Peter Lanza, the father of the Sandy Hook gunman Adam Lanza, gave an interview to Andrew Solomon of The New Yorker about himself and his son.
There are lots and lots of responses to Peter Lanza’s words and many of them take him to task – along with his dead ex-wife Nancy – for not doing more to get their son the treatment he needed. There are harshly critical words about the fact that Nancy Lanza had guns and ammunition in her house. There are many who are upset with Peter Lanza for not having seen his son for two years prior to the shooting. Lots of people have blamed Peter Lanza for leaving his son because he and Nancy Lanza divorced – as if people don’t get divorced all the time. I have to wonder if these commenters read the same article I did – or if they read it at all.
Peter Lanza is a devastated and ruined man. He is haunted by his son nightly in his dreams, wracked with guilt for not having done more to force himself into Adam’s life, and even stated that he wished Adam had never been born. No parent would utter those words without feeling deep, unendurable pain. None.
Peter has dreamed about Adam every night since the event, dreams of pervasive sadness rather than fear; he had told me that he could not be afraid of his fate as Adam’s father, even of being murdered by his son. Recently, though, he had had the worst nightmare of his life. He was walking past a door; a figure in the door began shaking it violently. Peter could sense hatred, anger, “the worst possible evilness,” and he could see upraised hands. He realized it was Adam. “What surprised me is that I was scared as shit,” he recounted. “I couldn’t understand what was happening to me. And then I realized that I was experiencing it from the perspective of his victims.” from The New Yorker article
There is nothing sensational or opportunistic about The New Yorker article. The world wanted to hear from Peter Lanza – and he spoke about his experience and the enormous difficulties of dealing with a mentally ill son who resisted any and all treatment options – which, once he reached the age of 18, his parents could no longer force him into. He describes in great detail the complicated and overwhelming challenges faced by his ex-wife Nancy, who during those last two years was apparently the only person Adam would interact with at all. She wanted Peter Lanza’s help, but Adam refused to see him for any reason, and Nancy, fearful of sending Adam into a downward spiral, didn’t push the issue.
In early 2012, Nancy said that Adam had agreed to see Peter in the spring, but nothing came of it. Nine months later, Peter protested that Adam never even acknowledged his e-mails. Nancy wrote, “I will talk to him about that but I don’t want to harass him. He has had a bad summer and actually stopped going out.” She said that his car had sat unused for so long that its battery was dead. – from The New Yorker article
As to the fact that Nancy Lanza had weapons in her home even when her son was clearly a disturbed individual, I have given this a lot of thought. When I think about Nancy Lanza and what she must have thought when Adam developed an interest in the military and weapons, here’s what I believe happened. In grasping at finding a connection with her son who was slipping away from her quickly, Nancy Lanza used the guns to form a bond and give them something they could do together – going to the shooting range and practicing their skills. As pathetic and sad as this sounds, it makes sense to me. If I ever felt that I was losing either of my children like she must have felt about Adam, I would move heaven and earth to keep them close. Is it rational that she did what she did? No. But neither is the love of a mother sometimes, especially in a situation as desperate and hopeless as this one seems to have been.
If you’ve ever known someone who has dealt with a troubled child – or if you yourself have – you know the agony and frustration a parent feels. Adam Lanza was an extremely sick and unhappy young man with a mother who loved him and didn’t know how to fix what was wrong with him and a father who had been cut off from his son and had no way of reaching him, no matter how he tried. What Adam Lanza did was the worst, most awful, most unforgivable thing anyone could do. Blaming Peter Lanza or Nancy Lanza is not going to change things – but reading Peter Lanza’s story may just help other parents to be aware of what happens when a child slips into the grips of mental illness. We need to acknowledge his story and let him live his life, which will never be happy again. Peter Lanza is another victim of his son’s violence.
There but for the grace of God go all of us.