A Lament for the Children

I have cried since yesterday afternoon, when I heard about the tragedy in Newtown, Connecticut. All those children, whose families were joyfully preparing to celebrate Yule, Christmas, Hanukkah, Kwanzaa, whatever they believed in, their small lights snuffed out by yet another child, albeit older than they were. Dead, between one breath and the next, before they ever really had a chance to live.

How? How have we come to this? We pride ourselves on being the jewel of the “civilized” world, yet can we say that after something like this? Where is the civilized portion of our program in what was done yesterday? Do we even have a passing acquaintance with that word, really? I wonder.

Children are off limits!!! Everyone knows this, or should. Even the most hardened criminals view child molesters and killers with contempt.

I’ve read innumerable reports since yesterday, and cried with each one. I met my daughter at school and immediately grabbed her and held on, crying the entire time. She doesn’t understand, not really, and it’s enough that I do. Why give her nightmares if I don’t have to? Again, it’s enough that have them. And do I ever have them. This slaughter of innocents is every parent’s nightmare. You send them to school, expecting to pick them up again in the afternoon and drive home, half-listening to their chatter about their day…only to hear something like this.

My heart breaks for the parents. How do you survive the loss of your child? How do you look at the empty bed, the empty chair at the table, and go on? How do you explain it to yourself, never mind the child’s siblings?

I didn’t know any of the victims, but I didn’t need to. I have two children of my own, one of whom was a kindergartner only a little over a year ago, and I am blessed (or cursed) with a vivid imagination. I didn’t need to know the children personally. It was far too easy to imagine myself in the place of the parents.

I wonder to myself: if I had any inkling of what the future would hold for children, would I still have chosen to have them? Would I have chosen to risk my heart, knowing that the possibility of losing them was far greater for me than it had been for my own parents? We grew up in such a different world than the one we inhabit now. In the world of my childhood, this would never have happened. It could never have happened. No one would have dreamed of it, much less dared it. The world I grew up in was not perfect, not by any means, but this? This?

Children are off limits. Bad enough when adults are murdered for no reason. Childhood is such a short span of time; let them keep their innocence as long as we can possibly give them. Let them be children. The ones that survived are no longer children, and they’ve lost their innocence from their experience yesterday. They’ll never get it back, never view the world with wonder and awe again, and that breaks my heart as much as the deaths do. No adult should have to see what happened in Newtown, and certainly no child should have to witness something so monstrous.

We tell frightened children that there are no such things as monsters, when in fact there are. They may not have fangs or look like Frankenstein, but they are still monsters, the more so because you can’t tell until it’s too late. You can’t allow your children to believe anymore that a stranger is just a friend they haven’t met yet. You have to teach them that just because someone smiles at them, it doesn’t mean they’re a friend. How sad is that?

I called Aneira’s school yesterday and asked for a school-wide meeting to address what happened in Newtown. I think all of us, as parents, are now wondering what security measures are in place in our schools to protect our children from another slaughter. I think we need to know, in detail, what the schools are doing as far as security. I think it’s important to have a plan already in place before another incident like this occurs. And I think the children should be drilled on that plan the way they are drilled for fires.

There is no safety anymore, and I mourn the loss of that ideal. You have mass shootings in malls, in movie theaters, in colleges, supermarkets, post offices, and now elementary schools. How far we have fallen. How much farther must we fall before something is done?

Many people are talking about gun control as though it’s the answer. While I have no argument with the idea of gun control, I don’t believe it’s the answer, or at least not the only one. Let’s face it, the monsters who commit these horrific crimes are not going to abide by the gun laws anyway. The people who abide by the law are not the ones who are going to go and shoot up a school. Changing the law means nothing to someone who’s going to break it anyway. If someone truly wants to do harm with a gun, they will find a way to get that weapon.

It is a parent’s job to safeguard his or her children. That job is paramount, scored deeply into our hearts, and it is devastating to realize that you truly can’t complete that job. You can’t be with them at all times. You can’t put them in a bubble. You can’t hide them. All you can do is your best, and love them to the best of your ability, and hope that you do well enough to get them to adulthood and they can take it from there. Prayer helps too, to whatever higher power you believe in. With any luck, Someone is listening.

Now shut down your computer, go find your children or your parents, hug them tightly, spend time with them, and remember to tell them how much you love them. None of us is guaranteed tomorrow, no matter how young.


2 comments on “A Lament for the Children

  1. Oh how I can relate. I found great comfort in this song by Brandon Heath. The only reason I am linking to my blog is because it’s easier than tracking down the video on youtube again. Hope you enjoy it and I hope it brings comfort to you and perhaps some of your readers. http://wp.me/p2WjnV-3n


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