Most parents I know were counting the minutes until their children came home from school last Friday. The news about the mass shooting in Newtown, Connecticut was just too much for them to bear and they needed, as soon as possible, to hug their little, and even not so little, ones out of sheer emotional desperation--to know, rational or not, that they were safe.
But all three of my kids had planned to go friends' houses after school that day, and while a small part of me wanted to spend the remainder of Friday afternoon curled up on the couch with them, the rest of me was more than a little relieved that I had a few more hours alone to spend roving the internet, refreshing every news site and social media channel I had available. I was desperate for information on how this could have possibly happened. Again. This time, in an elementary school, in a peaceful New England town.
I didn't turn on the TV--I couldn't bear to see any live images of horrified children--but remained glued to my laptop screen, nonetheless. And realized that as much as I felt sad, I also felt numb. I was glad my kids weren't home. I didn't really feel like talking. And besides, I wasn't really sure what I wanted to say to them. Or to anyone, in person, or virtually, for that matter.
I am not a scholar of Constitutional Law, although I have my doubts that a home arsenal of semi-automatic weapons was what James Madison and his congressional colleagues were thinking about when drafting the Second Amendment. I am not a trained psychologist and can't genuinely offer anything other than anecdotal advice on how to talk to children in the aftermath of a tragedy. I know nothing about best practices in school security. I haven't studied all the data on whether continued exposure to savage images in the media and in first person shooter video games should be held partially accountable for the culture of violence in this country. And, perhaps most painfully, I have no idea what it would be like to be the parent of mentally ill child, running up against roadblock after roadblock in the search for treatment for her son.
No, I was something that is rare for me last Friday. I was silent. I left the talking to the experts.
But it's a new week--the one in which the days will once again begin to get longer. And in this increased light of day, it is my sincere hope that the experts, the politicians, and perhaps just some regular parents,will speak up and come to the table to figure this out. To figure out how to implement common sense gun control. To figure out how to make access to mental health care easier and more affordable. To figure out if now's the time to toss out that Call of Duty disc in the basement; shouldn't the excitement of the Madden Football be enough for a 15-year-old?
As I heard President Obama work his way through the list of children murdered during his televised remarks at the Newtown interfaith vigil, I recognized familiar first names--Charlotte, Noah, Jack and Olivia. These are also the names of my kid's friends--their cohort--as well. These names, so fashionable among kids born in the last decades, shouldn't be being etched, en masse, into gravestones yet.
The president asked, "Are we prepared to say that such violence visited on our children year after year after year is somehow the price of our freedom?"
I don't think we are, Mr. President. So take the lead. I am hopeful all of America, like me, is finally ready to talk.