Last Friday at 9:30 am, I had a phone date with my best friend from college. We were long overdue for a catch-up and we talked for an hour, with most of our conversation centering on our children. There are five of them between us, ranging in age from two – seven years old. We raved about their recent milestones and accomplishments, griped about attitude issues and lack of listening skills and discussed the hot items on their lists for Santa. We were both feeling frazzled with the holidays right around the corner, and it felt good to take a break and dish about our children and our lives.
We had no idea that as we happily chatted, halfway between us, in Newtown, CT, an unfathomable tragedy was playing itself out. Since Friday, life as we know it – especially as parents- has changed for all of us. We mourn with the families in our thoughts and hearts, while we pray for the precious lost souls.
There are moments when we find ourselves unconsciously imagining how we would be reacting to this tragedy if it were one of our own, and immediately, we do our best to push those thoughts far away. We’ve struggled with whether to tell our children, what to share with them, and worry about how they’ll react when they eventually learn more. While we want to ease their fears, it’s a seemingly impossible task when our own fears are even greater and more complex.
We all have our opinions on mental health, gun control and school safety. We know there are many ways to help decrease the likelihood of such a massacre from happening again, but we also know that our children can’t live in a bubble that protects them from all dangers, all the time.
Our family spent the weekend trying to keep things as normal as possible for the sake of our kids and for our own sanity. We focused on family birthday celebrations, a piano recital and a trip to see the Holiday Train Show at the Botanical Gardens. We ended the weekend by a having big family dinner on Arthur Avenue. The kids had a blast and we did our best to focus on them and all of our activities. And yet, there were countless moments when our thoughts wandered back to the families, to the little children and brave teachers and we remained stunned and heartbroken.
In the past few days, I’ve heard so many people say to hug our kids tighter, and give more kisses, and I have. We can and should demand change around gun control, and should do everything in our power to take measures to ensure our children’s safety – at school and everywhere else. We should be more aware of red flags signaling issues of mental health, in our own children as well as in those we come across. We should speak up and be proactive. There is so much for all of us to do to help change and improve our society so that not a single person gets to the point where they want to or are capable of causing such devastation.
When we were finishing our big Italian feast in the Bronx on Sunday night, I noticed a lovely elderly woman at the table next to us who was dining alone. She complimented me on my family and asked me in a hushed tone how my girls had reacted to the news of the tragedy. I told her that my youngest was luckily oblivious and that my seven-year-old seemed OK, given the minimal information she had been given. This friendly stranger then took my hands in hers and said, “All you can do as parents is love your children, love them every moment, keep them close, focus on them and connect with them. Believe me, connect with them every chance you get.”
I don’t know if she was a grandmother, or even a mother. As I was leaving, the owner told me that she dined at their restaurant five nights a week, always by herself. I don’t know her life story, but I got a strong feeling that she spoke from experience. Her advice was not ground-breaking, but it was a good reminder. Parenthood is wonderful and hard. Like most, while I try to do my best, I get caught up in all the small details of day-to-day life more than I’d like to, and sometimes lose that all-too-important focus.
We all love our children, focus on them and connect with them, but I for one needed to hear it once again this week. I can only hope that if we all take this wise woman’s advice to heart, while fighting for the changes that need to take place in our society, we will do our part in raising loving, compassionate adults who take care of one another and have no reason to inflict pain on themselves or others.
May we always remember the families of Newtown and keep them in our hearts and prayers.
Prior to becoming a stay at home mom, Mina was an HR Recruiter for years. Now her time is spent happily juggling the demands of two young daughters while trying to expose them to the endless adventures the city has to offer
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