When I blog, I talk a lot about love. Love wins. I truly believe that. And the more of us who believe that, the better off we'll be.
But a lot of moments in parenting are about fear. I have these little men whom I love more than I thought possible. They are amazing, funny, frustrating, insightful, loud, fabulous people. But my love for them is so huge that the idea of anything happening to them can stop my heart.
A few months ago, not long after the tragedy in Newtown, Conn., I was at work, doing my regular work thing, when my phone rang. It was an automated message from the school that my two older sons attend. I was informed that there had been a shooting at another school a few blocks away. At least two people had been injured, so, as a precaution, my kids' school was on lockdown. We could pick up our kids now or when the school day ended.
My heart pounded, and I spent about three minutes pretending that I was going to finish my workday and let my husband pick up the boys at the regular dismissal time. I'm surprised that I made it that long. In the end, I rushed into my supervisor's office and informed him that I was leaving (but that I would be back for the very important client meeting that was scheduled for later in the day). I called my husband on the way to the school as I strictly observed the speed limit. (I knew that if I didn't, I would be driving 80 miles per hour on city streets.)
When I got to the school, it was surrounded by police officers. They were herding all the parents to the front main entrance, where school staff members were checking IDs before letting anyone into the building. I have two children in the school, and one of the staff recognized me immediately and waved me in without the ID check. The receptionist at my kids' school, a former Marine, was at the door and nodded to me as he let me in.
Everyone inside the school was so keyed-up. I had never felt that level of tension before. Parents, grandparents and care providers waited, not so patiently, for their kids. Luckily, everyone was doing their best to keep it together in an effort to not panic the children. After what felt like hours but was more like a few minutes, my boys were brought to me. I gave them hugs and smiles, and although they were happy to get out of school early, their eyes raced around, watching the unfamiliar circumstances unfold in a place that they know so well.
I got them out of the building and into the car as quickly as I could. I could see the tension in them, as well. They knew things weren't right.
After all the seat belts were fastened, my older son asked, "Mom, what happened?"
I took a deep breath. I had been thinking about how to explain this the entire way there. "Well, at a school a little ways away, someone who was very sick in their heart and their brain brought a gun to school and hurt some people."
"But not at our school?" my second grader asked.
I looked at my kindergartner and saw that his big eyes were filling with tears. My older son, ever the protector of his little brothers, took his hand and squeezed it. "No, honey," I said. "Not at your school, but your principal wanted to make extra-special sure everyone at your school was OK. That's why the police came, to make sure everyone was safe."
My older son nodded solemnly at me. "But why did the other guy, the guy with the gun, do that?"
"Baby, sometimes people get so sad and hurt and angry and are so sick in their hearts and heads that they do bad things," I explained. I looked from boy to boy, trying to gauge their reactions.
Finally, my kindergartner said in his smallest voice, "But that can't happen at our school."
"No," his older brother assured him, squeezing his hand again, "that can't happen at our school."
I froze. I am a big one for being honest with children. Lies, even innocent ones, can come back and bite you in ass, so I avoid them. And the truth was that, yes, it could happen at their school. Violence is unpredictable and merciless. I looked into their faces, put on my best mom face and lied.
"He's right, baby. It can't happen at your school."
Why did I lie? For a lot of reasons, but mostly because I have two little boys who need to feel safe and happy when they go to school five days a week. Was it the right decision? I don't know for sure, but it's the one I made.
I started the car and put in the soundtrack to Hairspray. The boys held hands, and we all sang "Good Morning, Baltimore" on the way home. I dropped the boys off into the safe arms of Dad and headed back to work for my client meeting. I'd made it through the ordeal, although I still don't know how.
I cannot adequately describe my abject terror as I waited for my children. My pulse raced and pounded, and my mind went in 10,000 different directions, all horrible. And the thing is that I knew that my kids were OK. I knew that they were safe and whole and healthy. Not only can I not imagine what the parents of Newtown, Conn., went through, but I don't want to. It is too horrible to even contemplate. The parents of 20 children in Newtown lived through that unimaginable horror and continue to live with that horror everyday. As with parents all over the world, my heart bleeds for them.
This is where people are probably expecting me to say something about gun control and gun legislation. And I could. There is a lot to say about keeping our children safe and healthy and giving them the chance to grow into adults. But instead, I am just going to say this: Love your kids. Love them every minute of every day. They are worth it. Each one of them is unique and amazing and deserves every ounce of love that a parent can dish out. It is our privilege as parents to give it to them, and we can't take that for granted.
Love. Love wins.