Posts Tagged ‘Newtown’

The nurse handed me the envelope like it was an Academy Award last week, and it was up to me to make the announcement.

The name on the front was of a seven-year old little bro’ from the ‘hood; in it was the tooth of his ten-year old roommate, both of them locked up this Christmas because both of their mothers have forsaken them for drugs and strange men, their daddies are in prison. Anger, profanity and destruction are all they know.

The way it happened was the ten-year old lost a tooth week before last. The Tooth Fairy happens to have access to this lock-up mental health facility for little children, and she showered him with candy, Play-Doh and stickers under his pillow.

The only problem was the ten-year old takes about five different types of medication for his mental illnesses, one of them for sleep which is in the process of being adjusted (don’t want to medicate too much too fast), and has not yet reached maximum benefit dosage yet. Translation = kid roused when Tooth Fairy left loot.

Tooth Fairy ran like the wind because said kid has long history of aggressively rousing his peers if he can’t sleep in the night, leading to mayhem and security issues. Tooth Fairy scuttled butt out of there – alas, leaving the treasured tooth behind, happy to have succeeded in leaving the loot, at that.

Fast forward to last week. Ten year old secretly convinces his seven-year old roommate that if he can convince the staff that he lost a tooth, he can have his tooth and put it under his pillow, too, and they can split the loot. Sounds like a deal!

Seven year old, waiting until the next staff rotation, faking innocence and excitement comes prancing out of his room at one point with the ten-year-old’s tooth, announcing, “Look, look! I lost a tooth. Innocent staff put it in an envelope and escort him to the nurse’s station where his oral situation is examined in detail.

Not finding any blood or newly-exposed socket, the wise, old nurse looks at the tooth in the envelope, looks at the seven-year old and pats him on the head and tells him he’ll turn it over to the child’s therapist, who has special connections to the Tooth Fairy.

After the little chap trots off to his Christmas-themed activity group designed to take his mind off the fact that he has officially been screwed over by the world at large, his therapist contemplates the envelope in question.

How are we supposed to fix a world that uses excuses like budget cuts, avoiding lawsuits at all costs and shifting responsibility?

How are we supposed to tell a broken child that it’s going to be okay, that there are other ways to manage their anger, that it wasn’t their fault?

How are we supposed to tell an exasperated parent that if it weren’t for policy constraints, we could get to the root of the problem and fix it, but they are making us discharge him sooner than later? That if we only had six more months, we could find the right combination of medications and therapy and you’ll be able to sleep again at night without worrying that he’ll follow through on his threats?

That if his parents chose him in the first place, and made him the center of their universe and stuck with him, that it might be better, and even that’s no guarantee?

That all this might not have happened if somebody hadn’t dropped the ball way back then?

So, how do you fix mental illness that includes homicidal ideation? How do you instill conscience where little hearts have been irreparably shattered?

I don’t know what the answer might have been for Newtown.

But this Tooth Fairy issued a restriction to each offender who tried to bluff her, an hour apiece at separate times so they couldn’t conspire, along with a therapeutic writing assignment (3 pages) about dishonesty. The administrator commented no such restriction had ever been witnessed before:”Trying to fool the Tooth Fairy, and right before Christmas, too,” followed by the Tooth Fairy’s professional credentials. Unheard of.

Sure, we got a lot of mileage behind closed doors out of the Tooth Fairy conundrum, but then Newtown happened, and it brought us all back to what we’re doing here on the front lines.

One offender made graphic threats to end the life of the Tooth Fairy and used his writing assignment to hurl epithets and more threats to her and her family in her direction; the other was remorseful. Just guessing, one of them will remain locked up longer than the other; one will become institutionalized, the other will be adopted and become a professional athlete.

Meanwhile, back at the ranch, the Tooth Fairy was unavailable to assist the dad at home who was temporarily thrown into a panic and shock reaction because the name on the headlines was one letter away from the name of the school our children attend – and that was another whole can of beans to contend with – the numbness, the readjustment realizing it wasn’t our children, and the bliss of extended hugs upon family reunification that evening.

That, followed by the somber realization that the parents being told their children would never come home, could have been us – and our hearts beating with theirs for that moment as we recalled the day they told us our child wouldn’t be coming home. Except ours defied odds and did. Theirs didn’t.

I pray I don’t become one in a line of several who tried but failed to prevent something like Newtown. I pray that those in the path of duty along the way can say they gave it their best, that they stuck their necks out despite policy, despite budgets, despite red-taped constraints, and did what was ultimately best for society. Even if it meant a little squirming and flack for “being too hard” on them now, for treading on thin air with regard to their “rights,” especially in light of the number of mental health hospitals which have been closing for the past couple of decades due to those budget cuts.

Now, we have to give them a chance. And that is a chance society at large bears the burden of risking.

At what point would you determine that someone is safe, no longer homicidal, no longer a risk to society, before you step them down to a less-restrictive environment? (Are there special goggles to be able to see and know where that bar lies?) And, sometimes, we simply can’t account for those who just “snap.” But certainly, there is more we could be doing as a whole, as well as individually.

God, grant us the vision to know how to prevent such horrors as Newtown. God help the families who are mourning the loss of their children and loved ones who died in the course of protecting those babies. Give us the courage in politics and religion to be able to establish common-sense rules that respect rights along with protecting the greater good without treading on  freedom…if that is even possible.

God, please make things right…

~~post script: Be it known that these enterprising young men will be receiving letters from Santa informing them that he and the Tooth Fairy work together and that they forgive the boys…and if it was loot they were after, no worries – Santa’s got your back – don’t take matters in your own hands, trust and believe, and wait…

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