I was tempted to follow the bus to school, something that has never crossed my mind before not even on the first day of kindergarten. I know, however, that as a parent if I am to move beyond the senseless tragedy in Newtown I have to let go. I can love her. I can guide her. I can clean the scrapes on her knees and make sure she eats all of her peas at dinner but at some point I have to send her out into the world – a world that to me is much more uncertain and scary than it was last Friday morning.
As parents we walk a fine line between protecting and being over protective, between reacting and being over reactive; and struggle knowing that a certain amount of fear is healthy, too much can be crippling. So you take a lot of love, add a couple of shakes of compassion, maybe a few (or maybe many) dashes of concern, a liberal amount of manners, a few heaping scoops of boundaries combined with guidance and and mix well in the hopes that what you get is a confident, intelligent, self-assured kiddo that makes positive contributions to society.
The words President Barack Obama spoke to the residents of Newtown at the prayer vigil held on Sunday evening resonated with me:
It comes as a shock at a certain point where you realize no matter how much you love these kids, you can’t do it by yourself, that this job of keeping our children safe and teaching them well is something we can only do together, with the help of friends and neighbors, the help of a community and the help of a nation.
And in that way we come to realize that we bear responsibility for every child, because we’re counting on everybody else to help look after ours, that we’re all parents, that they are all our children.
This is our first task, caring for our children. It’s our first job. If we don’t get that right, we don’t get anything right. That’s how, as a society, we will be judged.
And by that measure, can we truly say, as a nation, that we’re meeting our obligations?
Can we honestly say that we’re doing enough to keep our children, all of them, safe from harm?
Can we claim, as a nation, that we’re all together there, letting them know they are loved and teaching them to love in return?
Can we say that we’re truly doing enough to give all the children of this country the chance they deserve to live out their lives in happiness and with purpose?
I’ve been reflecting on this the last few days, and if we’re honest with ourselves, the answer’s no. We’re not doing enough. And we will have to change.
Like many others, I too had my moments of reflection in the hours and days that followed. Some happened through thoughtful discussion while others were in peaceful solitude and I had arrived at many of the same conclusions on my own before President Obama spoke to Newtown and by extension, the people of the United States. No. We are not meeting our obligations. We are not doing enough to keep them safe from harm. We cannot claim as a nation we are doing enough. And we will have to change. I fear without that change that while I am doing what I can to raise two beautiful girls who will have much to offer the world, that the society I live in - that we live in - is going to fail them.
Violent crime in any form is terrible, but violent crime involving children is particularly abhorrent and senseless. The fact that what happened in Newtown happened in an elementary school - a place that is sacred and should inherently be considered safe - makes this event even more difficult to comprehend. Say what you will but our children deserve to be able to go to school - to learn, to be nurtured and loved and educated - without having to walk past an armed guard or have a continual police presence.
Society is failing my girls and failing our children and families in more than one way, and it's time WE THE PEOPLE, our community leaders and our lawmakers engage in discussion as to how we right the wrongs. I don't claim to have the answers but while I believe gun control alone isn't the answer, I also believe that there are steps that can be taken (that have not been) to help reduce risks. I don't know as mental illness should be the lone focal point of these types of incidents but hope that there's discussion about the failures of our communities to help families who need assistance. Perhaps most of all I hope that we honor the children whose lives were cut tragically short by continuing to dialogue about how we can best make sure that these horrific events become a thing of the past.