What’s The Appropriate Response?


What is the appropriate response to learning another child wishes yours was dead.

That is not the sort of comment or question I ever thought I would be asked to contemplate.

Had you asked the Jack who had a pregnant wife but had not yet become a father to list what frightened him he might have said he was worried about his child getting hurt in a household accident.

He might have said he was concerned about them falling out of a tree or getting hit by a car but he wouldn’t have said he worried about school shootings or kids saying they wished his child was dead.

I suppose if you pushed him to empty out all of his fears he might have said he wondered if his children would ever deal with antisemitism and wondered how he would handle it.

But I can’t remember a single moment where I imagined a day would come when my son would come home and tell me another kid had told the other children at school he wished my son would drop dead.

Fact is when my son told me it made him nervous and uncomfortable I told him I thought the other kid was just exaggerating and said he shouldn’t worry about it.


The two of them have had a bit of a rocky relationship for a while now and for the most part I have tried to stay out of it.

I have made it clear that he can always talk to me. Made it clear I would listen and share thoughts/ideas but said I would only get involved if it looked like he couldn’t manage things.

It wasn’t because I don’t care or wasn’t bothered by it because I was and I am but I figure it is a good life lesson. It is important to learn how to deal with difficult people.

Not to mention that in my day the worst thing you could do was involve your parents in something like this. That would have invited more trouble and it is precisely why I didn’t tell my parents about disagreements with other kids.

That didn’t stop them from finding out. You can blame that to a black eye, some bruises and a little sister who had no problem telling my folks when I had another fight.

Yeah, there was more than a couple of those and if life was still as it was then I might have told my son to punch this kid in the throat.

But today you get expelled for fighting and I would prefer that he not do it if he can avoid it.

Anyhoo, reminiscing about what once was won’t help solve the challenges of today so I am forced to ask the question.

What’s The Appropriate Response?

I am not the type of person who freaks out at potential boogie men or jumps every time says boo. I don’t put on a sweater because you are cold and I don’t believe most people really mean for someone to die when they say they wish Timmy were dead.

Yet this is my son we are talking about, my child, and a father’s responsibility includes protecting his family.

It felt wrong to panic and wrong to not do anything about it but the question I asked myself was what was an appropriate response.

Part of me wanted to go visit this kid and have the sort of conversation with him that would ensure he understood it would be safer not to speak with my son again.

But the courts frown upon forty-something-year-old men having those types of conversations with teenage boys and I still wasn’t certain it was necessary.

So I took a short walk and intentionally thought about other things. I figured it wouldn’t hurt to clear my head for a few and see if that didn’t provide some clarity.

Otter: Dead! Bluto’s right. Psychotic… but absolutely right. We gotta take these bastards. Now we could do it with conventional weapons, but that could take years and cost millions of lives. No, I think we have to go all out. I think that this situation absolutely requires a really futile and stupid gesture be done on somebody’s part! – Animal House

That is an excerpt from one of my favorite scenes in Animal House. Sometimes when I am feeling a bit stressed out I pull it up in my head to lighten the mood.

Most of the time it helps take the edge off and that is always useful for making decisions.

I needed it tonight because in spite of my insouciant appearance I took this seriously and wanted to make the best decision I could based upon what I know.

What I Did

I wrote the school a short but detailed letter outlining the past problems with this boy and mentioned he has said he would like my son to drop dead.

Part of me was hesitant to do so because I am not convinced he truly meant what he said yet I felt it was better to err on the side of caution.

Better to make them aware of what this boy has said.

Better to document this and put them on notice so that if this escalates at all I can point out that we notified them about the problem.

Chances are it is nothing but talk but better safe than sorry.

This parenting business isn’t for the faint of heart.

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  1. Gary Mathews March 21, 2015 at 4:38 am

    This PC world we live in sucks, because you are right back in the day this could have been handled “man to man”, but I think you did the right thing writing the school a letter.

    • Jack March 22, 2015 at 11:20 pm

      Part of me hated writing that letter because it is not what the teen or child that lives in me would have done but it is what had to happen so we’ll see.

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