Thursday, December 20, 2012

Keeping Children Safe...Enough IS Enough...

As a mom of five small children, four of whom are still in elementary school, I am having a difficult time turning off the tears and my mind. The events that transpired last week have truly rocked my core. Not just because of how horrific the situation, not just because I have small children, but because I volunteer at an elementary school for a class of first graders. I realize they aren't my children, but when I went in to school Monday to help them with their math, I just wanted to swallow them and wrap them up with bullet proof armor! I went from laughing and enjoying my time with them, to wanting to protect them as I do my own children.

I don't think any of us can truly feel the pain of the parents and siblings of Newtown who lost their precious children. But I still feel a pit of grief in my stomach that is very raw and very emotional. I have been trying extra hard to be extremely patient with my kids, to fully listen, and to appreciate all the good within them. Rather than focus on all the things that drive me nuts. Let's face it, in the big picture, the things that drive me crazy are ideals that stem from me just wanting them to be PERFECT. All the time.

So much has been said these last few days about guns, mental illness, security at schools, grief, moving forward, and the loss of innocence by those who died and those who survived. But, how do we move forward? I honestly don't know. But we will. As a family, as a community, and as a nation. I was 100% convinced that Monday would be different at my kids school. In fact I made it very clear, to each of them, that it may be a quiet day for many to reflect and to expect some changes when they walked in the door. ALL five of my kids came home and said NOTHING was different. I wasn't sure if I was shocked, appalled or relieved. Even today, I am still struggling with how I feel.

I think the thing that upset me about how my school district handled the day, was their lack of reaction. I guess I just expected MORE. I can't say exactly what I was expecting, but Monday left me with that sick feeling of no-wonder-tragedies-continue-to-happen. A letter from the principal was emailed saying that the teachers had collectively decided NOT to discuss the events of last Friday, but if ANY child brought it up, their teacher would reassure the child and inform the parent. OK, I get that. The school covering themselves against those children who's parents chose to shield them from the gruesome details circulating around the world. Where my anger and disbelief lies is how they handled ME when I walked through the door. Granted they know my face in the front office, as they should! I've had five kids go through there over the last six years. But, what they didn't know was my state of mind, if I had a criminal record, whether I let someone in the back door that was locked, or what was in my coat or purse. In fact the secretary NEVER even looked up when I passed her by!!! NOT that I would ever harm anyone, I want to make that point VERY clear, but what stopped me from bringing in a weapon Monday? Absolutely NOTHING and NO ONE. So for my kids to come home and say nothing was different, I guess shouldn't have shocked me. But it did. And still does.

Something needs to change. This type of tragedy cannot happen again. We as Americans need to put our differences aside and collectively say NO MORE. Why did gun sales go up after Friday? Because a law might tell us we can't have an assault weapon? Let's be honest. Why does anyone NEED one? I grew up with guns. My dad is a collector. My boyfriend is a hunter. Never once have I felt the NEED to have my own. Why is the media trying to connect mental illness with violence? Why do more innocent people need to die before anything is changed? It reminds me of stop signs or traffic signals. How many people have to die at an intersection before one is installed? When is enough going to be enough?

I have hugged my children so hard these last few days that they are telling me I'm hurting them. My seven year old daughter has asked me night after night if it's safe to go to school tomorrow. My oldest daughter continues to ask me why I keep watching the news. In her words, "It's so sad." Even my little first graders have hugged me tighter these last few days. I just can't seem to wrap my head around the whole WHY aspect of this unspeakable tragedy. I don't think anyone can. And I truly believe that even if law enforcement officials offer an answer to why, that it really won't make any of this better UNLESS all of us are willing to make changes. We are all forever changed. One of my favorite quotes comes from George Bernard Shaw. He said, "Progress is impossible without change and those who cannot change their minds cannot change anything." I need reassurance that our kids are safe in order for me to be OK. Children have an uncanny knack for being resilient, sweet, trusting, and inspiring. What a total disservice to all children everywhere if we as adults can't learn from what happened and vow to make changes to stop the unnecessary violence bestowed on them. We can't just say we need to change. We have to actually change. There are no valid excuses after last Friday. There is no denying that losing a child is as bad as it gets. Keeping our kids and everyone else safe, has to be a priority for every American citizen. Period.

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