Clearly I don’t remember the trials and tribulations of being a second grader. I do remember having to postpone my eighth birthday party because I had the chicken pox. I was heartbroken. Life was ending. Nevermind none of my friends could go anyway because we all had the chicken pox. So with my little second grader, you’d think I would know how uncool it is to have to give your mom a kiss before heading up to the building. It must be up there with cruel and unusual punishment, like bedtimes and limits on screen time. But, every morning as he’s ready to bebop out the door, I say “gimme a kiss!” Sometimes he does it, other times he doesn’t. Then there was that one HORRIBLE time when the side door to the van was open, and he gave me a kiss right as one of his friends was walking by. OMG. HOW EMBARASSING.
Well, this morning and for every morning to come, it will not be a choice. Maybe to save the horror and embarassment of getting a kiss from your mom, we can do the goodbye hug and kiss at home before we leave. But we will do that. And I will tell him and his brother and sister that I love them everyday. When they are acting out, I will try my best to respond appropriately. I may get frustrated, but I must remember that they are still little kids, and how grateful I am to tuck them into bed every night and wake them up the next morning. I love that they can come in to bed with me at night if they are scared or cold, or just need mommy. I will happily overpay for a piece of plastic made into a toy that they wanted for Christmas. I will scrub crayon drawings off of walls. I will clean up vomit, poop, pee, snot, and whatever else they throw at me. I will listen to them tell me they hate me when I enforce the rules.
I nearly lost a child. The horror of almost losing a child is unspeakable. To image feeling anything beyond that makes me sick to my stomach. I felt what every parent felt on Friday. I tried to put myself in the shoes of the parents as they waited to learn if their child had been killed. I could feel the relief of those who were reunited with their kids. And I imagined the horrible pain that the parents and families of the victims felt. I thought about and worried about all of the children and adults involved. If they had been scared, if they suffered, all of it. Too much to put into words. And I am rather removed from it. Many of my discussions over the weekend involved this tragedy, and they went the way most discussions probably did. The failures of several systems, like mental health care and proper gun control. And we talked about school safety. I remember Jacob telling me when he was in Kindergarten how they practiced walking to a different building. He said it wasn’t a fire drill, it wasn’t a part of recess or PE, but they practiced holding hands and walking quickly and quietly to their safe building. Later the parents received notification that they had practiced a drill in the event of a terror situation.
News spread quickly about how the Sandy Hook Elementary students regularly practiced such drills, and how it saved many lives. I think of how my kids have to partake in these drills. While I’m grateful that the school administration is taking such action, it makes me sick to think that it is necessary. I spoke with my hairdresser about this over the weekend, and she says that even as the students get older, they learn more and more what to do in specific situations. A friend who teaches at a college told me there is a sign in his classroom that outlines what to do in such emergencies.
It seems like the world has gone mad. There is much discussion about how things need to change. First the focus is on mental health care, then on gun control. It can’t be one or the other. Both need serious work. And I don’t know what the answers are. I just want my kids to be safe. I want them to go to school and learn, make friends, get in trouble, and worry about birthday parties. I don’t want them going to school worried about getting shot. I want to send them there and feel they are safe.
While I spent the better part of my weekend looking for a giant plastic bubble to house my kids until they are eighty, I know that isn’t the solution either. As a parent, I’m frustrated. And right now, I feel I can control how much affection I show my kids. How much I tell them I love them. How I will raise them, discipline them, and encourage them with all of my love. And I will make that little second grader kiss me every morning, even if it embarasses him. Because I love him that much.