I remember it like it was just yesterday, playing in the yard as a child with my brother. Barbie and G.I. Joe colliding to save the day. Matchbox cars driving through dirt and mud. Magnifying glasses used to burn Japanese beetles. In the winter we built snow forts. We built them high, made tunnels, and pretended it was our home. We played for hours on end never caring to spend time in the house. My parents wouldn't have let us anyway, if it was light and not freezing out we were expected to play outside. My mother could always just peek out the window to check on us. The echo's of our laughter and play could fill the air without much adult supervision. We were free, we were exploring, we were playing as children should, yet most of all...we were safe.
My oldest son,Chase, is almost five (next month!! Not sure how the hell that is even possible!) This kid loves to be outside. He loves to be active, to explore and be the boy he is. Dirt, stones, acorns, tree branches and worms are fascinating to him. His little mind is full of wonder and imagination. We are fortunate to live in a place where there are children around his age right next door and behind our house. Chase loves his buddies and the second he sees them outside he wants to be right there with them. I trust him and I know that he can be outside without direct supervision. I know he won't go near the road or roam off. He just wants to play. I trust him, but I don't trust the world in which he lives in.
It is the same thing when we go visit my folks. They live in a safe neighborhood with a fenced in yard. It's the same yard I played in growing up. I have to admit I have a hard time letting my son outside without me being right there. I get anxious and nervous, peering out the window to watch his little self enjoying the same things I did at his age. It's not the same. It is not the same world it was when I was growing up. What is safe anymore? What has this world turned into for our children?
I fear leaving my kids each time I do. The fear starts as mommy guilt, goes to "What if something happens to them", to "What if something happen to me?" and "What if someone hurts them?" That feeling of safety is no longer there for our children. It is filled with worry and dread. Trust has been thrown out the door and belief in kindness has been replaced with fear of our fellow human beings. It is utterly sad for me that my children will never be safe the way I was.
School use to be a safe place to be. I don't have any memories of shootings in schools the way our children will. It is unpredictable. It is her child, his child, and maybe even my child. No parent raises a child to be a killer, yet there are so many shootings involving our youth. None of those parents expect it or deserve it. It causes pain and grief for everyone. My heart aches for the parent that loses their child to such senselessness. I cannot even fathom the feeling those parents have when they receive word that their child will not be coming home. I hope to have to never experience what that pain is. I hope even more that my children never have to witness evil the way so many of our youth have.
It hurts my heart in a way that makes it difficult to even put into words. I wish my children could have the youth I once had. I want them to be able to explore, play and imagine without so many restrictions. Then comes the harsh reality that I cannot protect them from all of these evils. I cannot stop any of this from happening. I also cannot and will not stop them from living. I know how important it is for my children to BE CHILDREN! It's that simple yet so complicated all at once. I can't put my children in a bubble, and I wouldn't. They deserve to have what we did. They need to be able to experience life for all the wonderful things that it is.
I want a safe place for my children, for our children. I want a place without pain, sadness, grief and evil. That safety has to come from within the walls of our homes. It starts each morning as we get them up and every night as we kiss them before bed. It is in our arms as we hold them tight. It is in our words when we tell them we love them.
We cannot stop what goes on outside our homes. What we can do is practice acts of kindness. We can talk to our children and teach them about the power of love. We can teach them what peace is. It is not simple nor can just one person create safety for our children. It takes an army of us to protect our children: It's teachers, law enforcement and other parents; It is coaches, mentors and friends. I am thankful for the tribe which helps to raise and teach my children. I need them, you need them and our children need them.
This post is dedicated to the 20 young souls of Sandy Brook and their teachers, who left this world three years ago yesterday. May their memory bring comfort, peace and strength to their loved ones.