Saturday, December 15, 2012

Shattered innocence and broken hearts

I didn't want to our girls to know about the mass shooting in Newtown, CT yesterday. Maybe something along the lines of "something bad happened really far away" if anything at all. Unfortunately, the girls' elementary school took it out of my hands.

The girls walked out of school excited about the weekend. I don't remember which girl said it first, but one of them whispered to me, "There was a shooting in a different school. There's a note in my backpack. Can we talk about it when we walk home?"

I told her we'd talk as much as she wanted.

When there's something difficult to discuss or potentially embarrassing to one of our girls or someone else, we always talk about it when we're alone. Sometimes one of them will ask if we can talk about something in the car. Sometimes they want to talk about it when we get home. Yesterday we talked about the it on the way home from school.

I heard words coming out of my mouth, but those were nearly out of body moments. They asked questions. I answered. I didn't provide more information than necessary, but I did answer all their questions. The girls had a lot of questions. I didn't have all the answers and I told them that when appropriate.

As soon as we got home Daddy called. Both girls wanted to talk to Daddy. They cried. I tried not to cry. We hugged a lot. They cried some more. I hugged them some more.

It's completely incomprehensible for adults to realize that one person was so sick that he walked into a school and killed 20 children. For two little girls who love school, it's terrifying. We don't have the words to make them feel better right now.

Neither girl wants to go back to school. The brunette twin doesn't want to go back ever. The blond twin doesn't want to go back next week. She wants to stay home until after Winter break. I don't want them to leave the house either, even as I recognize that this is a completely unhealthy long-term solution. Still, if they are in our house we can keep them safe.

At least that's what we tell ourselves. I realize we have to leave the house. We have to go out into the world. Monday we'll walk to school with Oreo, just like we do every school day. We'll pack lunches, make sure backpacks are ready and argue about whether or not to wear gloves. (Momma says yes. The girls always say, "It's not that cold.)

I only wish I felt good about that reality. I feel an overwhelming sadness and I'm far removed from the tragedy. Mostly, I wonder how it's ever going to be possible for the Sandy Hook Elementary School families to get out of bed each day. Believe me when I say that I recognize my fears are their realities. Nothing happening here is as bad as what is happening there.

1 comment:

Anonymous said...

We discussed the Newtown shooting in little chunks this weekend with our 9 year old. Like you, I didn't want the news on for him to see or hear about the carnage. We don't think he needs those pictures or descriptions in his head at 9 years old. My son doesn't like to see me cry (like when visiting the grave of his soldier cousin who was KIA in Iraq or when I told him that a different cousin lost his battle with leukemia this last year), and it took all I had not to cry when telling him about the shooting and how many lives were lost.

He responded that he figures they'll have lockdown drills next week (which I suspect is true), but at least he's not afraid to go to school.

We talked about how his school has changed the location of the locked doors this last year which was a security measure to make it harder for dangerous people to even get in. We left out mentioning some holes in the security, but expect the school will be addressing them as a result of Newtown. You can be sure we'll be asking.

We broadened the subject of our chunks of discussion to be about safety in general and reviewed our home escape routes in case of fire and what we do if we hear tornado sirens. We talked about what to do if he hears shots in public (like at a mall) and how to to run in a zig-zag motion vs a straight line if he's able to run away from someone shooting.

It seemed to help him accept/process lockdown procedures at school as just another dry-run preparation for something that isn't likely to happen (but for which we prepare).

It goes against the natural order for parents to bury their children at any age. I can only pray that the parents, family and friends of those lost in Newtown can find enough peace to learn to live with their loss and with the hole in their hearts that they will carry for the rest of their lives.