I used to stay on the playground with Sierra when we got to school in the morning. Every morning was the same. We held hands until she saw her friends, then she bolted. She swung circles around the playground, ignoring everything but the moment. But she always came back to me before they all lined up to go inside. One last check. One last touch with home base.
Now, a few months into her kindergarten year, I just drop her off. She insists. She walks onto the playground, turns, and waves, and runs to meet her friends. It takes all I have not to park the car and give her one last hug.
But I don’t.
She’s at school. She’s safe.
I was at the grocery store a few minutes after I found about the shooting in Connecticut. I walked in knowing that, at that point, 18 kids were confirmed dead. Grade-school aged kids. Kids just a few years older than Sierra, killed by a weapon that should never have been put on the market, within the confines of one of the few buildings a kid can really trust.
People were smiling. They were talking about email. They were putting bows on liquor bottles. They hadn’t heard.
No one had heard, yet. I felt as if it wasn’t real.
One by one, people hear. And they argue for – or against – better gun control, and they argue for – or against – better resources for mental health, or they just try to piece together what still doesn’t seem real: Eighteen kids. Dead. In their school.
This is how I cope. I write words on something for which there are no words. I stay out of the debates because other people can fight those battles better than I can. I struggle to hold back from platitudes. But that’s hard. Because what do you say?
There are no words for what happened today. There will never be words for this.
Eighteen kids. What do you say to that?
There are mornings when I fight with the kids. They are too slow, or they are not listening. They are pushing the envelope; testing their limits, causing lateness and anger and exasperation.
There are times when I’m totally fed up with one thing or the other, when I struggle with our kids’ disappointment in gifts, their inability to reason like an adult, their general childishness.
I send them off to school. They come home and we’ve all had time to cool off. Hugs. Stories. We start anew, because we are filled with love and there’s nothing that could stop that.
Today, in Connecticut, there are parents who had fights with their kids, who felt exasperated, who were worried about whether or not their kids would like the Christmas presents wrapped under the tree, who had cooled off and were thinking about dinner that night, who dropped their kids off at school knowing that they would see them just a few hour later. Who got a call – or, even worse, still haven’t gotten a call – and found their lives shattered. Who found that they will never get resolution.
Our President is on television, crying. There are parents who thought their kids were always going to be safe at school. There are gifts under the tree that will never be unwrapped.
There are no words.