“Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.” – Elizabeth Stone
The morning of the recent school shooting was a mess for us. I was a huge ball of stress, trying to get myself and my kids out the door. We were running late, of course. I was running on about four hours of sleep, and my boys were just not cooperating. Once we arrived at school, I had to help navigate 20 preschoolers through a rehearsal of our Nativity play, which was like trying to herd bunny rabbits. I couldn’t even fully focus on the task at hand, because my mind was swimming with all of the things I still had to get done before Christmas. I had taken on extra freelance work to help pay for Christmas presents, and those deadlines were looming. I still had to buy all those Christmas presents. My house was a mess. And then there are my two little boys, who are so sweet, but also so demanding of my time and energy. I just didn’t think I could go on another day.
And then I heard the news of the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary.
I sat in a room full of napping preschoolers, trying to hold back the tears. How could this happen? The more details I hear, the more my heart breaks. And yet, I can’t turn away from the news. I keep searching for an explanation, an answer to why this all happened. As if any explanation could possibly make this horrible event make sense. As if there could be any justification for this type of evil.
I found myself looking around the room, wondering what I would do if someone tried to hurt my students. Where would we hide? Where could we go? Part of my job as a teacher is to keep my students safe. But no class I took in college ever prepared me for something like this. I feel so helpless; how can I ensure to my parents that their children will be safe in my care? How can I protect them from all the evil in the world?
Most of all, I feel guilty. Just that morning I was complaining to myself about my children, and how needy they are. How they keep me up all night, how they frustrate me in the mornings. How I wished that for one day we could get out the door in a timely fashion without tears or fits. In all of my complaining I never stopped to consider the gaping hole that would be in my life if they were taken from me.
Now, I’m not the type to say that parents shouldn’t ever vent or get frustrated. Sometimes parenting sucks, and I think it’s okay to say so. However, today I took my frustration to a bad place, a place where I had lost sight of all the blessings in my life. I was so overwhelmed by the holiday season that I lost sight of what truly matters. I’m ashamed to say it took a national tragedy to snap me out of it. My kids didn’t place all this stress on me; I placed it on myself. I know there are many parents in Connecticut that would gladly take on all my stress and more if it meant they could hold their children again.
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My heart breaks for all of those parents who lost their babies. That night, I didn’t do any work. I didn’t Christmas shop, or wash dishes. I made a frozen pizza, and we watched a movie together as a family. I thanked God for my babies, and I ask Him to watch over those parents who can’t do the same.
And when the parental frustration comes again (and it will!), I will remember that the reason that they frustrate me so is because they are pieces of my heart, and I love them so very much.
Image: David Castillo Dominici