Waking up in a cold sweat at 3:00 a.m. and wailing, William thinks he's covered in worms. He's inconsolable, I know it's a dream, but he doesn't. I'm not sure how to calm him down, so I tell him he can pray if he gets scared.
I tell him about God, and this surprises me. While I have strong personal spiritual beliefs, I don't believe in organized religion and have enough doubt to admit that I don't know anything for sure. I still pray but admit to myself that I'm not sure if God is really listening.
But saying the prayer is comforting.
William needs comfort, as we all do, to get through life’s scary stuff. So I tell him that he can say, “Dear God, please keep me safe,” he did, and finally succumbed to a peaceful slumber.
This morning as I sit at the kitchen table, I see my husband's silhouette lumbering down the hallway. His break in routine alarms me.
I don't usually see him emerge until after his shower and long after William and I have finished our six-thirty-way-too-early bird breakfast. He tells me not to watch the morning news. He knows I avoid the news at all costs, and for good reason. Facebook, The Daily Show and the mouth of my husband already provide more coverage of current events than I need.
He tells me about another mass shooting that’s just happened. It's a sad start to the morning. My heart breaks for those families. I say a silent prayer as the worry sinks down to my gut. I pack William’s backpack and we walk to the bus stop, the fall air feeling colder than usual.
As a parent, I'm always trying to assess what's “safe” and trying to prevent bad things from happening. And now I think about how ridiculous it is that I go around thinking I have control over anything.
After my brother's sudden death, my therapist helped me explore the illusion of safety, that many of us naively carry around with us every day. It turns out, being alive isn't safe! There’s ample proof of this every day.
We teach William to look both ways for cars before we cross the street, next, we'll have to decide if he can ride his bike freely in our neighborhood and then one day we'll have to decide if he can go to a superhero movie or a concert late at night. Will he be safe?
In the morning I just have to let him go and trust the teachers and cross my fingers and hope for the best.
When I see him get off the bus in the afternoon, I’m so relieved to see his sweet face. “How was your day?” I ask.
He tells me he had fun at recess and that they did an “active shooter” drill. They don’t call them that when they explain it to the kids but that’s what they are. The image of all these little kids scurrying around trying to keep quiet and preparing for this worst-case scenario, breaks my heart.
Though statistically, by the numbers it’s more likely our kids will end up with heart disease in later life than victims of terror or shootings, terrorism does what it’s meant to, it scares us.
When all this worrying gets to be too much, we may want to hole ourselves up safely in our house, and never leave. Surely that will be safer! But wait! There's always the possibility of a home invasion, fire or natural disaster.
My worry makes me think of a line from the show, Political Animals. Sigourney Weaver's character says, “Most of life is hell. It’s filled with failure and loss. People disappoint you, dreams don’t work out, hearts get broken, innocent journalists die, and the best moments of life, when everything comes together, are few and fleeting, but you will never get to the next great moment if you don’t keep going. So that’s what I do, I keep going.”
I'll keep going too. We'll keep leaving the house, seeing movies, traveling and living for as long as we're alive, even if it's scary, because I think it beats the alternative.
Keeping our children safe is always on the minds of parents. What can we do to help our children live the best life possible and yet keep them safe? Let us know in the comments below.
Our hearts go out to the victims of the recent mass shooting in Las Vegas. We're sending our thoughts and prayers for everyone affected by this terrible tragedy.