I don’t work on Fridays; I spend the day at with Theodore and Anna; baking, doing housework, and reading stories – generally enjoying the life of a part-time stay at home mom. This past Friday afternoon I had made plans to go to Thomas’ school to give a long-planned talk on the solar system to his kindergarten class. I had a power point presentation, solar system objects for each child to hold in a interactive activity, and planet coloring sheets all ready to go. I was excited when Jeff came home early to take over the care of the little ones. Before I left Jeff asked whether or not I had heard any news that day. We don’t ever watch the news in our house and I rarely get a chance to read the happenings of the world on the internet until the children are asleep so I hadn’t heard anything. Jeff briefly told me what had happened in Connecticut and I walked out of the house to Thomas’ school in a daze. I didn’t really know how to even process the news of what Jeff had told me but I felt tears springing to my eyes at the thought of such horror and pain. I could logically think about the issues of gun control and mental illness; but I could not emotionally understand how such a thing was possible. I took a deep breath before I walked into the school and tried to focus on the excitement of outer space.
As I was walking to Thomas’ classroom I found my pace quicken. I was taken by the sudden urge to hurry and I practically ran into the room to gather him up in a big hug and plant a kiss on his cheek – right in front of all his classmates. Thomas’ face broke into a big grin. I smiled back with the appreciation that he is still at an age where it is cool for your mom to give you a hug and a kiss for all to see. We talked about the solar system for 40 minutes; the kids were excited and asked all sorts of (mostly) intelligent questions. The presentation was at the end of the school day so after we were done I simply took Thomas by the hand and headed home. These days, I don’t often hold his hand when we walk together but I took it and didn’t let go until we got to the car.
We had a good weekend together as a family; the carousel at the mall was ridden, Christmas presents were made, and cookies were baked. But late at night as I nursed Annie to sleep I read the news of the massacre on my iphone. I read the names and birthdays of the children, all of them with birthdays within days or months of Thomas’. I just felt so sad and so vulnerable. Deeply sad for the families who lost their loved ones and for the survivors who must deal with the aftermath. Vulnerable for my children and all children really. I am not worried about my kids at school per se; not really concerned that we any of us will be the victim of random violence. But as a parent, you want to believe that you can protect your children; that if you are vigilant enough somehow they will be immune to anything bad happening. I think we can, and should, enact greater controls over weapons of mass murder such as assault weapons. I think we can and should do more to treat mental illness. But I also know that all the gun control and psychiatric care and car seats and vaccines and fire drills and talks about stranger danger and hand holding will not necessarily keep my kids safe. And I when I think about that I feel physically ill. Thomas, Theodore, Anna, and all those perfect, beautiful children in Connecticut; children who sound just like Thomas and the kids in his kindergarten class – right down to many of the same first names – are all innocent and we must do better to protect them.
Thomas asks a lot of questions – we’ve discussed religion, war, alcoholism, politics, and where babies come from. I usually enjoy his questions; pleased at how inquisitive and forthright he his. This time, though it is my deep hope that Thomas does not hear about the school shooting; if he does he will ask and there will be no sugarcoating the issue with him, he will want details. If he asks I have no answers to give him, only sadness and my promise that I will keep him as a safe as possible. That doesn’t feel like enough. I need to go give him and his brother and sister another hug and kiss now.