I found out just after Andreas had come home from kindergarten, as I waiting for Mateo to get home from grade 2. Kindergarten lets out just before 11am every morning, and the rest of the school just before 3 – except for Fridays. On Fridays the rest of the school lets out at noon. Each Friday there is a lull as I wait that hour between when kindergarten and the rest of the school is released for the weekend. Normally, it’s kind of just a pain. This past Friday it was an eternity. I wanted my oldest son in my arms along with my other three children, as soon as he possibly could be.
My mommy heart was shattered on Friday morning, and I don’t think it’ll ever be the same. Learning the news of the sweet babies and their teachers whose lives were taken violently in their own school in Newtown knocked the wind out of me. First reports were that a kindergarten class had been the victims and all I could think about was Andreas in his kindergarten class. Those babies are 5 years old. And I thought of Christmas and presents wrapped and waiting, and how 5 years old is a magical age at Christmas time, and I sobbed and sobbed and sobbed. As details emerged and we learned that the children whose lives were lost were all 6 and 7 years old, in grade 1, I thought about Mateo and his grade 1&2 split class. The 6 and 7 year olds and how new and bright the world still is to them. How sweet and little they still are despite the growing up part of childhood that is nearly upon them. I thought again about Christmas and presents and how the magic will soon wane (if it hasn’t already), and how the moms and dads of 6 and 7 year olds are universally trying to keep our babies little for as long as they’ll let us.
5, 6, 7 – those numbers keep going around and around in my head. My heart keeps saying, over and over, “they were just born” in quiet despair. Every birthday, every year, we say that same thing. “It seems like just yesterday he was born.” It seems that way because it’s true. And as I think of those sweet babes laying still now, I shake my head because they were all just born, and in the hearts and minds of all who loved them, babies they will remain.
Then I had some flashbacks.
I was in high school when Columbine happened. I’ve never spoken about it. When Columbine happened it felt like it could have been me or my school. Those kids were my age and their school was like my school. We were the same. If it could happen to them, it could happen to me. It could happen to anybody. I remember feeling unsettled at school for a long time. I’m not sure if it ever went away, that feeling. I remember thinking about my classes and my routine and what I would do if…
To think back on it I feel sad for my 16 year old self. I was a kid. I shouldn’t have had to worry about things like that. And here I am again watching it happen again. This time it’s kids like mine instead of kids like me, and it has left me wondering if there is anyplace left that is safe for children. If it could happen to those kids, it could happen to mine. It could happen anywhere.
So the fear comes. I don’t want to send my kids to school tomorrow. I want to keep them with me and hide them away from the world. I’m not going to let fear dictate our course though. If I want my children to grow into brave and strong adults, I have to model courage. I want to be a coward with everything that is in me, really I do, but I know that I can’t. We talked to Mateo about what happened at the school just like his to the kids just like him and the teachers just like theirs. I’m sure some would say we shouldn’t have said anything, but Mateo is older than his years. Mateo will figure things out when he hears it from other kids and I don’t want him to wonder why we didn’t tell him or feel that we hid it from him. I want him to know that no matter how bad or scary or embarrassing or silly something may be, that we are his first line of communication. No matter what. God help us.
It broke our hearts. We made a point though, of emphasizing how we would never ever send him someplace, anyplace (including school) where we thought he’d be unsafe. We showed him love and let him talk and ask the questions. Glenn noted how much more aware and resilient children are than we give them credit for. We explained to Mateo that he is probably going to hear things at school and to ask his questions of us first. Then we made sure he understands that he shouldn’t tell the other kids if they don’t know. Mateo is a mature 7, but there are likely some very young 6’s in his split class who may not be able to handle the information. We did not talk to Andreas about what happened. He just doesn’t have the capacity to understand or process this.
I don’t know what comes next. I do know that I will pray like I’ve never prayed before. For my kids, their friends, their teachers, and their school. For safety. For courage. For love.
Praying for the families whose loved ones were lost in Newtown on Friday.
And for this to never happen to anybody else’s baby anywhere again. Not ever.
Because they were just born. They were just born.
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