It’s not just on the Mexican Border

It’s a tragedy what is happening on the border between Mexico and the United States. You can argue breaking up families is a deterrent to illegal immigration BUT you still can’t do it because it violates the children’s human rights.

– don’t speed or we impound the car

– don’t illegally cross the border or we impound the kids.

However, Children’s human rights are not just being violated on the border with Mexico. You will find this behaviour running rampant throughout in the legal systems in North America. The problem I want to illustrate is these kids have their own unique human rights separate from their parents.

There are lots of things we could do to get the outcomes we want if you ignore human rights. But we are better than that…we have evolved farther than that…we love kids more than that. Except that we don’t because our laws represent our values and those laws fail children every day in almost every possible way.

The court systems treat kids like an appliance to be haggled over by parents. We send kids back into unsafe environments when they have a safe home because it was the “status quo” or because its that parents “right’ to have the child. Teagan is dead because of those principles.

It is well past the due date that we collectively recognized and legislate that children have their own human rights separate from either parent.

National Children’s Summit

Late last year I had to pleasure to attend the National Children’s Summit in Ottawa with our oldest child. As readers know we lost our Teagan to murder on December 10th, 2014. This tragedy inspired us to start Teagan’s Voice non-profit focused on children’s rights. It also inspired Teagan’s brothers to volunteer their time and brains to making the world a better, safer place for kids.

It was an amazing couple of days listening to youth from across Canada talk about their challenges and fears. During one session my personal and work lives began to collide. One of the topics that came up was AI and the Future of Work. The kids talked about how they keep hearing how robots will be doing all the jobs in the future and what will that mean for them? Will there be any jobs? How can they prepare to ensure they will have careers?

These are topics I talk about regularly at contextere as we transform the ‘Future of Work’. It is our belief that augmentation will trump automation for most jobs. Technology in combination with the innate human talents of creativity, empathy and judgement will make the workforce more productive and safer.

As the kids talked about their future it was encouraging to hear them express that there would always be change but through education and innovation, they believe that their place in the workforce would be different but also exciting. With attitudes like that I could not agree more and many of us in the workforce today would be wise to share that optimism.

3 Years Later

It has been three years since Teagan was killed by her mother. Some things are hard to believe – still no trial? How can we not know how Teagan was killed? At the same time, other things are not hard to believe at all. Teagan remains a part of our daily life and we still talk about her every day. We see her live on through her brothers which are either beautiful or sad depending on the day.

Clearly, this is not a date to celebrate but at the same time, you simply cannot ignore it. As a family, we focus on celebrating her birthday and remembering her formally at that point. As for tomorrow we will visit Teagan’s grave and bring her Christmas ornaments for her wreath. We don’t talk about what happened this day (though as noted earlier most of it we still don’t know) as we don’t want to the boys to end up in a dark space right before Christmas. Having said that we don’t ignore the reality she is gone and talk about her more than usual around the holidays. Rather we just don’t highlight the specific day she was murdered.

Nevertheless, there is a different energy this weekend. Teagan’s older brother has been installing kids games on his IPAD from when he and Teagan were toddlers. Last night I had a fascinating conversation with Teagan’s younger brother. Each night I rub his back before he goes to sleep. Last night he asked me “Who do you love the most in our family?”. That seemed like a loaded question but I answered: “I love everybody in our family the same”. Jack replied “Me too except I love Teagan more because she is not here anymore. I love her the most”.

I am not sure any statement could make me more happy. After the shock of Teagan’s death dissipated (the trauma never does) one of the things that most upset me actually dealt with Teagan’s younger brother. There was nothing in the world that mattered more to Teagan’s than her brothers. In fact, one of the things that kept me going after her death was knowing that Teagan’s marching orders to me would be “give my brothers the best life possible”.

However, because her younger brother was only two at the time of her death we wondered what memories he had now let alone years later. Professionals warned us that over time he would not have any ‘original’ memories of Teagan in his life. This was tragic as I know it would crush Teagan if she thought that her little brother would not remember her (you may remember from past posts that she was buried in her favourite bracelet which was a heart with two parts – one side says big sister and the other says little sister). Thus I could not be happier that our youngest child loves his sister the most out of our entire family. Teagan is smiling.

Loss of Innocence

It’s been tough since Thanksgiving. Tougher than I was expecting. Lots of tears out of nowhere. Lots of hoping that I will wake from this dream. It can’t be real. Thanksgiving marks the third year since we were together as a family. After Thanksgiving weekend 2014, we FaceTimed with Teagan often, but we were just a couple of weeks away from being together again when she was murdered. This past couple of weeks have brought back some new memories of the hours and days that followed December 10, 2014. It has become obvious that I’m not the only one of us feeling this way.

One of the memories that has been coming back recently is the Ottawa Police Officer who had the terrible duty of knocking on our door that night to deliver the unbearable news. I remember him introducing himself. “I’m Constable Wahn..W-a-h-n. Wahn”. I broke down, time stopped. I asked him if he was sure. Maybe there had been a mistake. He checked his notes. There was no mistake. He stayed a while, I’m not sure how long. It might have been 10 minutes, it could have been an hour. He talked to us. We told him about Teagan. We showed him the recent picture of the three kids that was hanging on our wall. He asked about the boys. He was worried about Stewart, but he said Jack was too young to understand – “He’ll be ok”.

We just never bought into the idea that Jack was too young and so he’d be spared from what the rest of us would have to get through over the coming years – over our lifetimes. Gabe and I knew that we were all too close and Jack and Teagan had such a bond that we couldn’t foresee a time in the future where Jack just wouldn’t be bothered by her death. We were right. Jack has reminded us many times over that he is always thinking of Teagan, that her death is something that he doesn’t understand, not because of his age, but because none of us will ever understand it, and that Teagan remains his sister and holds a very large part of his life and his heart. I want to tell you about the good and the not so good parts of this. I want to share this to provide some insight into the loss of innocence that our boys have experienced because of Teagan’s murder. I want to share this so that everyone knows that Teagan lives on in our family, and always will.

For Teagan’s 5th or 6th birthday, her Auntie Ali gave her a REALLY big teddy bear. This is the kind of bear that makes you think of childhood happiness. It was so big that it took up half a double bed. She loved it. After a while, this big teddy bear developed a rip in his seam, right in the middle of his chest. I said that I would fix it. I really meant to fix it. But, I never did. I was always too “busy” to fix the bear. She played with it anyway, and I guess I just didn’t see the urgency. I really wish I would have sewn up that bear as soon as she asked. I really wish I had just done that. But, I didn’t. After Teagan died, her toys and clothes have moved around our house a lot. We all take items and store them away in places where we want them to be, places where we hold them for ourselves. The boys play with her toys. When Teagan’s cousins come over, they play with her toys. Jack has really been into Teagan’s things lately. He’s been wearing her jewellery to bed and he’s adopted that big teddy bear, which he calls “Big Teddy”. Jack started to really get on my case about fixing Big Teddy’s chest. Finally, on Thanksgiving Monday, I found the sewing kit and Jack wasn’t going to let me do anything else but sew up that bear. He prepped Big Teddy. Jack told me that Big Teddy was really excited about this day. Then I sewed him up. It took no more than 10 minutes. Really, why didn’t I just fix that bear? Jack was thrilled. Later that night. I was laying in bed with him singing him a song and when it ended he told me, “This was the best day of Big Teddy’s life, Mom, because you sewed him up.” Jack finally got Teagan’s bear fixed.

The awareness that a person chose to take his sister’s life is not lost on Jack. He talks about it frequently. But, yesterday, he and I had an exchange that I won’t ever forget. It went like this:

Jack – “What did Lisa do to Teagan?”

Me – “We don’t know what she did buddy. The police haven’t told us yet. They will tell us at the trial.” (At this point, I should remind you that I’m talking to a 5-year-old boy. All of these words are in his vocabulary because we’ve been completely honest with the boys, not because we want him to know these words)

Jack – “We know that Lisa didn’t shoot her with a gun, because we saw Teagan and there was no blood. How could someone kill someone without there being blood?”

Me – “I have no idea buddy. But, someday, in about a year, we will know how Teagan died.”

Jack – “Why did Lisa do it. I mean, she wasn’t a murderer before that, she never murdered anyone else. Why would she ever murder Teagan, she was her daughter.”

Me – “I don’t know buddy, it just doesn’t make any sense.”

Jack – “But, like, she was a mother. How could she have killed her own daughter?”

Me – “I don’t know.”

Jack had been looking down and then he looked up at me and had tears in his eyes, but wasn’t crying and said, “I can’t understand why someone would just become a murderer and kill their own daughter.” In that moment, looking into his eyes, I could have been talking to a 90-year-old man.

Me – “I don’t understand it either buddy. The only thing I know is that she is an evil monster because she has to be to have done what she did.”

It seems he understands as much as we do. These are the things that our otherwise happy 5-year-old boy thinks about. He sleeps with water guns under his pillow and nerf guns under his bed, which he calls his “weapons” that he keeps close “in case a bad guy comes in when we are sleeping and I need to protect you”. Maybe your kids do that too because they are afraid of the dark. But, to our boys, the “bad guy” has a name. My kids should be worried about whether Santa thinks they’ve been good enough to get the latest Xbox game – not worried about whether “Lisa will die me too” (as Jack told us when he was three). This is the stuff that Lisa won’t be on trial for, but make no mistake, she sentenced all of us with a lifetime of wondering what our family would have been like if Teagan was still alive, who Teagan would have become, who we would have been if this tragedy never happened. She took their sister and she stole their childhood innocence.

Ties to Saskatchewan

Although we live in Ottawa the majority of our family lives in Saskatchewan and as a result, we spend lots of time in the Regina area. The favourite for the kids is the family farm with lots of equipment and animals – Teags always gravitated to the farm cats. It’s amazing how in such a short life Teagan was able to touch every aspect of our lives – her memories are as omnipresent and adorable as she was.

Our last family trip prior to her murder was to Moose Jaw for Great Aunt Elna’s 100th birthday. The juxtaposition of an 8-year-old being murdered shortly after attending a 100th birthday part still strikes me. Sadly this week Great Aunt Elna passed away this week. Collectively they lived for 110 years and the world is a better place for every single one of them.

For Teagan’s brothers, it’s another chapter in understanding death while at the same time realizing how unnatural the passing of their sister was. They have both aged beyond their years as a part of this process but Teagan lives on inside each of them in very visible ways.

On our trip this summer we were very fortunate to meet with the Saskatchewan Child Advocate Corey O’Soup. It’s important that we share the tragedy of Teagan’s killing with the leaders in child protection. We remain focused on systematic transformation within Governments, universal recognition of children’s right and preserving the memory of Teagan.