The news out of Santa Rosa this weekend scared me as a parent. Charlotte Molinari, a missing 15 year old, was found dead of an apparent suicide, with her journal indicating it was a possible romantic rejection that motivated her decision. Drama, rejection, awkwardness, angst, and insecurity come with being a teenager, and I do not look forward to shepherding my children through that time, mostly because they are likely to be trying their best to shut me out while on their road to independence. Other than her death, the part of Charlotte’s story that upset me the most was that her dad knew something was up with her on the morning she set out on her final journey and he tried to stop her, but failed.
If you read the news coverage, there are a handful of nasty comments suggesting her parents should have prevented this, and while I know nothing of this family and their history, it’s unfair. As Charlotte tried to leave on her bike that morning, her father stopped her and tried to convince her that they spent the day together. She resisted, possibly agreeing to just to get some space, because soon after she snuck out while her dad was upstairs getting dressed. Her dad drove around looking for her, then called friends and family, to no avail. “It’s been kind of a nightmare ever since,” he told a reporter.
I wonder if the commenters who think he didn’t do enough expected him to have tied himself to her, or to have made her come with him when he got dressed? He didn’t know the seriousness of the situation, only that his teenage daughter was upset. I’m sure he will long regret taking his eyes off of Charlotte, but the reality is that she wasn’t a toddler. One of the more difficult tasks as a parent is walking the line between privacy and space for the child and being suffocating and overprotective. He went to get dressed and she quietly left.
The tragedy is that this was a teenager who made a horrible, myopic decision because she didn’t believe that things would get better. Blaming her dad isn’t going to undo her sad decision.