I'm Lindsay Ferrier, a Nashville writer with a passion for family travel, exploring Tennessee, and raising kids without losing my mind in the process. This is where I share my discoveries, along with occasional deep thoughts, pop culture tangents and a sprinkling of snark. Want to get in touch? Use the CONTACT form at the top of the page.
December 17, 2012
Last night, I had dinner with my family at a neighborhood restaurant. My eight-year-old and I wanted to try the claw machine before we left but it wouldn’t accept our rumpled dollar bill, so together we walked over to the restaurant bar to get change.
My daughter immediately climbed up onto a bar stool and I unthinkingly braced myself for annoyed glances at her from those seated at the bar, and for a harried response to my request for change from the bartender. After all, CHILD AT THE BAR! INAPPROPRIATE!
Instead, the people seated at that bar did a strange thing. They all turned and smiled tenderly at my daughter. The bartender, too, stopped what she was doing, quickly came over to help us, and eagerly gave us our change. It was only then that I realized that the deep grief I’ve felt over this past weekend over the Connecticut shooting is not the sole domain of parents or grandparents or teachers or those in close contact with children. It is felt by everyone. We mourn for the children who died and for those who gave their lives trying to protect them. We grieve over the senseless destruction of the innocent. We have become divided as a nation by so many things– politics, religion, class, sexual preference, gender– but in this grief we are, in a sense, united.
I have read a few news accounts of what happened in Connecticut, but for the most part I steered clear of the news over the weekend. My children have no knowledge of what happened, and I want to keep it that way. School is hard enough for a kid without the added worry that someone just might come in and shoot everybody. I also wanted to keep the mental images I had of what happened to a minimum. It was not lost on me that Sandy Hook could have been my kids’ school, and those children, my children. I think that’s what’s so troubling to parents right now. Those children could have been my children. Oh. My. God.
Over the weekend, I watched our collective grief manifest itself into endless Facebook conversations about gun control and mental illness, autism and school security. I have seen a lot of anger and frustration online, and I’ve seen friends “un-friend” others based on their positions in these matters. Whether or not I agree with these people, I can honestly say I have compassion for all of them. Their anger and frustration is simply a product of grief, of shock, of helplessness, of a need to do something to make sense of what happened.
The problem is that there’s no way to make sense of what happened.
No matter what laws we enact, no matter what kind of funding and help we make available to those who need it, we will never be able to rid our world of evil and brokenness and pain, and the way those things are sometimes manifested in horrendous, unthinkable acts. I’ve been trying my whole life to come to terms with this reality.
I can do everything possible to keep my children safe from harm. I can make them wear helmets and seatbelts, send them only to playdates at the homes of parents I know well, drive the speed limit, stay off the roads in bad weather, live in a safe neighborhood, teach my kids to not talk to strangers and to stop, drop and roll and to not play with matches and to call 911 in an emergency and to memorize their phone number…
I can fight for gun control and mental health funding. I can make sure their teachers have had proper safety training and that all the doors at their school stay locked from the outside. I can (and I do) work tirelessly to make sure the odds are squarely in my children’s favor when it comes to growing up safe and sound, healthy and happy.
I can do all these things and still not know beyond a shadow of a doubt that my children will come home to me at the end of a school day.
As parents, this knowledge is unbearable. There is no point in time when our children are totally safe. There is no way for us to fully protect them, though we’d throw ourselves in front of a bus or in the path of a bullet for our kids if it came down to it. We try to keep this knowledge tucked away in the darkest corner of our minds, but on Friday, the awful truth came roaring out with a vengeance.
Those children could have been our children.
Oh. My. God.
I have personally responded to this unspeakable tragedy the only way I know how. I have responded by hugging my children and telling them I love them more often. I have responded by saying “Yes” instead of “Later” to their requests to read them stories, to play dolls, to bake with them, to make crafts. I have responded by listening more closely to what they have to say, by watching them while they sleep and marveling at their sweet faces, by running my fingers through their hair and squeezing their hands and holding them in my lap.
I can’t know their futures. I can’t assure myself that I will be able to shield them from harm or suffering. All I can do is continue working to keep the odds in their favor. All I can do is savor the time we have right now.
We’ve got now.
It’s not enough, but it’s time to make the most of it.
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Yes. Yes and yes. Great post. I feel the same way.
Amen and amen!
Perfect. Thank you.
My kids don’t know either. Dillon had an eye surgery Friday morning, and I’m thankful that I had already shifted to a place of realizing how I take my time with my kids for granted, even before I heard the news. We’ve got now. Yes. That’s all we have. And I’ll take it.
Outstanding. The best thing I’ve read since this happened.
My thoughts exactly. It’s unbearable to think of the absolute heartbreak these families are going through. It is sad though it takes horrific events like this to make us really stop & enjoy those small moments with our kids. I myself am so guilty of this but since Friday I’ve held my kids just a bit longer and let things slide that really don’t matter. Again, thank you stating things so eloquently.
Lindsay, I so agree about squeezing every second out of the present. I’ve burst into tears dozens of time just looking at my kids. I feel so deeply for the town of Newtown. I am more motivated than ever before to get politically active on the issue, but I won’t talk politics here, I promise!
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