As a parent, I cried on Friday when the news reports started rolling in. I looked at my five year old and was glad she wasn't at school - not because I feared the same event occurring, but because I needed to hug her, give her a cuddle, tell ehr how much I loved her, watch her look back towards her movie and squirm out of my arms because she knows I love her, hug her all the time, and darn it, Mommy, you're taking me away from Tinkerbell. I needed that moment of normality. Needed to remind myself that I am so very, very blessed, that even when I am angry because the girls are fighting, or waking their baby sister, or arguing with me over another cookie or a later bedtime, that I have them. The children that, at one point, I thought I was never going to be able to have, are here, so very real, so safe in our four walls.
The biggest thing my daughters fear is timeout.
I don't have to worry about "how to explain this to [my] kids." My kids are 5, 3 and 1 and we don't have traditional television. I don't have to worry about Mary going to school Monday and hearing her classmates talk about it because I know her teachers won't let that happen. My kids get to be innocent for a little while longer, thank God.
But as the weekend went on and the news got worse, not better, I felt myself starting to wrestle with what I was seeing. First the numbers, far greater than the single digits first reported. The pictures of parents wailing outside the school. The names and faces. The stories of the teachers who gave everything to save even one student. My husband asked why I was reading about those teachers, those innocent babies, if it made me cry.
"Because this is their story," I said. "They won't get to tell their own anymore. These are the stories their parents want told. Emilie Parker's dad wants me to know she loved her sisters, liked to color, hated trying new foods. This teacher here was going to see The Hobbit on Friday night. These are things people want us to know."
I don't care about gory details. I don't need traumatizing pictures and if I never hear the gunman's name again, I'll be fine. But the names, the faces of these children, I want to know about them. I want to hear their stories because those are the only stories they're going to have anymore.
Then I look at my own children. My own colorers and picky eaters and movie watchers. And I don't want to send them to school this week.
I know I have to. I can't live in a culture of fear, can't put that on my kids, have to rely on statistics that schools are generally safe, that this was an isolated incident, that my children are going to grow up and make me crazy and have kids of their own one day. But it's so hard.
Today Tim took the girls to church. Lily had a cold so I stayed home. Just at the time church was starting, I got a call from my husband.
"What's going on?" I asked, because he should have been in a pew at that point. My pragmatic, level headed husband was quiet.
"They're not having Sunday School today," he said. "They're having a p-a-r-t-y in the hall across the street."
"So?" I asked. "Have fun!"
"I couldn't do it," he said, and it dawns on me this was not a church wide party but an all ages Sunday School gathering. "I couldn't leave them in a huge hall full of kids without being there. Not after Friday. I know that's silly and they'd be fine but I couldn't do it."
As he said the last part I felt a knot in my stomach that I didn't know was there relax.
"Thank you for not doing that," I said.
"We're going to go do something fun," he said. "I'll see you later."
I don't know what the answer is. Mary will go to school tomorrow because she loves school and I know she'll be okay, but I wonder when I'll no longer feel relief when I go to her door to pick her up. When it will become commonplace again to just drop her off and get her, my biggest worry being whether she ripped her dress or talked during rest time.
I know it's illogical. I know it's so incredibly unlikely anything will happen, to her, at school, ever, and especially this Monday when everyone will be on high alert.
Those parents in Connecticut never saw this happening, either, and the part of me that's a mother cries with them whenever I think about it. My girls are so blessed and don't even know why.