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.

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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.

 

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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.

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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.

On Forgetting and Being Forgotten

On Forgetting and Being Forgotten

Forgetting is a hard thing.

Or, really, forgetting is an easy thing. It happens without notice. One day, one minute you know a thing and the next, you do not. Most of the time, you don’t realize you have forgotten until someone asks you a question or you need something.

Where did I put those keys?

Sometimes forgetting is part of daily life. Those keys weren’t hung properly on the hook when you walked in the door because the dogs jumped, excited to see you return home after a busy day of driving children to and from school and activities. Those keys were placed under the mail which you also forgot to grab yesterday since it was rain-ice-snowing and the mailbox felt too far away. Those keys and the pile of mail were both pushed aside when you went to start dinner, perching precariously on the edge of the counter but also kind of “out of mind” as they weren’t interfering with anything else. Out of sight, out of mind.

Well, I don’t know what I ate for dinner.

Sometimes recalling the mundane feels hard. What did I eat for dinner? I’ve eaten meals for over 13,000 some odd days. Maybe one meal starts to blur into another. Maybe last night’s meal wasn’t exciting or out of the ordinary. Maybe the memory of the meal mashed up with the potatoes from last week.

Maybe when Mamaw looks at the plate in front of her with food still on her fork, she’s thinking about much tastier meals from past years. Maybe when I’m standing in the kitchen, trying to remember what we ate last night, my brain is too busy thinking up what I’m going to create for dinner tonight. Maybe remembering what you ate isn’t overly important.

Meanwhile, the brain is a tricky creature that can pull up odd details without issue. Mamaw sat and told my husband all about a watch she got way back in the day. She explained it to him in great detail. Why that particular thing is easy for her to talk about and recall, I don’t quite know other than remote memory often stays intact even when short-term memory leaves.

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I’m blessed-slash-cursed with a memory that won’t forget even the most boring of details. I can tell you what I wore on the first day of every day of school. Useless, right? I can also describe in excruciating detail every traumatic event of my life: my daughter’s birth, the day I left the hospital, the first time the dog bit me as a baby, the second time the dog bit me as a toddler. I also have vivid memories of dreams—I especially hate this one because they sometimes want to mix into real memories and it can feel difficult to decide if I saved a baby from a tornado that devastated The Farm or not. Spoiler: I didn’t nor was there a tornado that devastated The Farm, though we had a close call once as well as a Micro-Burst.

And let’s be honest: There are things I would love to forget. The trauma, the loss, the way you made me feel; the way I made you feel and how it bowled me over. That feeling in the pit of my stomach when we got caught. That feeling in the pit of my stomach when I sent you a letter. That feeling that washed over my soul when I wanted to give it all up. Mainly, I would like to forget feelings.

I don’t know who that is.

One process of forgetting—the process of being forgotten—feels the worst.

I was the first to be forgotten. After Mamaw’s devastating fall last summer, we stopped to visit her in the home. After my husband and I left, she asked Gramps “who that woman was.” I understood; I’m the newest adult here. 14 years may feel like a long time, but it’s still relatively new when you’ve been around for 80 years. I cried, but I didn’t take it personally. Or, I tried not to.

When she forgot our youngest son, though, my heart broke a thousand times over. Also true: He’s the youngest and thus the newest in her life. She knew our older son, but couldn’t figure out our youngest son’s name even after he removed his new glasses. When we discussed it later, he said he understood. They’ve both been amazing as we deal with this slow, excruciating loss; they’re helpful and present. They ask questions. “How was Mamaw today? Was it a good day or a bad day?” They offer hugs and kind words.

But being forgotten sucks. Being forgotten by a beloved grandmother, even if she is a great-grandmother, hurts on levels he doesn’t quite possess the words to describe right now. And so he joins me in the kitchen as I hand wash dishes, a towel in his hand to dry them off before we put each worn dish, bowl, and glass away. He helps and helps and helps. He gives and gives and gives, as if to say, “See what I’ve done? Don’t forget me, Mamaw.”

I stand beside him at the sink, hands in the lukewarm, greasy water, willing the same.

On Forgetting and Being Forgotten