I am a mom. No matter what I do or where I go, I will always and forever be a mom. And so when I hear of another mother losing her child, instinctively, I reach for the kidlets and hug them as close as I can and then let them go, because that's what I'm supposed to do. Raise them and teach them and send them out in the world with the tools they will need to become the adult-lets God intends them to be. I am their steward, nothing more, nothing less.
So, when I hear about tragedy of such unimaginable tragedy as the massacre in Sandy Hook, Connecticut, I hold them just a little tighter and a whole lot longer. I don't want to send them out into the world. I want to keep them with me. Close. Behind locked doors. With a T-Rex in the backyard instead of a watch dog. I want to shield them from the ugly in the world.
But I can't. Not when the ugly forces it's way into our life.
Like so many people, I watched for updates, hoping against hope that the reporters had it all wrong. And while some of the facts were off base, the one thing that remained accurate was that a man walked into a school, armed to kill. Which is what he did. He killed chilldren. He killed LITTLE children. He killed little children the same age as the kidlets. And as heartbreaking as it was, I could find some comfort in the fact that it wasn't here. It wasn't someone we knew or even the family of someone we know. Until all of a sudden, it was the family of someone we know.
That's when the ugly pushed it's way into Kidletville and cast it's coldness into our life. Suddenly, those heart wrenching pictures of people in agony were not strangers. They knew this little girl. They saw her on the playground. Their children knew her from the hallways. They may have even played with her at recess. Maybe they sat with her on the bus that morning. These were no longer strangers. They were now an extension of Kidletville. There was a connection and like it or not, I felt no choice but to tell my children about the tragic event.
Having some background in the way the minds of kids work, I started out simple. I told them someone went into a school with guns and he shot a lot of people. And then I waited for the questions. And they came.
Q. How many children?
A. Around 20.
Q. Where there any grownups killed?
A. Yes, they aren't sure exactly, but around 7 or 8.
Q. Did any children live?
A. Yes, not everyone in the school was injured.
Q. But of the kids who got shot, did any of them live?
A. I think there is one in the hospital, but no one knows if that child will survive.
Q. Why did someone do this?
A. I do not know.
Q. Did the teachers protect the kids?
A. Yes. some even died trying.
R. That's very brave.
My R. Yes, it's very brave.
Q. (The question I'd been dreading) How old were the kids?
A. They were between 5 and 10.
Kidlet 2's R. Hey, I'm 5.
My R. I know.
Q. (The question that brought me to full on crying melt-down) If someone shot us with a gun, would you be sad?
R. My heart would break and no one would ever been able to fix it.
Q. (The question that made me laugh) Can I have ice cream?
A. Yes, absolutely yes!
We have not told them that their connection to this tragedy. I suspect that will be something we will bring up tonight so we can process a little more.
And while little minds can compartmentalize things like this finding distraction in ice cream, the adult mind can not... at least not for long. We are a nation in mourning. We are angry. We are sad. We are in disbelief. We lash out at the shooter, at society, at the NRA, at anyone we can think of to blame. But this is not the time for blame. This is the time to pull together and realize that those of us who can still tuck our children in at night are blessed. We have been given the gift of time and we squander it by pointing fingers.
Don't get me wrong, there will be time for productive conversations about gun control and access to mental health treatment and security in our schools, etc. But not now.
Instead of lifting our arms to rally a cry for change, let's lift up the families that have had their hearts ripped away from them. Let's pray for those souls that have gone to where ever souls go. (In our house, we believe it is Heaven.) Let's pray for the police and firefighters who were the first to see the carnage. Let's pray for the adults who gave up their lives to protect their charges and the one who huddled in closets trying to keep their students calm, even though their own fears were overwhelming. Let's ask for mercy on the shooter... yes, mercy... because only someone who is incredibly sick could do something so horrid, so yes, mercy. And let's pray for each other. That no other mother has to watch as her child is brought out of a school building in a body bag. Let's pray that no father has to walk down the aisle behind his child's casket instead of walking her down the aisle on her wedding day. Let's pray that we will never again see the phrase "School shooting" flashing across the news bulletin update and crossing our fingers that it's not someone we know, or worse, our children who are in danger.
For now, the color is gone from Kidletville, leaving only the start black and white, in honor of those who have lost their lives and loves. But love still abides in Kidletville, as does hope. Last night, Dear Husband had to work a third shift so I convinced the Kidlets to sleep with me. And even though I woke up with Kidlet #1 laying sideways on the bed, his foot smashed against my face and Kidlet #2 fast asleep on my legs, making them immobile, the warmth of their little bodies reminded me that my cup overflows with blessings. Be at peace, my friends and remember to say thanks for your blessings in the same breath as you pray for those who can't hold theirs anymore.