December 12th passed with a few facebook jokes, and with the 21st and apparently the end of the world fast approaching- it is Friday that we are talking about.
This morning in the Globe there was a picture of Noah Pozner’s mom at his funeral. The idea of attending your child’s funeral is such a devastating and nightmarish prospect. As parents, it can float into your consciousness daily – only to be banished out quickly. Too painful, too heartbreaking to even think about. If you stop and picture the scenario for too long, it would be impossible to function, to go to work, to practice or be anywhere except three feet away from your offspring, sobbing.
A few weeks after I had Holden, I was at a friend’s wedding shower. A mom of a (then) two-year-old asked how I was doing and I told her I was fine, but I was scared. Scared that something would happen to Holden, that his health would turn, that I (or someone else) would drop him, or he would choke. I knew life was precious before, but I didn’t realize it was also fragile and despite my best efforts I couldn’t guarantee it. She looked at me sadly and said, “That is why I want to have another one. If anything happened to my daughter, I would kill myself.” My friend is an amazing mom, and not a depressed individual. We never know how we are going to cope in the face of tragedy, but I think she was just being as honest as she could be that day.
I don’t feel the same way as my friend, but the idea of anything happening to Mercedes or Holden scares me so much. Is it wrong that I would rather the earth collapsed and everyone died than be confronted with the death of my son?
There is a certain magic to raising a kid. Two children can have the same parents and upbringing, eat the same food and turn into such completely different grown-ups. Whatever science happens to make a child there is that tiny unknown factor. The little twists and turns in the genetic code that shape how we look and who we are – and then there is something else entirely. I don’t know what that is – I call it magic, maybe it is God, I really don’t know. There is something that makes us INDIVIDUALS. Everyone in the bank line-up is an individual, but with your own kids you can see the miracle of it. Your little sleepy baby has something you didn’t give to him, foggy – but you can see if even then and it separates you from him. Having a baby and watching that magic slowly take root inside of him has absolutely been the craziest most beautiful experience of my life. i’m not necessarily a better person for it – but I think I like everyone more
Hearing about what happened on Friday is so difficult, for me because I think about what the houses of the families who lost children in Connecticut look like. In my house, Holden is really excited for Santa. We have Christmas decorations up, Holden helped decorate the tree and he asked me to tell Santa that he wanted marbles. Those kids were also probably psyched for the holidays, they probably decorated their trees or lit their menorahs and requested weird presents. The beauty and magic of their imprefect personhood is gone.
Several years ago, Mercedes’ high school went into lockdown. A man shot a teacher in the parking lot, a SWAT team came in. The man was the teacher’s estranged husband -I’m not sure if he even went into the building. The kids at her school had prepared for a crazed gunman. They had lockdown drills (in case a “rabid dog” came into the school). She even had a lockdown drill at the hippy alternative school we sent her to for her last couple years of high school.
I only had fire drills and once a chemical spill drill when I went to a school that was close to a plant. There are 14 years in between Mercedes and I, and somewhere in that 14 years things have changed. I’m not pretending to know why. This is just the way it is now.
I go to work everyday and drop off Holden. Sometimes when I drop him off I can’t wait to get away. Writing those words makes me feel ill now. I go to work, and other people look after him. I also complain a lot about the price of daycare, but that almost seems silly. I’m not there to protect him during the day, someone else does – I’m not sure that really has a dollar value. I’m not suggesting that everyone homeschool or that there aren’t real financial constraints to the care you get for your child. I think I am just confused about how we all got to this point.
When I drop my gorgeous, maddening blonde boy off, I accept that his teachers might give him cheese, I accept he might fall down and hurt himself, I accept he might fall ill and throw up or come down with a fever before lunch, i accept that he might feel left out or lonely. I can accept those risks, even though it breaks my heart a little. A school massacre is, however, an unacceptable risk. It seems egregious and impossible that I, who would rather the world ended than have anything happen to my son, would accept it. And yet here I stand accepting it.
I don’t know what we should do about it. The only thing I do know is on Friday night, I felt like the luckiest motherfucker in the universe.