When Gavin started Kindergarten earlier this year, I likened it to putting my heart on a bus. This was especially true after I watched his little crying face drive away from me off to the new, unknown world of elementary school for the first two weeks.
He was a little scared. I was a little scared. Mostly because it was new and different and neither of us really knew what to expect. The one thing I did know was that I was sending him to Kindergarten / Elementary school. Into a community that – just by the nature of its existence – was a community of people who care about one another and each individual that passes through its doors. Who care about kids and their well-being. Who I knew would try their best to keep him happy and help him learn. Who I knew would keep him safe. After all, he’s a child. And I was sending him to school. Those are some of the fundamental foundation blocks of a school community, right?
The feeling of putting my heart on a bus came roaring back to the forefront of my consciousness yesterday. Did I hug him before he left? Kiss him? Tell him how proud I am of him? Tell him how very much I love him? Sigh.
Today, like so many Americans, I am heartbroken. Questioning a senseless tragedy for which the answers will never be enough to fill the hole I now have in my soul.
My stomach flips every time I think about Newtown. Tears well up in my eyes when I imagine families trying to come to grips with the horror they are living. The tears fall when I imagine their babies in that school. They continue as I think about that community that now has to carve a path forward. It will be so hard. But I know they will do it. They’ll do it for their children.
Irrationally, I applied the fear I felt for Newtown to my own town. I am sure many of us did. I wanted to immediately pick Gavin up from school yesterday when I heard the news. I realized I had no idea what I’d tell him if I did. He’d be able to tell that I was crying. And I had no good, Kinder-friendly answers as to why. I just wanted to hug him. Hold him close. Ease my irrational fears that he, too, was in harm’s way. Sigh. A big part of my job is to protect his innocence and let him be a kid. He has no concept that something like this could even happen. I have no idea how I would even explain it. He feels safe and happy at school. It’s my job to make sure it stays that way. I left him in school.
But I cannot stop asking myself ‘what if?’ and stepping through the processes required to enter our elementary school. I feel like the foundation of what I understood school to be is shaken. One of the folks being featured heavily on news coverage said something like there’s little defense against a person with malicious intent and a loaded weapon. And at that point, the school staff’s job is to then protect as many lives as possible.
So true. Fundamentally, I knew that. However, I had never thought about that in the context of sending my children to kindergarten. That right there is the difference this time.
Thursday, the mass killing of young children in an elementary school was unthinkable to me, as I am sure it was to so many of us. I never would have thought something like this COULD happen…let alone WOULD happen. It happened. And I feel like everything’s changed. I’m not sure how yet, but similar to past national events, I imagine it will be a collective loss of even more innocence. Hopefully one that unites us all. And enables us to tune out rhetoric and get to real solutions that restore every local community’s faith in humanity. And goodness. And right.
Today, I am sad. Scared. Uncertain. I don’t know what the answer is. But I do know that neighborhoods and communities – locally, regionally, nationally – need to come together. Right now. We need to fix this. This HAS to be the final straw. Something has to change.
As Maya Angelou so poignantly posted yesterday: “Our country is grieving. Each child who has been slaughtered belongs to each of us and each slain adult is a member of our family. It is impossible to explain the horror to ourselves and to our survivors. We need to hold each other’s hands and look into each other’s eyes and say, “I am sorry.”
I hugged Gavin extra hard when he came inside after school. I hugged him extra long so he wouldn’t see my eyes filled with tears. He squirmed to get away. Giggling. And that giggle was just what I needed to hear.