Like so many others, I watched the coverage of the shooting in Aurora with shock and horror and tears. As the story unfolded and more details came in, I just kept thinking about the chaos in that theater and how scared those men and women and boys and girls must have been. Some of those kids were young and probably got special dispensation from their parents to stay out late for a superhero movie they’d been waiting and waiting, like, FOREVER to see.
“Please Mom? PLEEEAAASE?? Matt’s mom is letting him go… just this once??”
So then I started thinking about those parents.
I was thinking about the Moms and Dads that kissed their teenagers – or even preteens (babies!) – goodbye earlier in the night without a clue of what was to come. Some of them probably debated whether they should allow their kid to go out so late. There may have even been arguments –
“You never let me do anything fun! You treat me like a baby!”
– and the kid won, because you know… he’s “NOT a baby anymore!!”
I was thinking about those parents who gave in. They were at home, getting ready for bed or already asleep when their phones rang.
Ugh. That phone call.
At this point I told my kids I was having an allergy attack, went upstairs and ugly cried for about ten minutes.
As pointless and morbid as this may be, I can’t stop thinking about the different phone call scenarios that probably played out… a Mom calling her friend, saying, “Hey, didn’t Rob go to the movies tonight? You should turn on the news,” or a woman calling her sister to say, “Didn’t Sarah really want to see that new Batman movie? She didn’t go tonight, did she?” Or even worse, the calls to the parents that came from their kids who were actually at the theater. Can you imagine?? All you can hear is screaming and noise and sirens… and your baby’s voice desperately trying to reach out?
I’m sorry for being melodramatic (although you’ve probably noticed by now… that’s kind of my way), but isn’t that call every parent’s very worst fear?
Overall, the story of the shooting in Aurora and the many others like it are horrifying because of the senseless violence and the tragic loss of life.
But on a much more personal level, these stories are horrifying because we realize that, as parents, we often have no control.
We can do the best job possible when they’re young… teach them manners, give them confidence and feed them organic food. We can read to them and play with them and try not to scream at them more than twice a day. We can limit their sugar and expand their horizons. But eventually, they want to leave the house.
And at that point, it’s completely out of our hands.
I always tell my kids that it is my #1 job in the world to keep them safe. So when I won’t let them jump in the river to play with the ducks or ride their bikes on the highway I can blame the “job” and it’s not just me being Mean Mom (a title I wear proudly… can I get a Girl Scout Badge for this one?)
“What? You want to push the Happy Dude in the wagon while he’s standing on a ball? No, you can’t do that. Sorry, it’s not MY choice… it’s my JOB.”
“You want to walk on that 10-foot-high, brick wall while juggling ice cream cones and wearing flip-flops? I would totally let you, but my JOB says it’s out of the question.”
“Hmmm… I’m really tempted to let you try to fly off the roof, but you know, my JOB says ‘no.'”
See how convenient it is? Feel free to use it.
But I’m always aware that even if I do my job perfectly (and let’s be honest… that’s not happening ever) there are certain circumstances that are completely and totally out of my control. And that is terrifying.
So what do we do? Put them in a bubble? (They actually don’t sell those. I checked Amazon.) Never let them leave the house? That might be an option if I didn’t think they’d drive me INSANE. Plus, they might get rickets from lack of sunlight. Or scurvy. Whatever.
Nope, all we can do is hug them tight, lecture them about being safe and nag them incessantly about making good choices. Then we let them go.
And then we pray. A LOT.