empathy for her son isn’t just in the post itself; it’s in the decision to get the post syndicated everywhere, and then go on a media tour, while granting certain outlets the right to use his picture. Honestly, if any part of this sudden microfame were unintentional, if thinking that she might have accidentally hurt her child played any role in her decisions, if it was just a blog post that got big despite her intent and she didn’t mean for it to have consequences for her son, that’s what it comes down to: Upon realizing how popular the post was, she would have taken down, not spread, his picture. That hasn’t happened. “Michael” has been dehumanized so far that he’s not even a crazy scary demon alien any more; he’s just a prop, a springboard, something we can use to talk about how tough Liza Long’s life is. To “start a conversation” he didn’t control, and didn’t ask for, and doesn’t enter into, and that almost certainly will harm him more than it will ever stand to help him.

Yes, Liza Long should be able to share her story. But this isn’t her story. It’s the story of someone who’s completely dependent on her, and has no ability to meaningfully resist her or speak for himself.

UPDATE #3“I am Adam Lanza’s mother.” The story is (still) unfolding:

At the top of Liza Long’s per­sonal blog there’s now a joint state­ment from her and Kendior ask­ing the blo­gos­phere to cease and desist from the cyber free-for-all. It car­ries this pref­ace from Long: “Many of you have seen Sarah’s excel­lent blog in the past few days. I think she makes some impor­tant points about children’s pri­vacy. We have been in con­tact, and I am truly impressed with her pro­fes­sion­al­ism and her con­cern for chil­dren.” That strikes me as a response of uncom­mon grace – and a good reminder that we’re all far more than the sto­ries that define us.

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One thought on “About “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”

  1. “What I DON’T think we should do is judge the parenting of the author”

    Yeah, judging her parenting would of course be so horrible, while letting the whole world know about her crazy, paranoid, slanderous assumption that this boy might become a psychopathic mass murderer (!!!), FOREVER stigmatizing him, possibly RUINING his life, probably making his next years in school a LIVING HELL, obviously pales in comparison. The first thing is unimaginably offensive and should almost be considered a felony, if you ask me, whereas the second thing evokes little more than a meh from me. If she thinks it’s a good idea to humiliate him in public, it’s obviously her right to do so as a parent.

    “My default is to trust mothers. That’s where I stand on that.”

    Trusting mothers is of course important, but when it comes down to it, PROTECTING THE CHILD should always come first. Sometimes children need to be protected from their parents, mothers or fathers. She pities herself, I pity HIM. If he wasn’t fucked up before, he will be now. And what did she say, he’s writing on a novel? That made me cry when I heard it. He may be one of the greatest geniuses of this century, who knows? And his mother is just in the process of traumatizing him so deeply he may never recover from it. Shame on all those who blindly cheer for her. SHAME.

    She doesn’t even know the first thing about the kind of crime she thinks her son is capable of anyway. He seems to have a very hot temper which obviously is very problematic, may lead him to hurt others out of emotional outbursts in the heat of the moment, nobody should downplay that, but is he a cold-blooded sociopath? Being very aggressive (as a 13-year-old!!) doesn’t automatically make you a mass murderer, but being cold-blooded certainly can. Those who go on such shooting rampages are capable of shooting children in the face because they have little or no empathy. There’s NOTHING in what she wrote that suggests he has a lack of feelings for others, just a very hot temper that may have a lot of reasons and could be treated without drugging his precious personality away, without institutionalizing him, and without humiliating him before the whole world.

    He’s smiling at a butterfly in the picture. If she had been able to tell a story of him torturing frogs, cutting cats’ tails off or so, that would have been a different story. THOSE are the kids that scare me. THOSE are the kids that may become Monsanto CEOs, drone operators, or mass shooters. But a 13-year-old angrily pointing a knife towards his mother, saying “I will kill you”? Seriously? She and her cheerleaders don’t know anything about the human psyche if they think that makes him a likely Adam Lanza. Elsewhere on her blog she (“jokingly”, of course) fantasized about strangling and stabbing her children. Why is his threat taken SO seriously, and hers are simply waived off? (Of course I don’t think she would kill her children. Just as I don’t think he would kill his mother, or anybody else.)

    I find it very disturbing that so many would side with her and show so little concern for him. I think it shows how authoritarian-minded most people still are. Kids are objects. Property. Animals to be broken. No… parents should not be allowed to be autocratic tyrants who can fuck up their kids any way they want.

    And if all this sounds harsh, I also really felt sorry for her when I first read the story and still do to some degree, she just seems to be very confused and desperate, but the blind cheerleading makes me incredibly angry. Those people are NOT helping her. She and her son need to talk and listen to each other, but this article will only drive another, possibly final, wedge between them. He may never be able to trust his mother again — think about what that will mean for their relationship. People shouldn’t celebrate her, people should feel terribly sorry for her and first and foremost for her son.

    Please, everybody should read this article here and the thoughtful comments below it:

    http://www.disabilityandrepresentation.com/2012/12/16/no-you-are-not-adam-lanzas-mother/

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