I have that headache. The headache of thoughts and emotions swirling in my brain and I could not be more unproductive right now. At a time of year where productivity counts – presents need to be bought and wrapped and bought and wrapped; cookies need to be made; magic made and traditions upheld, I’m having a hard time. I cannot wrap. I cannot wrap my presents and I cannot wrap my brain around what has happened.
Sandy Hook Elementary School is 21.54 miles away from my house. I see the pictures of those kids and all I can think is how they look just like my daughter’s first grade classmates. And just like my nieces. And just my daughter.
I put her on the bus this morning, came back into my house and cried. I know I’m not the only one.
Yesterday, we had the talk. For two days, KJ and I struggled with the decision to talk to her about what happened or not. Finally, the anxiety of her hearing it the wrong way won so I sat down with her, as nonchalantly as possible, to fill her in.
I know some of you may feel this is a private thing to share, but as I use this blog as my own familial journal, I’d like to document the conversation. I also think the way the Loud One, and most six-year olds, process things is so interesting. Our talk went something like this:
Me: I just want to talk to you about something that happened a couple of days ago. You may hear people talking at school tomorrow, so I just want you to know what’s going on. A man, who was very, very sick in his brain – sometimes bodies get sick and sometimes brains get sick – went into a school that’s far away from here (I justify this white lie by saying that 20 miles IS far in the mind of six-year old) and hurt some people. A lot of people are feeling very sad about what happened and because this is so unusual, a lot of people are talking about it.
LO: How did he hurt them?
Me: He used a gun. But there were so many other people at the school that were not hurt.
LO: How does a gun work?
Me: A gun shoots bullets and the bullets hurt the bodies they hit.
LO: Did they die?
Me: Yes, some of them did.
LO: Oh. At this point, she asked the only emotional, fearful question of the whole conversation, What if that man comes on our airplane to Florida? (I can only assume the idea of the airplane came up because I said the school was “far away.”)
Me: LO, I PROMISE you that this man will never hurt you or ANYONE ever again.
LO: Is he dead?
LO: Did the sickness in his brain kill him?
Me: Yes. (Because isn’t that the truth?) And I just want to stress that the reason people may be talking about this is because this is SO unusual and almost never happens. Schools are almost always so safe; YOUR school is so safe. And one last thing, this is not something you need to talk to other students about, but if you have any questions at all, you can always talk to me about anything or if you’re at school, you can ask Mrs. Teacher.
LO: OK, I will.
And that was it. We exchanged I love yous and laughed about something else before we moved on… and it was seemingly forgotten.*
Kids are amazingly self-centered. She asked that one question about the airplane being safe, but that was it. Once she confirmed that THAT threat – that one bad man – was gone, she was fine.
She never asked if the “people” I referenced were kids. She never asked how many of them were killed. And I am so glad. I am so happy that her practical brain just wanted to know facts and could avoid the crushing emotion of this story.
There was “strong police presence” at all of the schools in our town this morning. We’re trying to avoid making our kids feel anxious, but yet to keep them safe, we need a “strong police presence.” It’s effed up.
I keep thinking of the families. And the funerals that will happen this week. I keep thinking of the songs that will be sung and the photos that will be shown. I keep thinking of Happy Dude’s MAGICAL teacher who is from Newtown and has so many connections to Sandy Hook and the families. We have a family friend who also knows one of the families who lost their son. These tenuous connections are what we talk about. And how we wish we could do something.
The tragic losses are impossible to bear.
The ripple effects are impossible to imagine.
I find comfort in knowing that other people are also still so sad because it makes me feel less like a crazy person. I feel guilty for being glad that people are still sad. And then I feel bad about all the emotions I’M having because this isn’t about me AT ALL.
I’m just a Mom of a first grader in a town 21.54 miles away who desperately wishes she could take just a tiny bit of pain away from those parents who lost their babies. If we could ALL just take a tiny bit of their pain and literally share their suffering, I know we would. Who wouldn’t volunteer for that?
But it doesn’t work that way. The pain is infinite. But there is hopefully a tiny bit of solace in knowing you are not alone when you’re suffering. And that is what we can offer.
So Newtown – especially to the parents of heaven’s newest angels – I just want to say, YOU ARE NOT ALONE.
No one would dare assume we understand what you’re going through, or feel the same pain, but please KNOW that we are here. Right behind you. If you want to lean, we’ve got your back.
21.54 miles away, 80 miles away, 1,200 miles away 5,000 miles away… we are here.
We are standing behind you, sharing your pain. We are praying that your loved ones may rest in peace and that you, in time, will find some.
*I have been devouring all of the “How to Talk to Your Kids” articles that people have been sharing and forwarding. By no means do I think I handled this perfectly. I immediately had regrets about some of the things I said and didn’t say. I would love to hear more about the conversations you’ve had with your kids, if you’re willing to share. I’m interested in the questions the kids are asking and more importantly, your answers. This is a tough parenting situation (understatement of the year) and I, for one, could use all the help and insight I can get. Thank you.