(A letter to you both.)
Today a tragic thing happened. We were on the way to the museum and I heard on the radio that a gunman had shot and killed 6 adults and 20 children in an elementary school. As a mother, news like that rattles your core. But I had promised this trip to the museum, so we parked and headed in.
Brynn, you perched on my hip, the place you would be every waking moment if you could. Elle, your small soft in mine walking from the car. As I walked in, tears were gathering. I signed in, purposely not making eye contact. But the counter person could tell and when she asked me how I was, I looked up and let the tears fall. And she did too. It is amazing how instant sadness is when you see it reflected in another person. She asked me only one question, "the shooting"? Yes. The shooting. She touched my hand.
I gathered myself together and found you both, filling up grocery carts full of fake food, running, laughing with eyes wide with discovery. The most beautiful state of child, except sleeping of course :) My initial reaction was one many mothers had. I wanted to drive home, lock the door, pull down the shades and protect you both forever. But we stayed and you played and we all laughed.
When we got home, I noticed myself getting snappy with you both. It is not like I don't have bad days as a mother, but usually I am pretty even keel. After dinner, there was the usual couch roughhousing and Brynn, you had a somewhat scary tumble backwards and I just hit the wall and we did bath and bedtime early. I just wanted you both in bed. In bed, where you were SAFE. And once you were both tucked in, I felt tension leave my shoulders.
Before this day and these tragic events, I have realized that I am almost completely overwhelmed with this idea of keeping you both out of harms way. I am totally bombarded with possible dangers. When we are out and about, and older man smiles at one of you and while he probably just a grandpa missing his own littles, I am wary of him. He could be a predator. As I walk around the car to get one of you out of the carseat, I worry someone will jump in and steal the car. I worry about products in the foods you both eat and that the TV will give you learning disorders. I am a mother who lives in a cloak of fear.
I tried to think tonight how I could make it better. How can we stop people from mass killing other people? But I think in the end it comes down to our society and the values we have of individuality, one man for himself and that you pull yourself up by the bootstraps. We have lost almost all sense of community. We are pulled together briefly by tragedy and pulled away by fear. Trust no one, we are urged. Watch out for that person, they could be an enemy. Watch out for that homeless person, he is probably sick. Watch out for that person on welfare, they are trying to steal our money with those checks.
But that is not us. If you stop to look around, you will find that most people are good. So good. So full of love for their children, their friends, their family. Still, our society is not conducive to the straggler. The one who is alone. We are not quick to offer a hand or kindness to those we don't know. We are afraid that if we help other people, or trust other people, they will only bring us down.
We are a country living and breathing fear. It is thrown in our face everyday. It makes us so much less than we could be. It is debilitating. A thousand pound brick we carry on our backs.
So I thought of the mothers and fathers whose babies will never be coming home tonight. And I thought about what they would remember most about their lost littles. Big, sparkling eyes lit up with the enchantments of the world. Tiny tears only they could stop. Belly laughs and giggles. Sweet sleeping breaths from little lips. I thought about how in the end the journey we all take with our kids is short. And meant to be savored but instead I rush through the days, trying to make it bedtime.
So I, for those parents, am going to be less fearful. I am going to slow down. Reach out to others more. Be kinder. Offer help. I am going to take more chances. Seek out new adventures. Be more present. Relax. Enjoy these little loves of my life, you, my babies. Because if fear wins, we all lose.
You are both the best things that have ever happened in my life. I am so thankful for each moment. And the families of this tragedy are in my thoughts, tonight and always.