“I don’t remember who said this, but there really are places in the heart you don’t even know exist until you love a child.”
― Anne Lamott, Operating Instructions: A Journal of My Son’s First Year
It’s been a little more than a month and I still think about it.
I think about how that Friday morning may have begun for them. Maybe it was a lot like the morning I had with my own kids? I woke my sleepy children, asked them what they wanted for breakfast, and picked out clothes for them to wear that day. I made lunches, packed snacks, made sure their faces were clean and their teeth were brushed. I also brushed their hair and tied their shoelaces. We probably said good-bye: I kissed them, told them I love them and “have a good day”, then rushed out the door. This is pretty much how most mornings start here. Maybe this sounds familiar to you if you have small children? Maybe these same events took place in some of the homes in Newtown, Connecticut on December 14th as well.
As I watched the news that day, I saw parents desperately trying to find out where their children were and if they were ok.. For those who were running down the streets, I too wanted to run with them. I wanted to find and hug their children because all I could think about was driving to my own kid’s schools to see them, hug them and know that they were safe. When they finally came home, I, like so many other parents that day, hugged them much longer and tighter than I ever had before
For the most part, our day continued as it normally would. My kids fought over toys or what channel would be watched on tv. They made a mess at the dinner table, and later they gave me a hard time about going to bed. On any other day I might have lost my patience after asking them to stop arguing, or telling them to share, or pleading with them many times to go to bed. But that night was very different for me. I think I was calm because I felt very sad and numb about the tragedy that happened and I couldn’t help but feel so incredibly thankful for their arguing, the mess, and their not wanting to go to bed.
They had no idea of the horrific events that took place. I couldn’t tell them. I didn’t want to tell them. I just wanted to keep hugging each of them every chance I got. It was hard to hold back the tears as I said goodnight and when they were finally in bed I cried so much because I thought about all the parents in Newton Connecticut who didn’t have their children with them, to hear their arguing or to kiss them good night. I thought about how they had to look at their children’s empty beds and the toys they would no longer play with. How could they have possibly, even for a second, imagined that the night before would have been that last time they would ever kiss and hug their children good night?
I thought about that day a lot as the holidays were approaching. I thought about how this was supposed to be an exiting and happy time of year for ALL children. As I attended holiday parties at my children’s classrooms and saw how all the children in the class were so excited about the holidays, I became distracted by thoughts of what the classrooms in the Sandy Hook Elementary School were like on the day of the shootings.
I wondered if the classrooms were loud and noisy with children’s voices and laughter like the classroom I was in at that particular moment, or were the classrooms quiet because the children were listening to their teacher teach a math lesson? I thought about how just like my children, the little ones in Sandy Hook Elementary were getting excited about waking up Christmas morning and unwrapping new toys or maybe they were looking forward to going on a vacation with their families during the school break. I kept looking at the door of the classroom and wondered what those sweet little innocent children saw during their last moments.
Even now, a month later, I still think about that day: Sometimes it’s during random moments like when I’m helping my kids with their homework or giving them a bath. I wonder how the families who suffered from loss are coping or if the children who survived and witnessed such horror will ever feel safe again.
Unfortunately, sometimes it takes a tragedy to force us to think long and hard about what we have and what our true blessings really are. It can make us realize how we, at times, can unknowingly focus on the things in life that may not really matter or how we might put aside, who and what we wouldn’t want to ever have taken away from us. For me, I am reminded to cherish every possible moment with my children, even the moments that sometimes drive me crazy. Also, that time is truly precious, and that tomorrow is never guaranteed.
My heart aches so much for all the families of the victims that were murdered in Newtown, CT. and I will continue to keep them in my prayers and hope that somehow, someday, they will begin to heal.
Cathy Moryc Recine writes a monthly Parenting Column for Muse In The Valley. She lives in Manorville NY, with her husband and four children ages 9, 6, 4 and 2. She works as a mom, yet still finds time to enjoy the things that keep her unique. Her winning FB status of the month:
Do you know what the 3 most potentially frightening words a 4yr old boy can say? “smell my hands”