Parenting in a World that Doesn’t Make Sense

As a parent, when horrible and senseless tragedies like the mass shooting in Orlando occur, it is difficult to not feel helpless and hopeless. It is difficult to not feel guilt and shame for the world in which you are raising your child. You struggle for the right words to say—sometimes knowing that there are no words. Sometimes the only thing you can do is hold your child a little longer—a little closer. You cherish those moments as you fight back the tears—knowing that, due to these unspeakable acts of hate, there are parents out there who are preparing to say goodbye to their children for whom they would give anything to be able to hold in their arms again.

You wish you could do something to help make the future just a little less bleak for your child. You wish you could rid the world of hate. You wish you could shield your child from the senseless violence that, with each occurrence, silently erodes your ability to trust and to feel safe. You try to believe that it won’t happen to you or your family. You try to desensitize yourself to the violence and hate around you. But, it doesn’t work. Regardless of how hard you try, it is impossible to shake the fear and the grief. It is impossible to ignore the fact that every life lost was someone’s child. It is impossible to ignore the fact that every life lost mattered to someone.

You can’t tell your child that everything will be okay, because nobody can ever truly know. It is difficult to not allow fear to overcome you—to keep you from doing the things you want to do and enjoy doing. You don’t know what tomorrow holds, but you can make the choice to keep going—to keep living your life. Because, if we let fear overcome us, then fear wins, right? You provide your child with a safe, stable, and loving home, but you also do what you can to prepare them for what they may encounter in the world. If you choose to share with them some information about tragedies when they occur, you attempt to do so in an age-appropriate way, but also in a way that teaches them that, while there is evil in the world, there is also a lot of good.

From the moment you bring your child into the world, or into your family, it is your responsibility to help shape who they will become. It is your responsibility to instill in them the values and principles that will help pave the way for them to learn how to become compassionate, functioning, and contributing members of society. You encourage your child and build them up while also doing your part in holding them accountable for their actions. You are there to help pick them up when they fall and you hope they are able to learn from their mistakes. You watch as they tackle challenges and adversities and encourage them to be open to the lessons life tries to teach them along the way. You teach your child the importance of motivation and hard work to achieve their goals and their perceived successes in life. And, when they are ready to be on their own, you can only hope that they hold onto some semblance of the values, advice, and lessons you shared with them along the way.

I believe in advocating for change that will positively impact the future for our children, for ourselves, and for our world. However, I also believe in the importance of teaching our children to be kind and respectful to others, to show compassion, and spread love—not hate. We also need to make sure our children are aware that, regardless of what they believe, the rules DO apply to them. We can advocate against the injustices of the world, but laws and regulations mean very little if people refuse to abide by them.

If we truly want to change the world for our children, we need to help our children become a reflection of the world in which we wish for them to live.

A Day We Will Never Forget

There are no words to express the magnitude and senselessness of what has happened today.

This morning, a 20-year-old man (I’ve decided to delete his name from this post) entered Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Connecticut. His mother had some sort of connection with the school and was one of the 27 people (20 children, 7 adults – I refuse to include the gunman in this number) who lost their lives today due to this senseless and horrific tragedy.

I cannot begin to imagine what the parents of the victims and those affected are going through. As a parent, I send my sons to school every day, entrusting their care and safety to the teachers and other adults responsible for the wellbeing of every person within the confines of the school property. My husband and I eagerly wait for their arrival at their bus stops every afternoon and cannot wait to see their exuberant and adorable faces that we miss so much throughout the day.

As a parent, you wonder how you can live your lives and help your children grow and thrive when you live in a world of such great uncertainty and instability. School shootings and other mass shootings rarely occurred when I was younger. Now, they seemingly happen every year. People like to say, “It will never happen to me or my kids,” but that guarantee of safety no longer exists.

There are many questions—many of which may never be answered. This horrific tragedy is bound to ignite countless debates and finger pointing, but we must not lose sight of those who have been immediately affected by this senseless act of violence. Parents of the children in that New England town will no longer be able to send their children to school without wondering if they will come home safely each afternoon. The children will return to a school that will forever be a symbol of the horrifying events that happened there today. Regardless of the achievements and wonderful things that have happened in Newtown, it will now be forever remembered as the site of one of the deadliest school shootings (the deadliest elementary/high school shooting) in U.S. history.

Today, we mourn the lives of those affected by this horrific tragedy and we pray for healing, understanding, and resiliency. For those of us who are parents, we will anxiously wait for our children to come home from school. We will hold our children closer, give them extra hugs and kisses, and we’ll tell them we love them and we’ll tell them again. The sounds of our children playing, laughing, and even fighting will be like music to our ears, as we think of the parents who would give anything to see and hear their children again.

No parent should ever have to bury their child. Because of the actions of one monster, the parents and loved ones of over 20 children and 7 adults will have to endure that painful experience. These parents will be haunted by the memories of what their children looked like this morning and whether or not they had time to hug or kiss them or tell them they loved them before they left for school. They will be haunted by the memories of their children waving goodbye and saying “I love you” for the last time.

Cherish your loved ones and hold your children close. Live your lives to the fullest and never leave without saying “goodbye” or “I love you,” regardless of where you are going or how long you will be gone. Treat others with kindness and compassion. Pray for healing and pray for peace.

We will never forget—12/14/2012.