There is so much to say about the nightmare in Connecticut that has the world up nights, watching, feeling, internalizing pain.
Here in Canada, we are talking about the nature of rights and freedoms of citizens – where they start and where they stop. There is shock at lack of gun control that helps put weapons into the hands of people who can’t control them. There is discussion about the mentally ill and their need for support and empathy.
Most of all, we are hugging our children tighter, holding them closer, keeping them near. We are bonding with parents everywhere as we are reminded once again that nightmares happen and we can’t always be there to prevent them.
In our own homes, we see the faces and names and stories of the victims online and we know that if nightmares happen in lovely Newtown, Connecticut, they can happen anywhere, at anytime.
This fear is not new. I have struggled with it since the kids were born, defenseless, into a world where scary acts hurt innocent people every day. It’s a mother’s instinct to protect her young, to keep them safe at all costs. When my kids learned to crawl, I followed them. When they stood and wobbled, I was right there watching. When their bikes took off down the street, I ran behind, holding my breath.
Now I have two teens and a tween, and while they grow, so does the worry. The older they get, the more risks they have to take without me around. The more they are on their own, the less I am there to watch, the less I can be there to shield them from danger.
As the kids fight for freedom, I swallow fear down. I feel it in my throat when they text me that they’ll be home by midnight. I’m afraid that I might lose it when, soon, they drive off in cars. When the kids leave the house – whether it’s to school or to a movie or a party or the mall – that fear is a quiet hum that I ignore to put my faith in their judgment, and in the natural process of their growing up and growing away.
Many times every day, I consciously do not think about what can go wrong, how in a millisecond, lives can end, but I know it’s true – even in a land where, thankfully, guns are illegal.
This past weekend, my fear reached its peak. I kept thinking about those parents who are wishing their child had been sick that fateful day or they had for any reason at all kept their kids home from school. I know my mind would be on rewind, trying to recreate the morning moment I said goodbye, so I could make a different choice. So I could hold them back.
Each time my kids took risks this weekend, when my youngest stepped on the ice, when my oldest headed to the subway, when my daughter met friends in the dark, it took all my strength not to pull them into my hug and make them stay where it was safe. Just in case.
Instead, I smiled and told them to have fun and be careful, and after they left, I swallowed hard.
I wish that nightmares didn’t happen and I hope that as a society, we deliver on our duty to do our best to protect our kids from them – particularly in the US, where children must have the right and freedom to grow up.
But it’s Monday and it’s time for school.
No matter how we may want to, we can’t hold our kids back. Love is letting them live. As parents, it’s all the control we have.