Unfortunately, they haven’t made a film for the book “Nineteen Minutes” by Jodi Picoult, so I’m afraid I can’t include a picture of Lacy Houghton today. With the possible exception of the mother from my own novel, “He Was Weird,” Lacy Houghton is probably the easiest mother of all four literary school shooters to criticize. True, in “Nineteen Minutes,” she doesn’t suffer the abuse Eva Katchadourian had thrown at her in “We Need to Talk About Kevin,” she doesn’t escape criticism. The first instance we see is when while working as a midwife, a patient refuses to let Lacy be her midwife on account of the actions of her “horrible” son Peter. Fair play to Lacy, she acts very professionally about it. The second instance is more explosive. While testifying on her son’s behalf at his trial, the father of one of the victims gets up and shouts at her for not doing her job as a parent, which caused the death of his child.
Can we at all blame Lacy Houghton for her son’s shooting spree at his local high school? Let’s look more at the story starting from the first instance of bullying against Peter when he was five. The Kindergarten teacher informs Lacy that Peter is the victim of bullying on the playground and although the school is taking the matter seriously, (so she says), they’re also teaching Peter to stand up for himself. Lacy feels she needs to reinforce that with her son and that is the first time that the reader discovers that she knows that Peter is getting his lunchbox thrown out of the window on the school bus. Her idea is to tell Peter that if he doesn’t stand up for himself, he won’t have a play date with his only friend. This doesn’t work.
I have heard many parents reactions to the scenario of the lunchbox being thrown out the bus window and Lacy would be criticized for not doing enough for her son. Many a parent has said that they would be down at that school demanding heads on platters, even threatening to sue. I agree that the school was definitely negligent in their duty of care towards Peter and they should have done more to prevent the lunchbox episodes. Of course my own wife would have dragged the parents in and threatened them with violence if they didn’t stop their kids. I see where she’s coming from here although many parents would be content with having the children involved banned from riding the bus and threaten the parents with police action if their kids took reprisals. As for the counter argument of the kids denying it was them, there would be too many witnesses, including Peter’s friend Josie to legitimise that. With all that said, how much do we blame Lacy for this?
At the same time, others have mentioned the older brother who was on the bus at the time. Many parents would have chastised him for not looking after his younger brother. It can only be second guessed as to why Joey didn’t intervene on his brother’s behalf, maybe the kids doing it were older but we simply don’t know.
Throughout the story we know that Peter Houghton’s life is total hell but we aren’t sure how much Lacy knows. When he is in junior high school, we have instances of a mother trying to do right for her son but the result ends up in embarrassment for him. The Superman book cover is one and the other is her speaking to the coach about Peter’s lack of playing time when he was on the soccer team. Having played sports back then, I’ve seen many a parent give a coach a right roasting over their child not playing. I have to sympathise with Lacy on this one. If I went to my son’s game and they were winning 24-2 and he still wasn’t given playing time, I would be onto the coach as to why my son wasn’t allowed to go in. And I definitely would not have bought the team consistency crap the coach at Peter’s school tried to give. However, as with Peter, often times the child involved ends up being criticized or teased because of mommy or daddy speaking to the coach. Usually this is done by those who get lots of playing time and I deduce it is because they are now fearing losing that time to a less able player.
Finally, we have high school and this is when Peter finally goes on the rampage and shoots twenty-eight people killing ten. By this time, Peter is in the form of typical teenager who speaks to his parents mono-syllabically. The bullying for him has become unbearable but we don’t know how much she knows about it, if any at all. This is why after the shooting Lacy begins to question herself as a parent. She thinks maybe she should have asked more questions or gone into his room more to discover clues. Some will argue that the fact that Peter’s father kept guns was a damning indictment of any parent because they gave their child access to the weapons of destruction. Again, this is all speculation but plenty of meat for a lively debate.
I know it’s fiction but would anyone blame Lacy Houghton for her son’s school shooting? Unlike many school shooters, yes Peter had guns in the house but he wasn’t raised on them. His father hunted but he doesn’t come across as some kind of gun nut in the story. Furthermore, we don’t really know Lacy’s stance on guns. Also, none of the other common criteria is there like being raised with intolerance or forcing religion down their child’s throat. The only thing we can possibly point the finger at Lacy for is not doing enough to stem the bullying her son was suffering. The rest has nothing to do with her parenting and if she were a real life person, I would sympathise with the hell she would have to go through for the rest of her life.
Next post: Mrs Wilton