Monday, December 17, 2012

This Is What It's Like Now

It took me two days to tell my 10 year old about the shootings. Two days of starts and stops. Two days of unexplained tears and irrational anger and quite honestly, bad parenting. I'm supposed to have modeled calm. That did not happen. I did not tell either of my sons. My 5 year old wouldn't understand and my 8 year old...I just couldn't. I couldn't do it more than once.

This is what it's like now.

At Sunday school, a door that usually has a stopper didn't have one and kept slamming when each new kid entered. It was a loud bang. A week ago, I would have joked about it. Now, my heart hurt every time that I heard the sound until my co-leader Bruce saw my face and found something to stop the banging.

This is what it's like now.

My family used to love The Voice. Today we changed the channel quickly the moment we saw anything that might show the horrifying and devastating loss. My family used to love listening to the Christmas music on the radio. Now my hand hovers over the power button between every song in case they go to the news and I need to quickly turn it off.

This is what it's like now.

My 10 year old is touching her face. Constantly. This is how she manifests anxiety. She worries a lot anyway. Now worry has become paralysis. She talks to us about it. She says she knows she's being paranoid. She says she understands that she's blowing things out of proportion. This doesn't matter. I have no real way of telling her that she's safe. That has been taken from me.

This is what it's like now.

Everything hurts. Every part of me hurts. I crawl into bed and cry and hope with everything that I have that my children do not come in to see me like this. Because I'm supposed to be the secure one. It is one of the few things that we as parents are absolutely required to give our children in my opinion, and I cannot do it. I no longer can honestly say, "You are safe and loved." Now, all I have is "You are loved and I will do my very best to protect you." This does not seem to hold the same comfort as "You are safe."

This is what it's like now.

I have spent a good deal of my life making sure that my children were safe and free of violence. J and I have had very few babysitters who weren't family members. We have never been on a vacation away from our children together. The three nights that our kids were sleeping over at their grandparent's or uncle's house were three nights that we could have gotten to them in 30 minutes or less. But at the end of the day, it doesn't fucking matter. Children are taken from you no matter what kind of bubble you create and there is nothing that can be done.

This is what it's like now.

We can all talk about actionable things that will stop the next massacre. We should do that. But right now, today, that holds very little consolation for me and even less for any of those parents in Connecticut. We have taken safety out of the vocabulary of childhood. And I frankly don't really know where to go from here.


Jolene Perry said...

I am SO glad that Christmas break is almost here. It was so hard to send my kids to school today. SO hard. I remember having a real lockdown as a teacher and thinking - How can I possibly protect all 35 of these seventh graders? And the answer was that I can't.
I was a teacher on 9/11 and listened to the kids be afraid. Our school was underneath an airbase, and some of their friends were on lockdown, unable to come to school, and others were trapped outside, unable to go home. No one felt safe. Not that day. Not for many days. I'm grateful for every night that I'm home and safe with my family and I think about people who have lived in countries at war for their entire lives and I don't know how they deal.
At the same time - when I'm prayerful enough, when I think enough about myself and my children being so more than just our life on this earth, I gain a small amount of comfort, but it does not change the tragedy and it doesn't change how my heart aches in feeling like no matter how protected i make the bubble (like you said) there are certain things I am powerless against.
Beautiful post, friend.
Big frozen hugs from AK.

Lisa Dunick said...

I feel the exact same way. My oldest is only 6, so I haven't told him. I can't. And I'm so afraid he'll find out.

Unknown said...

Oh Christa. Wish I had words of consolation. You are a good mom. It's awful and devastating what happened. Praying.

Unknown said...

Oh Christa. Wish I had words of consolation. You are a good mom. It's awful and devastating what happened. Praying.

Mandie Baxter said...

I've shielded my 5 yo from it as well. Saturday night I broke down in tears at bedtime. I laid there for an hour crying. At 12:30 I went and got my kiddo out of his bed and brought him to mine. In that moment I needed him there, just to know he was okay. Rough night bc he's a sleep wiggler but it helped. He asked why in the morning and I just told him I wanted to snuggle. I hug and kiss him and tell him I love him all the time, it's doubled. Just to imagine a parent losing that is incomprehensible to me. I can't imagine what it's like for them. I don't want to try.

Elodie said...

And hugging you.

Alexis Bass said...

I have a real reason not to sleep at night, and a new reason to tell someone that being a parent and being a teacher are the bravest things a person can be, and an entirely new view on what it means to grow up too quickly; this is what it's like now. I was in HS for both Columbine and 9/11 and I feel lucky to have been so old when I finally understood that what I thought was 'safety' wasn't real, so I can't even imagine...
Honesty makes me feel safer. Like getting closer to people by telling the truth somehow binds and protects us, so thank you, thank you for this post. I hope that what it's like now will not be what it's like always. I also think your daughter is so brave and I wish she didn't have to be. Sending lots of virtual hugs your way.

roxanne s. sukhan said...

Though I am geographically far away from this heartbreak - on the other side of the continent - I ache, for those beautiful lights lost. Children belong to everyone, in a way, and so I feel as though life has changed, irrevocably so. Losing a child guts a parent. And my heart breaks. And breaks. And breaks.

A achingly beautiful post.

KatOwens: Insect Collector said...

Because we're only about 40 minutes from Newtown the information about the events has been unavoidable. We explained in the simplest language to our 7 year old and not at all to our 5 year old-- but still they heard about it at school on Monday. Our school has been working to stop kids from spreading information among themselves, and instead telling them to speak with an adult. There were TWO armed policemen INSIDE the school yesterday at drop off. On some level it was reassuring, but in many ways it wasn't at all. I was able to not cry in front of my boys at drop off, but I cried once I got outside.
I think we want to believe we can keep our kids safe but this was completely senseless and unpredictable so it rips that rug of security from under us.

Suzi said...

I haven't talked about it with my kids. A kindergartner and a 3rd grader (son). They've been around while the news is on, but don't seem to be paying attention.

After school yesterday, I asked my son if he heard anything about the kids in Connecticut that were hurt. He said no, so I didn't say any more. Being half the country away, helps shield them a little, but I know the older one will find out eventually.

You're right about the bubble. When it comes to living in the real world, sometimes, there is nothing we can do to stop these horrible things.

And that is the worst thing about being a parent.

Lola Sharp said...

I wept all day Friday and most of Saturday. My husband and daughter didn't know what to do with me as I was so inconsolable. I kept all media off on Saturday.

Sunday I was only marginally better, but people came over for our weekly Sunday football parties...and there was no avoiding the subject, thus, more sobs.

Monday my daughter went to school...sobs. And then, thank God, came home safely...heavy sobs. She was all "I am home safely, mom. It's okay."
BUT, NO, IT ISNT OKAY. The parents of TWENTY tiny children did not have their children come home last Friday...or yesterday...not today...never again. And I cannot move past that.
I feel guilty that I am lucky enough to have my baby come home...and they don't.
And if I feel guilty...imagine how the actual survivors parents feel.
And if my grief and pain is this profound, imagine what those families who lost someone are feeling? How are they coping? I worry about them every minute of every hour.
I worry about the children who survived but heard things, saw things that will change them forever.
I worry about those teachers that survived.

I want to take all their fears and grief and suffering inside me, bear that for them, so all those families can have peace for the holidays. I would do it if it were possible.

If an elementary school in a lovely little affluent town isn't a safe haven...where is?

It's just so fucking devastating.

I weep as I type this.

This is how it is now.

I love you, Christa. <3

Melissa Sarno said...

It's all too much. Sending you some light during all this darkness, Christa dear. xo

Jenny S. Morris said...

We chose not to tel our 5 year old. But we talked to my 8 year old. It was so hard. And the hardest part was making sure he didn't think school wasn't safe. Because he has to go to school and worrying everyday won't make it better.

I can't listen to the news anymore either.

Big hugs from Portland!

Kelley York said...

It didn't dawn on me how hard it would be to bring this up to V (who is also 10) until I had to actually sit down and do it on Sunday. I knew I HAD to say something before Monday because even if her teachers didn't talk about it, other kids would have. (My sister talked to her 6 year old about it because he *asked* after hearing about it elsewhere, which makes me think even the younger kids are a bit more aware of what's happening than we sometimes give them credit for.)

I tried to explain thoroughly to V but obviously I missed a Big Detail because the first thing she asked was, "So could that guy come here?" My ONLY comfort was that I could tell her, "No, he's gone and you don't have to worry about him."

While I couldn't promise her she would always be safe from everyone else, I COULD promise her that WE would do everything to protect her, and that all her teachers would, too. (And the importance of listening to her teachers in the event of an emergency, because she doesn't respond well to Big Situations.) I find a tiny bit of comfort that her school is completely surrounded by gates and during school hours, the ONLY unlocked way onto the property is through a gate directly by the office, but then I get upset realizing that really wouldn't stop someone who was determined. I don't know. I'm rambling, sorry.

You know I'm one of many who is always around to talk if talking will help your grief over this. Sometimes I think we all talk these things to death because what else can we do?

Love you, Christa. <3

A.L. Sonnichsen said...

I'm heartbroken and I'm mad. I'm mad that Americans have to cling to their rights so stubbornly when we have an out-of-control violent crime death rate. And now they're talking about arming teachers in schools, which makes me absolutely sick to my stomach. I'm different from most people commenting -- I told my children right away. And I don't really feel afraid sending them to school, which probably makes me weird. Maybe it's that I've always accepted they are on loan to me. I know my heart would be ripped out if they were taken away, but there's nothing we can do. If it's not guns, it's cancer. If it's not cancer, it's an accident. We can't hold on; we never have been able to hold on. BUT, when there seems to be such an easy solution for cutting down on the number of gun deaths in America, why don't we just do it? If someone had a cure for cancer that was this straight-forward, we'd be all over it. Since I grew up in a country where only policemen carried guns, I just don't get it. I guess I'm not American in this way.

Okay - enough from me. Love you, Christa! <3