The news from Connecticut is tragic. There's no overstating that. I know I'm not alone as a parent in having my mind "go there," imagining what it would be like -- what it must be like for those grieving parents now -- to lose a child through such senseless violence.
Even before kids, my mind often wandered to the Land of What If. I would envision myself either kicking the arse off any would-be baddie, or ending up dead and mourned in the valiant effort thereof. When I became a mom, the Land of What If became a darker place, a less heroic place -- and a much harder place to avoid. No more novels involving abused or lost children. No TV crime dramas. Normally a cover-to-cover newspaper reader, I'm now more selective.
Our house was burglarized some weeks back. The girls and I were home in bed at the time. And instead of the heroic arse-whooping of my daydreams, my reality saw me fumbling to find my effing glasses and later watching as my 5-year-old gave a statement to the police. I barely slept that first night. The rest of the week, I was afraid to leave my daughter at school but equally afraid of kissing her goodnight and leaving the room. I felt something I hadn't felt before ... that I honestly never imagined my cynical, facts-based, get-'er-done sense of self feeling (even in the Land of What If) ... potent fear. Too close a call.
I felt in my heart what I've always known in my head -- that we do not have control over our lives.
And then Sandy Hook. The lens on life can rapidly narrow to one dark spot after something like that, casting everything else in shadow, as if there really is an inevitable downward trajectory to our collective history. We grieve for the parents who have lost children, because we know how much we treasure our own. I was reminded how precious my girls are after the burglary, and I'm reminded again after this school shooting.
The real world contains little of the heroic drama that our daydreams conjure, although we look for heroes and laud them (as we should). The real world continues where the daydreams end with a quick credit role, as we seek control by reviewing family safety plans, debating reforms to gun control and fumbling over deficient mental health care (as we should). Neither heroism nor bureaucracy dispels the cold finality of death, but they do help bring back some light. Life goes on. We focus on the beauty around us in the here and now, avoiding the black hole of the Land of What If and the equally black hole of wall-to-wall coverage of the Real World.
So I thank the police who responded. We install a security system. I get to know my neighbors better. I hide the pictures in this morning's newspaper from my girls. And I turn off this stupid computer and go have a dance party in the kitchen with them.
These folks say it better:
How Can We Find Hope in a Time of Tragedy? from Creative With Kids
Another mother's thoughts from a different tragedy over a year ago, smaller in scale by media standards but no less heartbreaking