From the moment I found out that I was pregnant with my first child, I started to imagine the worst. But, we do that, don’t we? As parents we imagine the worst possible scenarios for our children and then we plan against them.
Right after they take their first breath they are given two bracelets to wear, one that identifies them and the other that sets off an alarm should someone attempt to leave the hospital with them. The first car ride home is in the safest, most up to date car seat we can find and we make sure that baby sleeps on his/her back to help prevent SIDS. We are so careful, from the very beginning of their lives, to protect the little ones from so many dangers in our world.
Over the next year we will visit the doctor with them many times to inject their perfectly healthy bodies with tiny amounts of live viruses to prevent deadly diseases. We buy bumper pads, covers for our outlets, toys free of chemicals and small parts. We teach them no, over and over again. As toddlers we make them hold our hand when walking places, carefully monitor what they put into their mouths and sometimes put tubes in their ears.
Then they start school and we cry and cry and then cry more when they don’t want to do their homework. We hope they are liked, that they don’t get bullied and we fuss over the way certain teachers teach. We tell them not to go with strangers and to never, ever answer the door or tell anyone if they are home alone. They wear helmets when riding their bikes, knee pads when playing sports and have the extra cushioning that tutors provide if they fall behind at school.
As pre-teens we worry about the amount of screen time they have and what they see on those screens. We monitor the apps they download, pictures they take and conversations they have because bullies and pedophiles are a plenty on the web. Then in their teens we warn them about the consequences that come with puberty and give them the best tools we can to deal with the flood of hormones that beseech them every minute. We teach them about consent and warn them of the risks of drug and alcohol use.
Defensive driving, healthy relationships, and deadlines for college applications are all foundations being laid for their future, but little by little we let go and cross our fingers that our children are capable of being grown-ups. Over those 18+ years we will have heard so much advice on parenting, from people, TV, articles and doctors. And then we act, with our children’s health, happiness and safety in mind.
We, as a country, have examined our problems and progressively solved them with the best intentions for future generations. We ended child labor and eradicated polio. We have championed for better education systems and protections for our disabled and minority students. We’ve fought wars overseas that we’ve won and a war on drugs at home that we lost, all to protect our children and their futures. We stopped trying to make them fit the mold and we let them become so much more than we ever were. We’ve stood up and spoke out for them; we’ve crusaded for those who give their all to them and against those who would cause them harm. We have acknowledged that our entire culture, of our own design, is unhealthy and have begun to openly and fiercely fight against it so that our children will feel valued and safe.
And yet, there is still an epidemic that has gone unanswered to this day. It happens so frequently that we are no longer surprised or shocked. We have become used to it entering our morning news and the feeds on our phones. The words “another” and “again” echo through our day until the news changes and we are on to the next big story.
Our children are being murdered in their schools and all it seems we can do about it is #PrayForWhereverItsHappenedThisTime. Our children, who we’ve birthed, worried about, fussed over, fought for and would die for are being torn to shreds by ammunition in bulk quantities that is shot out of guns made for war. Tissue is punctured, bones are splintered, vital organs are blown out, blood is lost. Their lives are taken or they’re disabled, scarred, pained. They suffer from depression, anxiety, PTSD, survivor’s guilt. Even if they’re not physically harmed, they are permanently scarred. And still, we do nothing.
We know it will happen again. This certainty is why schools do active shooter drills with the kids on a regular basis so that they can be prepared. It is why mass text systems have been implemented so that schools can instantly notify parents. This certainty is the voice in the back of my mind when I drop my kids off at their schools every morning that wonders, “is today the day?”
And yet, other than teaching our kids how to hide, we are in a since, paralyzed when it comes to preventing this in any other way. Directly after the words “another” and “again” we hear those other two words, “gun control.” But, unfortunately, the NRA is so good at convincing us that our 2nd Amendment right is more important than our children’s lives. That, if they ban assault rifles and large capacity magazines, they will also want to ban every gun and accessory and we can’t take that “risk.” No, what we need is more “good” people with guns to protect our children because apparently, we are living in the wild west. And, even though a majority of us would love to see some type of gun control measure passed, that’s too bad because the NRA has bought the people who actually make the laws; lock, stock and barrel.
We are helpless and that helplessness justifies our inaction. Besides, it always seems to happen to other people. It hasn’t happened to us and maybe we’ll get lucky and it never will. Maybe I will be able to go the next eight years without my kids’ school being attacked. Maybe every text I get from their school will continue to be the one that says, “there was a threat, police came, the threat wasn’t real, all is OK.” Maybe.
We, as a species are powerful, innovative and determined. Things that seem impossible to some are just a dare to others. We have managed to develop submarines that can reach the deepest parts of our oceans, spacecraft that can travel to the farthest reaches of our solar system and we engineer viruses that can specifically target cancer cells. But the best we can do when it comes to the needless slaughter of our children is thoughts and prayers?
We seem to always get stuck in the same loop of tragedy, shock and mourning, debate, inaction, and forgetfulness. Then bang, it starts all over again. What will it take to break this cycle? This inaction on our parts will haunt us. Future generations will look back and wonder, why? Why did we honor gun rights over their safety? Why did we allow our bought-off politicians to preach to us about the “best way” to handle it all? Why did we not enact the many, many solutions that were obvious? Why did we make it all so complicated? Why, opportunity after opportunity, tragedy after tragedy, did we fail them? Our children are begging us now, at this very moment, to do something. Shaking, crying, screaming in pain they cry out, “Please, put a stop to this!”
I was told constantly growing up that the only kind of fair I could expect in this world has rides and cotton candy. Life’s not fair. But I’ve learned that when there is a tragedy, an injustice, a problem that can be solved, there are those who don’t just give their thoughts and prayers. Those who raise out of their seats, off their hands and get to work to bring a little more fairness into this world. They give, they work, they fight, they solve. They right the wrongs, bring us together and move us all forward. They are people that our children look up to and write school reports about. And most of them are parents who just want to make this world a better place for those they love the most.
Let’s not forget all that we have already accomplished. Let’s never forget what we have lost. Let’s stop feeling so helpless, and let’s get to work. Enough is enough.