Letting Our Children Grow: How Do We Move Past Sandy Hook?

I know I’ve been uncharacteristically quiet about the Sandy Hook shooting this week… I just don’t know what to say, or how to say it.  Frankly, I’ve had a hard time processing it all.

As a teacher (in-training), as well as a school volunteer, I spend a lot of time around children.  I know they benefit from being around us (adults), because of the knowledge they can learn from us.  I also know that we, as adults, continuously learn (or re-learn) from the children who touch our lives.  Each day, these kids come into class with a smile on their face, wide-eyed and curious of the world around them, each day a new adventure.  Unlike the world outside those school walls, there is supposed to be no political parties, no hatred, no prejudice in the classroom.  Children live to have fun,  to learn, and to love their family and friends.  There is no darkness or evil-just laughter, love, and imagination.  And yet, last Friday, evil came into the classroom. 

The mere thought of what took place at Sandy Hook Elementatry grips me with a sense of terror so intense, I cannot breathe.   I play the whole series of events over and over in my mind; every second of that morning replayed in slow motion.  Although I was not there, I can imagine and feel the horror that the children and their teachers endured.  I can feel the anguish of their parents, the grief of the New Town community.  I am there with them, without physically being there.  It is overwhelming. 

When my son was just a year old, we flew to Colorado for a ski trip and wedding.  The exact same day, at about the same time we were landing in Denver, the Columbine shooting was taking place.  We heard some of the initial reports at the airport, but had no idea of the devastation.  Once we arrived at the hotel, I put Little Man down for his nap and flipped on the t.v. to find out more.  To be in the same city where that horrific tragedy took place, the very day it happened, was staggering.  I was glued to the news coverage, horrified that children could plot and carry out such a heinous act; how they could walk into a school and unleash evil on their fellow students and teachers, the people they were suppose to love.  After Columbine, that innocent world I lived in, as a young mother, was forever shattered.  The world was not safe, and even the refuge of school was not safe.  It was then that I knew that as he grew, I would not be able to protect my child 24/7, and that horrified me.

When Little Man started his first day of school. I thought about Columbine.  When we moved to a new school, I thought about Columbine.  When a boy in his 4th grade class created a list of other students he wanted to kill, I thought about Columbine.  Even now, when I drop him at school, I think about Columbine, and wonder if he will be safe, and if his school can/will be able to protect him.  When events like Columbine, VA Tech, and Sandy Hook happen, it rocks me to the core.  I want to keep him home with me, home school him, shelter him from the evil world.   

As parents, we are supposed to protect our children from the monsters that go bump in the night.  We are supposed to teach them to look both ways before crossing the street, and to brush their teeth so they don’t get cavities.  We remind them to put on their coat when going out in the rain, and we nourish their bodies with food, to keep them strong and healthy.  We even  (sadly) have to teach them not to talk to strangers, or take candy from someone they don’t know.  We should not have to teach them to drop to the floor, hide behind a desk, or in a closet, and to run for their lives, if a gunman comes into their classroom.  We should not have to teach them to keep their eyes and ears open for the evil that could be lurking just beyond their class room door.

We should not have to tell them, and yet, we must. 

I have not been able to watch too much of the news this week, nor hear too much coverage of Sandy Hook.  It’s not callousness; I just can’t do it.  My heart breaks for the parents of those precious children killed, it aches for the teachers who gave their life to protect their students.  I pray for them, and pray that our schools and government can find better ways to protect our children.  I just cannot immerse myself in the news, because if I did, I would shut down, and for the sake of my family, I cannot shut down.

How much more can we, as parents, as a country, take of this?  Each new tragedy brings new fears, and those fears are not careless or frivolous, they are completely justified.  Do we send our children out into the big bad world and expect them to be safe?  When I send my son off to school, will I see him at the end of the day? How can we protect them? 

Unlike the children killed at Sandyhook Elementary, my son is here, living and breathing. He gets to grow up (god willing), and become the fine young man we hope he will be (and so much more).  Despite the evil around him, Little Man is full of life, with hopes and dreams for his future.  He has a heart full of love, with friends and teachers he adores.  Despite the sadness of the world, he, and other children, are a light in the darkness.  If I shelter him from everything, how can he grow?  How can I take all of that away from him, by allowing my fears to consume every moment of his life? 

I can’t.

I have to let go of my fears, and let my son be the wide-eyed, hopeful young man he should be.  I have to continue to nurture and encourage him, and show him all the beauty and good in the world. There is still good in this world.  There is still love, kindness, and hope.   Despite my anxiety, I have to show him how beautiful life is. I have to let him shine.

And despite your fears for your children, you must do that too.