The pair of police stood casually by their squad car as I walked up toward my son’s schoolyard. That there were three squad cars and a white van that said “Forensics” on it set off my internal alarms, immediately giving way to a respectful distance and asking as to what was going on.
One police man answered my real question, “All the kids are safe; all is fine.”
Though I got the spiel, something was clearly not fine so I asked a nearby parent, who unfortunately had not noticed the lineup of police vehicles, and answered that it was probably a police presentation. No, my gut knew something was not fine as I waited in the schoolyard and my eyes rested on the school’s front door…waiting.
After a very long ten minutes, my son came out of the school and greeted me with a bit of surprise to see me because he often heads to an after school playgroup with friends. I reminded him that I came to take his diorama home, to keep it from getting damaged while walking or damage from the rain.
This diorama, a box scene of an Ojibwa community, became an important model that he created as a display to go along with his class presentation. While it displays a message of what Ojibwa life is about, my being there to preserve this model was a message of how proud I was of him and how much I valued his efforts in creating this piece. A diorama, in short, is a box that conveys a message. The irony in this was that there was also a box inside the school that was conveying an entirely different message by displaying a severed human hand.
As I know now, Luka Rocco Magnotta had two boxes delivered to two different schools in the city with body parts – a gross act for an entirely unfathomable personal reason and message to send. Disgusted and feeling horror for the school staff that opened the box, I then turned a serious concern as to what to say to my son, or what to do. I knew that the following day at the school would be full of media and kids would be talking to each other about what happened, so I needed to make some decisions fast. However, my son is 9!
This is the type of horror that may be joked about on tv, but not to be experienced in real life. I had suddenly imagined a scene of 11 and 12 year olds at school, making jokes and scaring the younger 6 and 7 year olds at school with made up fantastic scary stories. But, honestly, what does that discussion look like when you have to tell your son, a 9 year old, “Um, I need to tell you that a man killed another human being, cut him into pieces, and sent the hand of this man to your school in a box.”
In the end, we decided to tell him just that, the basic facts, because we felt that it would be better for him to know the basic truth from us then to leave him to rely on what he’d hear from other kids on a whim. From what I read the next day, it was a good choice because the messages from the media and people were chaotic and discordant – and perhaps not so much different then person who sent the box.
Plenty of the media arrived to the school grounds in hopes of getting parent reactions and interviewing staff. I found it conflicting and interesting to hear the mayor and the police describe this act as horrific and traumatizing to the people involved, while the school principal relayed to the media that the staff were handling it well and class instructions were going forward normally – really?! Even more astonishing, was reading a sound bite from a parent I know, that they hadn’t informed their 8 year old son, and that they would just answer his questions if he decided to ask them any. I thought: Oh my gosh! This is so much like the approach to sex, and the variety of other topics that parents need to have with their kids. I have to admit, I felt that avoiding the topic and leaving the responsibility to the child was not taking responsibility as a parent should – that’s my judgment. In the avoidance of the topic, there was a message relayed to that child in the moment, so perhaps the most important question is: What is the message received by that child by their parent?Pin It