What If You Were Robert Crimo III's Parents?

I imagine most people reading this title might say things like “That person would NEVER be my child,” or “I would NEVER have sponsored a FOID card for that young man,” or “They all need help – they are irresponsible parents.” I don’t know for sure – maybe you’re thinking something else or reacting another way.

I am sickened to the core that happy people gathered together to enjoy an American tradition that is one of the most wholesome we can all think of – an Independence Day parade in a sweet hometown setting. A place by all means that has always been considered “safe” due to low crime and an involved community. A place that, stated in the news, is welcoming to everyone.

So why, in such a wholesome environment, did this horrific crime take place? As humans we seek to know the details – if we can somehow feel that there was something amiss, or a mistake was made, or something could have been prevented it, or we can blame someone for something, we can feel safer where we live.

Believe me – it was not lost on me how similar Highland Park is to where our family resides. We took our children from the time they were infants to parades in our hometown – I always wanted that – a place that had a hometown. We met friends and family at the parades over the years – and as our kids grew they were IN many of these parades, performing in junior high and high school band or marching for Boy Scouts, Girls Scouts, Little League Baseball, our local football program and more.

I honestly never, ever gave a thought about anyone safely participating in these parades or watching them.

So we want to pinpoint evil now – and yes, the shooting in Highland Park was an evil act, and I cannot explain it. I am saddened, angered and overwhelmed when I think of the people who have died, or were injured, and what their losses mean to so many. I only thank God for excellent officers in the police force in Highland Park, other officers called upon from surrounding areas and first responders, as well as other law enforcement units. I am grateful there were excellent emergency room staff, nurses, surgeons, doctors and counselors, and likely religious from various faiths who have stepped up to comfort mourners and the injured.

They got the “bad guy.” He is in custody, and he confessed. He almost committed more heinous shootings in Madison, WI, and again, I thank God he didn’t.

The “bad guy” – Robert Crimo III – has family that has an overall good history in the Highland Park and Highwood area. The arrested’s grandfather was the first to settle in the area, the first to bear the name Robert Crimo. The arrested’s dad had been a businessman operating a deli and pantry. He has siblings and uncle with that last name.

At one time, the current Highland Park major, Nancy Rotering, was a Cub Scout leader for Robert Crimo III. “He was just a little boy” she said. Yes, just a little boy at that time. What happened?

This gunmen was a little boy growing up in the Highland Park area like so many. No one knows at this point why he would commit a massacre.

Whatever you think of his parents (and frankly, you can come up with your own opinions, but no one has walked in their shoes but them) they now also must live with the fact that their son – the baby they must’ve carried close to their hearts – the child who must’ve been delighted on Christmas mornings at one time – has destroyed so many others’ lives and he will rot in prison for face the death penalty.

Every parent holds their newborn child in their arms and fantasizes about who they will be when they grow up. What gifts they were born with or will develop, and how they will use them to their best ability. It must’ve been a wonderful joy at that time to name their son after his father and grandfather.

Not one thinks about their child turning into a terrorist who shoots up a community. No one imagines their child ruining a national holiday and showing not only the nation, but the world that we have broken people who would destroy the most wholesome among us.

At the same time, none of us is perfect as parents – none of us. I try very hard, and I have a very good close relationship with my kids, but I am not perfect – I have lost my temper, said things I didn’t mean, etc. I have made mistakes in parenting, even though I have tried my best.

Who can read this and say they have been a perfect parent at every moment? Who can say their kids have been perfect at every moment?

To be sure, some children are very easy to raise and there are no shouting matches or breaking of rules – but I honestly don’t think that is most teens. Overall, our kids were compliant with what their dad and I asked and were well-liked by teachers, coaches and other families. Not every child has the same mental makeup other kids do for various reasons – regardless of how much you love that child or how you parent that child.

I have decided to not judge the Crimo’s. They have two other children who have not done anything problematic, to my knowledge. In my mind, they are also victims of this massacre. News reports of “faulty parenting,” (forgetting to pick their children up/not being available to get them) a broken marriage may be more typical. Extensive calls to police to the house after arguments/threats range to the more severe, of course. Some young people can be very emotionally volatile when struggling with fitting in, feeling they belong and managing emotions that feel out of control – and have significant outbursts. But the majority of them don’t end up being killers.

Most parents won’t talk about their teens or young adults having dramatic outbursts, the horrible things they might say, staying out late at night without telling parents where they are, punching holes in walls, etc. Young men and women have acted this way over the decades and most do in fact grow up to manage these intense emotions as adults.

When something horrible happens, we all want to do something to help. We also want to learn lessons or make changes that will stop this from happening in the future. And, human nature wants to distance itself from those who are viewed as being part of or even the cause of the problem. I completely understand this. And yet, I couldn’t help as this story unfolded to feel heartbroken to think that this gunman was once a baby – just a few months older than my eldest child. I feel hurt, angered and disgusted at the crime – and justice must be served – but also feel for the family. I will do my part to help however I can to assist victims. I also know some folks don’t think prayers help without action. That is true, so I will act, but I am a praying person, and as I pray for all these victims and all the pain that has rippled everywhere and for regulatory means that will make gun massacres much harder to occur, I will pray for the family too.

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