Saturday, June 7, 2014

"Are You Serious?" Awards - Volume XXI: The Tragic Teaching Edition

Last week at this time, while we were busy feeling outraged about a foolish special ed high school teacher giving her graduating students toilet cleaner and a brush as gifts, something horrific was occurring.   Two twelve year old girls were consummating their loss of delineation between fact and fantasy by savagely stabbing an unsuspecting friend 19 times in a park near their homes in Waukesha, WI (approximately 22 miles from our headquarters).  They both told police that they had done this in order to curry the favor of an eery fictitious character who was meant to give goosebumps to fans of fright.  However, these 2 girls seemed rather convinced that this created creepster was absolutely real.  With a mixture of adult cunning and childish planning, they schemed to kill their friend and walk the 195 miles to the Nicolet National Forest where they believed this character to live, with only a few water bottles and granola bars in their back pack.

It is hard to capture in words what this has done to Southeastern Wisconsin.  While the act was beyond comprehension, I couldn't help but break into tears seeing these 2 girls, the same age as my youngest child, hauled into court in shackles, being charged as adults.  It wasn't that there wasn't good reason to charge them as such, it is that story hits too close to home, in ways greater than just physical proximity.

Why am I sharing this in the context of a blog for parents raising kids with special needs?  Because one of the first things I thought when I heard of this crime was, "There but for the grace of God go I". 

 Are you SERIOUS?!

The victim in this story could have been my eldest child a few years earlier.  In fact, we stood there agape as we looked at these girls being charged, stunned at how similar the appearance and demeanor of one of the girls was to a "friend" that my daughter had been involved with for several years.  

I had put my daughter in public school at the Lord's prompting after a few years of homeschooling.  Being treated as a relative outsider, she gravitated towards another girl in the class who was a bit of an outcast.  They became close friends.  Unfortunately, this girl's home life and background were not at all like ours.  We welcomed her into our home with great warmth, but the darkness in her family life, in her past, were too great to overcome.

At one point, she and another "friend" literally trapped our daughter in a local river and scratched the heck out of her.  It was horrible, terrifying, and macabre.  I wasted no time in calling the parent of one of the girls (I didn't know who the other girl was at the time).  Not prone to being a helicopter parent, I set firm boundaries, not allowing the friendship to continue because it was so unhealthy.

Eventually, the "friend" did apologize to my daughter and they mended fences for awhile.  I was extremely reluctant for my daughter to ever be near this friend again.  Looking back, I should have stood my ground.  Still, God guarded and guided my eldest daughter in this tumultuous relationship despite her youth.

In the final analysis, my daughter parted ways with this girl and the others in that friend group.  She came to realize, darkness has nothing in common with the light.  Jesus was more important to her than these girls.

I share this anecdote with you because, at a time where parents heads are reeling and hearts racing from such a story -- everyone wondering why... HOW... this could happen with girls so young -- God is prompting me to share with all of you how He protected my daughter from being the one crawling out of that park on Saturday, fighting for her life.

Image courtesy of wrangel via

When I glance at the big picture of this story, then dissect the various pieces, this is the wisdom that the Holy Spirit reveals to me:
  1. Proverbs 4:23 tells us, "Guard your heart more than anything else, because the source of your life flows from it." (NOG)  My kids gave me grief from little on about asserting authority with age-appropriate entertainment.  As the old computer addage goes, "Garbage in.  Garbage out."  When you examine what not only these 2 girls, but their families were perseverating over, this horrible tragedy should come as no surprise.  Jesus warned us that we would reap what we sow.  Death was sowed in these poor girls' lives from adults who were charged with their development and character formation.  The children committing this henious act were not taught to guard their hearts, and neither were the adults at home guarding their own hearts.
  2. "Train up a child in the way he should go, And when he is old he will not depart from it," so says Proverbs 22:6 (NKJV).  What this means is, despite our exhaustion, even if we think our children are gaining independence, we still need to be monitoring them and continually speaking with them about godly behavior.  The fact that these girls were allowed to obsess so heavily over a dark character without any adult intervention suggests a level of parental disengagement.  Early on in raising my children, I learned that constant dialog with my kids is essential.  What are their interests?  What are they doing with their friends?  Do they know how to say "No" to a friend when they don't like the direction things are going?  They are not just another possession like a car or a house.  They are God's creation who have been entrusted to our care.  Additionally, I can't show my children the "way they should go" unless I am engaged in intimate relationship with Christ, seeking His direction.  My children follow me as I follow Him.  If that piece is missing, literally anything can happen in the void.
  3. "Let the message of Christ dwell among you richly as you teach and admonish one another with all wisdom through psalms, hymns, and songs from the Spirit, singing to God with gratitude in your hearts."  (Colossians 3:16, NIV)  Equally important is mutual communication between parents.  Not all of us share the same values.  Setting boundaries around what we will and will not allow with our children is critical.  This may mean that we don't allow our child to attend certain events or engage in certain activities because they are in direct conflict with our values as a family.  We should also be resolute enough about the well-being of our child to be willing to pick up the phone or visit a friend's household when things are not going so well.  If there is inappropriate or unsupervised activity, we need to speak up.
  4. In Isaiah 30:21 God assures us, "You will hear a word spoken behind you, saying,'This is the correct way, walk in it,' whether you are heading to the right or the left." (NET)  TRUST the parental instincts that the Lord placed inside of you.  The consequences are too grave for you to suppress that gut you may be feeling about what is going on with your child.  No one knows your child like you do (that is if you are paying proper attention to them).  Also, training our children to walk away or even flee when something doesn't seem right, is an important, Holy Spirit skill that we need to impart in our young charges.  Our children with special needs are especially vulnerable.  Loneliness or being marginalized can make them more readily accept a friend without using discretion.  It is our duty to teach them and walk them through those important social skills.
  5. "It was by faith that Jacob, as he was dying, blessed each one of Joseph’s sons. Then he worshiped as he leaned on the top of his walking stick," Paul tells us in Hebrews 11:21 (NCV).  There are countless examples of parents and grandparents blessing their children and their legacy.  In the final analysis, we cannot be with our children everywhere.  With an age of electronic overuse, I have been glad to see my kids enjoy good, clean, old-fashioned fun by playing in the woods.  However, I cannot be with my kids every minute of the day, supervising their activity playing outdoors away from our house.  I can equip them ahead of time with what is safe or appropriate, but it is the LORD that goes with them, not I.  We need to lift our children up to the Father in prayer, and ultimately trust Him to go with them when they are away from us.
  6. In Psalm 82:3 we are charged to, "Defend weak people and orphans.  Protect the rights of the oppressed and the poor."  (GW)  All we have to do is pay cursory attention to the news and we can see that mental health is not being properly addressed in this country, in this world.  When students are killing fellow students from junior high school through college age, something is wrong inside these kids.  When all of our accusations and cries for gun control produce no positive movement forward, the heart problem inside of our kids festers.  When our health care system continues to provide limited, lesser care for the mentally ill than for those with a physical illness, we witness a problem that will only grow tougher over time.  As believers, we must support the cause of those with mental illness and we must share the love of Christ with individuals struggling with these diagnoses.  Support, not blame, criticism or accusation is needed to redeem this widespread problem.
Praise God that at the writing of this post, the girl who was stabbed 19 times with a kitchen knife by 2 girls she thought were her friends only a week ago, has now been released from the hospital and returned home!  The LORD surely had His hand on her.  Doctors say that she literally came within a millimeter of losing her life with one of the wounds.  Her emotional healing will likely take years.  Even so, the engagement and support of Wisconsinites and others worldwide can awaken us to the darkness of this world and help us to activate in pushing it back.  There are no easy answers in a horrific tragedy like this.  Our hope must come from the LORD.

~ Barb Dittrich

*For further reading, 'Sadistic' Waukesha stabbing stuns parents, children,  EXCLUSIVE - 'She couldn't tell the difference between dreams and reality': Brother of girl, 12, who 'stabbed friend 19-times as offering to mythic Slender Man' claims she loved paranormal figure,  Revealed: Father of girl, 12, who stabbed 'school friend 19 times to prove Slender Man myth was real’ proudly shared her sketch of horror creature on his ‘DEADBOY’ InstagramNo easy answers in 'Slender Man' case

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