Most unfortunately, and an even more unfortunate trait of the times we live in, my family has faced some moments of real life terror in the last few weeks. Between an active shooter who killed a student at the University of Utah and a scary lockdown at the schools the other three attend, we had a dose of reality that shook my core. Alex survived his lockdown experience easily as he was the only boy locked down in a sorority house….as he says, “Legendary, right?” But as I sat for five hours, 1000 miles away, watching the local news coverage, I realized how helpless I was. And then fast forward to a few weeks later, while I was picking up the other three from school, there were reports of an active shooter and their schools went on lockdown. I’ll spare you the messy details, and there are some that turned out to be eye opening shortcomings in the whole process, but I ended up locked down in the school with one of my three. Once again I was powerless and my heart shattered into little fragments as I was inadvertently picking which child I was with during it all. It turned out to be a dreadful hoax but once again I was left feeling helpless but instead of being removed from the situation I was right there…in the middle of it.
I never expected to feel so powerless where my kids were concerned. Obviously it was a word/feeling that I’d overlooked in my eighteen years as a mom. Or I guess it was just one that I hadn’t faced or anticipated. I’ve spent quite a bit of time thinking about both events and wondering how I could take control and how I could give my kids power. And now I’ve come to the simple conclusion that there isn’t anything I can do. We’ve discussed escape routes, teachers have creatively(and heroically) told my kids how they intend to defend them in case there is an intruder, we look for the heroes, and we have all kinds of back up plans in case we can’t get to each other. But, honestly, it doesn’t matter. We’re just pacifying our souls and I’m mad. In fact, I’m furious that this is the world I’m raising my kids in. I’m disgusted that we live in a country that refuses to take gun control seriously. I’m saddened that so many people who need help can’t get help because our mental health system is not what it should be. I’m mad that the words mass shooting are so commonplace that our President has a tweet he can copy and paste to “honor” the victims. None of it is right…
But what can I do about it? I vote for issues/people that I feel will make a difference. I make my requisite phone calls to my representatives and sign all those petitions that populate my Facebook feed. None of it mattered when I was crawling around a dark classroom hoping one of my kids was in it. None of it eased my mind as I received the emergency alert texts from Utah. I, as a responsible citizen of this country, have done all I can do, right?
And then I realized as I drove home this morning, feeling the weight of the world in my core or maybe it was all the rain I’d been soaked by, all I can do is be thankful and present. I can feel each moment with my kids, my family, and my friends. I can adorn their moments with a smile and a little piece of kindness. I can sprinkle little bits of happy and crazy into the everyday busy-ness. So when they’re locked in the darkness, that they’ll inevitably find again literally or figuratively, maybe they’ll find a tiny bit of light in their soul to help them through.