When children murder

It’s been a rough week for my old hometown of Barrow.  The tragedy of the taxi driver’s murder there has resonated throughout the community with dramatic force. Not only is this the second murder in a little over two months, but the accused are just kids. They should be getting ready for homecoming. Instead, they are preparing for a murder trial.

And the community that lived in fear since the murder that there was an unknown monster in their midst must now come to grips with the fact that this “monster” was not really a monster at all, but two of their own children.

Our first instinct when something like this happens is to think that these kids probably came from bad families or that they are bad kids. This gives us a degree of separation from the situation that is somehow comforting.

The reality is that when you know the families, you also know the answer is never that simple. These kids did not have “bad” parents. Their parents tried their best to raise their children right. I know this because I know them. And now they are in shock and pain, a feeling that has spread throughout their community of friends and extended family.  There is simply no way to prepare for a time when your child is arrested for murder.

This whole thing would be more understandable if these boys came from the families I see on my Guardian Ad Litem caseload.  I expect those families to make the bad parenting decisions that lead to future tragedies.  When you regularly abuse alcohol and drugs, your decision making process is impaired to the point of being useless. And I’ve never had a case in which substance abuse wasn’t a factor in the family.

If nothing else, this case proves my thesis that some really good kids can come out of some really bad homes. And some really bad kids can come out of really good homes. But most tragically of all, some really decent kids can be in the wrong place at the wrong time trying the wrong substance and they make the one bad decision that will ruin the rest of their lives.

On the day I heard about the arrest of the two Barrow boys, I also heard about the latest teen party trend here in Anchorage. It left me wondering about supposedly healthy parents and the decisions they make.  Apparently we now celebrate teen birthdays with parent approved co-ed sleepovers. 

I thought last year when I heard about the party bus you can rent for your teen’s celebration that I’d heard everything. But this really takes the cake.  Parents actually arranging a situation in which hormonally driven teenage boys and girls are deliberately placed together in the most tempting situation possible.

Do these parents not realize that between puberty and 30 we are more sexually driven than in the whole rest of our lives?

I was told that the parents would chaperone the event so it would be safe.  I hope that means they plan to stay up all night with a baseball bat in their hands in front of the locked door separating the boys and girls. If not, nine months from now they may be staying up all night with their birthday child’s baby. Or, god forbid, watching their child cope with the shortened life expectations of AIDS.

The situation in Barrow was a tragedy created by two young men who apparently made some very bad decisions and will now have to live with the consequences of those decisions for the rest of their lives.  Coed sleepover birthday parties are bad decisions made by idiot parents that can result in consequences their child will have to live with for the rest of his or her life – consequences a good parent should be protecting their child from, not opening the door to.

To the parents of those boys in Barrow, I send my love and sympathy. To the parents here in Anchorage who think coed sleepovers after the age of 8 are appropriate, I say get a clue.  You’re their parent. Act like one. Protect them the best you can from the bad consequences of an impulsive act. 

I know two sets of parents in Barrow who wish they could turn back time and protect their sons in just that way.