Santa Barbara Shooter's Dad Feels Responsible for His Son's Actions​

Santa Barbara shootingWe all want to think the best of our kids. But what happens when you can't? Bits of a heartwrenching Barbara Walters interview with Peter Rodger, father of Santa Barbara shooter Elliot Rodger, are coming out this week, and they show the struggle of a dad who is forced to come to terms with the fact that his own child was a mass murderer.

Rodger's son, of course, is the young man blamed for killing 6 people and wounding 13 more in a spree in mid-May. But while it would be understandable for his parents to hide in the shadows in their grief, Peter Rodger has bravely come out in the light and talked about the burden he carries on his shoulders.


He didn't kill anyone.

But when your child does something terrible, you can't help but carry a piece of that with you.

As Peter Rodger said to Walters:

When you go to sleep normally, you have a nightmare and you wake up and, ‘Oh, everything's OK.’ Now I go to sleep, I might have a nice dream. And then I wake up and it's, slowly, the truth of what happened dawns on me. And you know, that is that my son was a mass murderer.

The father of the man who turned Santa Barbara into the site of a national tragedy is not throwing himself a pity party here. He grieves not just for his son but for all the victims:

Every night I go to sleep, I wake up and I think of those young men and young women that have died and are injured and were terrorized when my son did that. My son caused so much pain and suffering for so many families.

Most of us don't have to deal with that kind of guilt, but listening to this poor man, it's hard not to see that piece of ourselves in him. We work so hard at parenting, at trying to raise good, honest, kind people.

When they make mistakes -- small or large -- it feels like a failure on our part. This is our BIGGEST JOB, and we didn't do it right.

Just look at the media reports anytime a kid screws up, and the outcry centers around one theme: "Where were the parents?!" It's all our fault -- or it feels that way.

Reaching a bit? Sure. At some point we all need to recognize that we can only do so much, that our kids are not, in fact, a part of us but their own person. Their mistakes are -- by and large -- their own.

But that's easier said than done. As most of us tell our children, "you will always be my baby." Even when they've grown up and flown the nest, we still feel responsible for them and for what they do and don't do both.

May we never be in Peter Rodger's shoes ... and may all our hearts go out to moms and dads in a position like this. There but for the grace of God go we ...

Do you feel responsible when your kids make mistakes? How do you separate yourself from it?


Image via David McNew/Getty Images

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