This is not a post I want to write, yet I feel I must. It is impossible to be a parent, make that a human being, and not be touched by the tragedy today in Connecticut. Most of the victims were young children. I am sick down deep in the pit of my stomach, laden with sorrow as I can only imagine the anguish of those living through a parent's worst nightmare. There are twenty tiny beds that will not be slept in again, presents that will go unopened, futures of bright-eyed, innocent children that will never be realized. In the aftermath of today's tragedy, there will be political jockeying about gun control and mental illness, none of which will ease the pain of the families who have lost children and other loved ones. As parents we hug our kids tighter, tell them we love them a billion more times than usual and question the world in which we live.
Growing up I do not recall being afraid to go to school thinking some madman might show up and shoot everyone in sight. My biggest fears were somehow embarrassing myself or having a run-in with the school bully. Perhaps my parents worried and didn't tell us, but I don't think so. Something has changed in our society over the last quarter century, and not for the better. Today brings those feelings of fear and uneasiness to the forefront again, those feelings we try to push back deep in our minds, wondering each and every day if this is the day it will happen here.
It seems there should be no safer place in this world than a kindergarten classroom. We should only be worried about our kids running with scissors or eating too much paste or getting called a name. But the reality is, every day that
All of this takes my memories racing back to Littleton, Colorado in April, 1999. My boys were both in preschool at the time, and I was pregnant with my daughter. I remember the feeling of wanting to swathe my kids in bubble wrap and protect them from the evils of the world. When fall arrived and it was time to drop my son off at that big, scary elementary school, I remember my feeling of uneasiness, knowing that he was out of my sight, out of my hands, out of my immediate protection, yet knowing I had to let him go. Life marches forward and we can't hide from it or take refuge from the 'what-ifs.'
Then just a little more than two years later, 9/11 occurred. Once again, that feeling of uneasiness and fear crept back into my bones. I had just stepped back into the house after seeing the boys off on the school bus when the breaking news of a plane crash at the World Trade Center was being reported. As I stood their, motionless, watching the scene unfold and trying to make sense of what was being said, I watched the second plane hit the second tower. I felt physically ill. I remember wanting to jump in the car and go get my kids. My mind raced as I realized this was no accident. Ultimately, I decided to leave them at school, but it was not an easy decision to make. I wondered if there was anywhere that was safe. There are no guarantees in life, that is for certain, but wouldn't it be nice if we could dial down the violence?
Understanding violence is a much deeper issue, and it seems to have its roots in our childhood. If we aren't taught as children how to feel, respond to and defend against our own pain, we are much more likely to strike out and be violent with others or be violent with ourselves. In the case of today's tragedy it appears both of these situations occurred. As our world population grows larger and the pressures of modern society grow greater, that sense of fear and uneasiness is festering within me. I sometimes question the sanity of bringing children into this world, and I wonder what kind of a world my kids will face when they are parents. Then again, I can't imagine this world without my kids. I better get over to the office supply store, I think there is going to be a run on bubble wrap this weekend.