I don’t know how to do my job as a parent anymore.
As a parent, I am charged with the increasingly difficult task of raising these two boys to be functional adult members of society. My problem is not with the functional part; I have no problem teaching them how to do laundry, manage money or not be total jerks. (Or, I hope so, especially on that last point.) The problem I seem to be having is getting them to the adult part. Safely. In one piece. Alive.
I have been horrified over the past month, trying — in vain — to avoid the news. I can’t handle any more news of children being injured or killed. From the tragedy at Sandy Hook to the school shooting in LA on Thursday to the murder-suicide in my city in which a father killed himself and his five-year-old son — I just can’t handle it anymore. I don’t say that as a criticism of news coverage; I say it because these deaths shouldn’t be happening. People — random adults, other children and teens, parents — shouldn’t be killing children. Accidentally. On purpose. Children should not be dying in these ways. It just simply shouldn’t be happening.
From 2008-2009, 5,740 children and teens were killed by guns. The number of children killed in their homes by guns — unintentionally, homicide and suicide — is staggering. I look at these statistics as the wife of a hunter and responsible gun owner and think, “What if?” And, “Are my kids’ friends’ parents responsible gun owners?” And, “What about my next door neighbor?” And then I get all backwards and emotional and worried. Then I roll my eyes at myself, recognizing that I’m focusing on the negative which does no good. Yet still, I feel like all I do to keep the safe, to keep them out of harm’s way, is all for naught. I am fighting an uphill, losing battle. I have no control.
And, really, I get it. I understand that safety is a false notion. I fully believe that sending your kids to school or bed or doing anything at any time — even doing nothing — is a leap of faith. I accept that I cannot remove all danger from their paths, that simply being alive is risk enough. I understand that we could be in a car accident or that the gas line could blow up or that a bridge could collapse or that a tree could fall or one of them could choke on a piece of food or die because of a flu outbreak or cancer or a trip down the stairs or any other bit of random tragedy. I can’t bubble wrap them enough to protect them from the fact that we are mortal, that we get one chance at living, that the world is imperfect.
But enough has to be enough.
Sadly, I don’t know what “enough” entails.
I know we all want easy answers. It’s guns. It’s mental illness. It’s a society that celebrates violence and gore. It’s video games. It’s movies. It’s TV. It’s the news media. It’s the past generations’ fault. It’s the present generations’ fault. Mom’s fault. Dad’s fault. The President. Congress. NRA. Schools. Police. Someone, anyone, please step forward and take the blame for the why and how of it all. Someone, anyone, pinpoint what exactly is wrong so, my God, we can fix it. Change it. Make it stop happening. Please.
I want answers. I want change. I want all children to be safe from this needless, unnecessary, gut-wrenching, life-altering, deadly violence. I want my children to be safe when they’re not in my care or when we’re walking through a mall or sitting in a darkened theater or standing on a sidewalk or sitting in our own yard. I want better for them — better than what continues to become part of our reality, their reality.
So I sit here, a million questions in my head without any answers and wonder: If my job as a parent is to deliver these two boys to adulthood, what can I do so I don’t fail that one, monumental task? I don’t know the answer and that scares me to my core.