Tonight, after putting my three sweet girls to bed with a few extra snuggles, I came back downstairs to finish the dishes. I walked into the kitchen and saw this bottle of spray out on the counter. As Halloween was approaching this year, our 1st grade twins developed a fear of the school bathroom. Apparently, there were stories of monsters stealing the first grade girls in the bathroom. I tried reasoning away the fear, giving them some self-talk to use when they were fearful, positive reinforcement when they were brave, etc. I can't tell you how many times I have asked my girls, "has anything bad ever happened at Arboretum Elementary School?" or, "if a 1st grade girl was taken from Arboretum, don't you think we would have heard about it?" Finally, when all else failed, I made some monster spray--one for school and one for home (the fear had since generalized to all environments). Today, walking into the kitchen, I was struck with the irony.
After I hugged each girl fiercely as they got off the bus, we had a family meeting in the living room while continuing to snuggle on the couch. I had to ask my two 6 year-olds and 8 year-old what they would do if they heard gun shots in the school. We had to talk about the several uncomfortable concepts--where to hide, how to best pretend to be dead (no, sticking out your tongue isn't actually the most believable idea). We had to tell them that some people are terribly sad and angry, so sad and angry that they want to hurt children so that others will feel the same pain that they feel in their hearts every day.
How different is Waunakee, Wsconsin than Newtown, Connecticut?! How do I now tell my children that they should feel safe at school? How do I, in good conscience, try to convince them that armed with monster spray, they will be safe when I am not near? How can I make a promise that I know I can't keep?!
Early on in my journey through parenting, I was gripped with fear that some monster would hurt my precious, perfectly made children. The only way I could let go of this fear enough to let them grow and encourage their independence was to trust that my God had made each of them perfectly--that He designed them with a specific plan for each of them. And, that if something terrible was going to happen, that He would be there with them. That He could heal any pain--even mine. And, that if I do not get to have one of my children for more than the blink of an eye, that He would also find a way to create goodness out of that terrible situation, too. Just as He did with the early death of my Dad. It still breaks my heart to imagine any of the possible evils in this world afflicting my children--or anyone I love--or even anyone on this earth! But, at least knowing that my God is capable of healing, bringing peace and scooping up my children in His big and loving arms when I am unable--that is what helps me sleep at night. That knowledge is what allows me to send my girls off on the bus every school day. That is the only way this control freak is able to let go enough to move through life when I can't be with them!
Do I wish we could live in a world without pain? Yes, that would be ideal. I wish that Adam Lanza could have grown up without pain, too. Am I angry? Yes, I am angry! I am angry at all of it--angry that guns are so easily accessed. Angry that video games and TV and movies are so violent. Angry that parents aren't as present in their childrens' lives as other influences are. Angry that parents make the easier choice to be a friend to their kids or hope that the schools will fix their problems, rather than making the tough choices. Angry that it is so often the innocent that are hurt by those with deeply hurting hearts. Most of all, I think I am angry because I feel so helpless and unable to stop any of it! If only it could be as simple as monster spray....
And yet, there is something I can do. I can continue to raise my girls with purpose. I can continue to show them love, to show them how to love others well. I can teach them to look for moments to touch others' lives with love. To watch for hurting in others and use those openings to help heal their hearts by showing them the good on this earth through random acts of kindness. To help them feel and understand how God loves us, so that they can extend this experience to others. Maybe, just maybe, they will someday touch the heart of a child like Adam. Maybe they will be a positive touch for a child who has been relentlessly bullied at school, or told they are worthless at home. Maybe they can help someone see that in His eyes, they are wonderfully and beautifully made. That God is the great designer of each and every one of us, and that He doesn't make mistakes! Maybe, if all of us could help our kids believe this, and they treated every single person they encountered as if they had extreme worth, we could bring change and stop the senseless hurting--both for the victims and the perpetrators.