Safe

Safe

I sent my first grader to school the day after Sandy Hook. My six year old, my oldest son, my child who was the same age as those in that classroom whose parents couldn’t have fathomed such an atrocity taking place in their kid’s school.

School.

Oh, did I love school as a child. I couldn’t sleep on that night before the first day, butterflies dancing in my stomach. I’m sure some of those butterflies were caused by nerves; I’ve been anxious my whole life. But mostly those butterflies fluttered around with thoughts of new teachers, the smell of books, friends, recess, and so much more.

My sons feel similarly. Oh, they have some grumpy mornings. There have been a few issues with other children not being nice. However, these two boys love school. Moreover, they love their school. They love their teachers and the staff. They love their experiences and their friends. I love that they love school.

When I put my son on the bus the very next morning after the murder of innocent children and their teachers in Newtown, I felt sick to my stomach.

On Valentine’s Day, we were out shopping when my watch dinged.

“Oh no,” escaped from my lips.
“What?”
“Another school shooting.”

Another.

They didn’t even ask where. They didn’t ask anything. This is their reality. This is the reality for our children. Children go to school and are murdered by other children. Our kids know this, and yet they go to school every single day.

It makes my whole being hurt.

I graduated months after Columbine. I thought I had left the fear that penetrated our souls that April afternoon in 1999 in the last century. No. It followed us. It followed Gen X and then mutated, morphed into something we couldn’t have conjured up in our wildest nightmares—and we watched Stephen King movies at sleepovers that haunted us for nights and weeks afterward.

No, the slaughtering of our children in their classrooms even supersedes the scariest workings of one of the best horror authors of our time.

My watch dinged again as we drove home in the dark. 17. 17 dead. I told them. They nodded. Their reality. We’ve allowed this to become their reality. I hate that for them. I hate that, for us as parents who send them off on buses, watch them walk in the doors after we drop them off, just hoping we see them again at the end of the day.

I want my boys to keep loving their school experience. I hope they continue to find teachers they click with, who challenge them to reach their potential. They’ve already been so lucky in this regard. I want them to be involved in their school experience, whether via sports or the band or other extra-curricular activities. I want them to look back at the entirety of their schooling experience with a fondness, not a gut-sucking fear.

I asked each boy if anyone mentioned Parkland at school the next day. Our older son stated that no teachers mentioned it, but a friend talked about it during an open period. Our younger son explained that his teacher brought it up and then went on to say that she made him feel safe by the things she said.

Listen, there’s a lot of work ahead for us as a country. We can’t keep letting our kids be murdered in schools. We can’t. It will require a multi-faceted approach that overhauls just about every aspect of the issue; it’s the only way we’re gonna get through this one. Until then, I will try to take solace in the fact that somehow my children still feel safe at school. I don’t feel safe sending them, but as long as they aren’t sitting in class and panicking all day long, I will give thanks.

There’s a lot of work ahead. There’s a lot of voting and changing in America’s future. I will hold on to hope that the change will happen before my sons leave the school system, that they might truly be safe at school—that their teachers won’t have to convince them they are safe at school, that they may someday just be safe at school.

The Best Valentine’s Day (So Far)

Nothing says romance quite like taking a tween boy shopping for new pants because he’s grown 2.5 inches since Christmas Day.

AMIRIGHT?!

We’re not big Valentine’s Day celebrators. That’s true. But taking a tween shopping felt like maybe the antithesis of love. Tween parenting is odd in and of itself. One day we’re the coolest, the next we’re the worst. I remember that, but being on the flip side feels like someone poking at the soft parts of my heart.

But the kid needed pants. Our schedules have been a little bit crazy as of late, so getting out of town and to an actual shopping plaza has been more of a challenge than usual. I couldn’t just order him clothing online either as I legit had no idea what size to order the quickly growing kid. I needed him to try pieces on and provide actual feedback for fit and length.

While I’m on the topic: Clothing boys is the worst. Not only is it all ugly and virtually impossible to find, but the sizing across brands is RI.DIC.U.LOUS. RIDICULOUS. Old Navy XL is too short. Nike L is too tight but long enough. Kohls’ tech brand L fits length wise but falls off his waist. Brands, please get your act together. It would be great if one size matched across all brands. Not only would it be life-changing for parents but it would result in more money in brands’ pockets as I could easily log on and buy, buy, buy.

Anyway, hanging out in the boys’ department on Valentine’s Day wasn’t all that bad.

I got some really great deals, even though we had to visit a total of three stores. While I felt aggravated at the lack of overall selection, I found some things we all liked. Additionally, I was greeted with a very grateful man-child who thanked me a number of times over the night.

Afterward, we hit up the new IHOP, stopped in at GameStop to let them spend some of their money, and finished it off with evening coffees for the grownups at Starbucks. Maybe someday my husband and I will go out again—alone—on Valentine’s Day like that first date after our youngest son was born. I consumed my first alcoholic drink since prior to getting pregnant and that margarita nearly put me under the table. In the meantime, an evening of laughs and waffles and smiling boys feels like a good deal to me.

Quite honestly, this ranks as the best Valentine’s Day in a long time. Winning.

Healing

Healing

Every evening at 8:30, my phone dings. Actually, now my watch dings too. I love living in the future.

Anyway, the things ding and I look at whichever one I feel like looking at and read the following words.

“I am worthy of healing.”

I just opened the app to see when I set that reminder. Apparently my technology has been reminding me that I am worthy of healing every evening since December… 2016. For over a year, I’ve picked up my phone and swiped aside the reminder.

I am worthy of healing. Swipe.
I am worthy of heal…swipe.
I am worthy of…swipe.
I am worthy…swipe.
I am worth…swipe.
I am w…swipe.
I am…swipe.
I…swipe.

Ding…swipe.

Some nights, I’m deep in the thick of getting the boys off to bed. In between snacks and “go take your shower” and laying out clothes and filling diffusers and tripping over dogs and waving a towel at the smoke detector that goes off when they forget to close the bathroom door while showering, my watch dings.

I look at it, however briefly, and I go back to the momming.

I don’t have time to consider healing most days. I’m lucky to deal with the laundry and the dogs and dinner and homework and caregiving and the ten-hour writing job I took on to help fill the financial gaps since having to leave the business. I’m making a concerted effort to maintain daily self-care because when I don’t, things go poorly.

Things meaning my mind.

Some nights, I am just sitting down on the couch. Maybe it’s a weekend. Maybe we’re on Snow Day Eleven Billion and the boys don’t have to get to bed before 9. Maybe it’s a miracle. But I hear the ding and I sigh.

Healing. Worthy.

These words seem exceptionally hard and extremely far away. What do they even mean? What does healing even look like? My therapist keeps asking me the same thing, over and over.

What does forgiving yourself look like? What does forgiving yourself feel like?

I don’t know. That’s why I’m in therapy. Duh.

I don’t know, though. I don’t know what it feels like to wake up and go through an entire day without telling myself that it’s all my fault. What, exactly? Everything. If I had done this or that or anything or everything differently, we wouldn’t be here. I wouldn’t hate myself. I wouldn’t doubt every step.

And worthy? That feels like a hard concept to grasp, too.

You see, I can’t begin to consider being worthy because I don’t know how to forgive myself which would initiate the whole healing process. This is my carousel of self-loathing, spinning me round and round for all eternity. I don’t even know which one needs to come first at this point because all feecl equally impossible. I’m not worthy. I’m never going to heal. This is my life.

And then…

Some nights, those random evenings in between, I’m caught off guard. I know it’s coming, but it will ding and I’ll be like, “What?” I’ll look and, right before I swipe, I’ll feel something.

Healing.

Worthy.

Something washes over me, my finger hovering over my device. For a second, I believe these words are a possibility, an inevitability even. I breathe and feel them somewhere deep inside. They’re tucked in deep, wedged beneath memories and hurt, behind fear and anger at myself, at the system, at the things I didn’t know. In that one breath though, I know that someday I’ll know what forgiving myself looks like, what it feels like.

And it’s going to feel so beautiful.

Healing