When my oldest daughter was born in 2006 I learned that motherhood comes with a list of fears. Rational or not, I worried about SIDS, car accidents, her getting smothered in a blanket, dropping her and someone taking her from me when out and about. I worried when she toddled off to her first day of preschool that she might wander off and get lost. That she would cry for me all day because she could not find me. And when she entered Kindergarten last year, I had fears that she would be bullied, not be able to make friends and that she might fall on the playground.
Never, in a million years, did I ever fear that she would go to school, sit at her desk, say the Pledge of Allegiance, and be listening to morning announcements when a gunman would break into her classroom and shoot her multiple times as she screamed in complete terror.
But now I do.
The Sandy Hook Shootings are devastatingly unbearable. I, literally, can not breath when I think of what 20 children and 6 heroic adults had to endure for the 10 minutes that that person was in their school, spraying bullets into the bodies of the innocent. Changing the lives of not only the victims and their families, but the psyche of a Nation.
As the conversations of gun control, violence in video games and the sad state of mental health care in our Country continue, I look at my job as a mother differently now. No longer am I mainly the disciplinarian, the playmate, and the one that makes sure they do their homework. But now, more so than ever, I am responsible for making sure that every single day of my children’s lives, every single minute, every single second, is memorable and precious. And I feel like I have to imprint it all on my mind. Imagine that it is the last moment that I will ever see.
Because we live in that town. That quiet, family friendly, presumably safe town where the school is tucked away, hidden from any main street. We moved here for the schools and a better childhood for our children. We have teachers and administrators that love our children like their own. Teachers who have just started their careers, a principal that would do anything to take care of our children, and people all around us who would do anything to make sure our children are safe.
And now I have to worry that they will have to give their lives for my children. Or that my child will have to endure pure terror as her last moment. Now I have to fear the unfathomable. Logic and rationality are pushed aside as I allow the ‘this will never happen here’ to fight with ‘but it did happen there’.
Much as I still look at airplanes on a clear blue day and say a prayer that they will land safely and not into a building, I now drop my daughters off at school and survey the cars at the entry. I look for men sitting alone with no excuse to be there. I look for the red flag that will tell me that this person is about to change the lives of so many. Senselessly, carelessly, and forever.
I know it is rare. I know that right now, our kids are safer at school than they probably have ever been. I know that legislators are promising change. I know that God gave me these children to love and protect and that His ultimate plan for them is something only he knows.
And now I know that no matter what I do, no matter what I teach them, no matter how safe I think life is, that it can end anywhere.
And so my camera is out more, my arms open wider and for longer, my kisses messier and more abundant. The laundry will stay unfolded for another day. My work will be done at another time. My excuses to put them off while I get something done will be less available.
Because my children need me to make the time here the best it can be. And I need them to know every moment of every day that they are the most important thing to me and the reason my heart soars with joy at every smile. I need them to always carry with them that mommy adores and loves them no matter what.
Because , as we learned on December 14, 2012, they can be gone in an instant. And though I have known that deep down all along, it is now on the surface threatening to suffocate me as I imagine that it is me walking into that Church to lay my baby to rest.