Warning: Some readers may find content of this post distressing (mention of the Sandy Hook shooting tragedy) – please consider this carefully before proceeding.
This morning, like many other people around the world, I woke to the news of the tragic Sandy Hook Elementary school shooting* in Connecticut, USA. With social media so prevalent in our worlds these days, this international news reached me before I had even managed to open both of my eyes completely, while the Little Mister had his morning bottle and I had a chance to catch up on my twitter feed. As I clicked on news story link after news story, read the sad tweets of my twitter followers/followees, I began to feel a deep sadness.
I wasn’t going to blog about this tragedy, because I didn’t want to add to the thousands upon thousands of online pieces analysing the situation. I also don’t want to upset anyone further (which has resulted in my above warning). However, I am not going to talk about gun control (although I have my own very strong opinions). I am not going to speculate over the identity of the shooter. I am not going to speculate on what the shooter’s motives were. I am not going to use this as a soapbox for me to stand on in any way.
What I am going to say is that my heart and my thoughts are with all of those affected. The families of the children who were lost. The families of the adults who were lost. The friends of those who didn’t make it. Their families. The whole community around the school – Newtown. Everyone who has ever lost a child or a loved one of any age, especially because of violence, who will no doubt have some terrible feelings triggered by this horrible event. My list could go on and on. My heart feels heavy right now.
This really affected me from the standpoint of being a parent who has the most precious little son. I look at him and I see his innocence. His joy in everything. He doesn’t know anything about the evil in this world yet. A part of me wishes that he will never have to, but I know that it is an unfortunate but necessary part of growing up. I feel for the parents who have to explain to their children that the world is not always a good place. I feel for the surviving children who will be scared and anxious, feeling the safety of their worlds fall out from underneath them. The grief they will have trouble processing at such a young and tender age. I hope for them that they receive all of the help, love and support they need to deal with something so terrible. Not just now but in years to come.
This brings to mind my own (although smaller in scale) loss of innocence. When I was eight years old (and I warn any readers who went to primary school with me that this may trigger some memories/feelings before continuing), I lost a dear little friend. I won’t go into much detail about that tragedy, but I will say that it was at the hands of his abusive father. I myself have always had a very loving and caring father, and I was innocent and naive, believing that all fathers were loving, caring and protective of their children. After my friend’s death, besides coming to terms with the fact that the same buddy who had turned up at my birthday party only a while ago wasn’t going to be coming back, I wondered if my father could suddenly do to me what my friend’s father had done to him. I thought that his father might have suddenly turned evil out of nowhere that horrible day. I didn’t realise this was the result of longer term abusive patterns (I can say this firsthand as I witnessed the bruises much earlier – I just didn’t add it up at the time in my 8 year old brain – nor should I have been expected to as I came to realise years later). I worried for nights on end and eventually my dad (and mum) realised what was happening. It was time to explain to me that my dad would never ever do something like that and that some people do horrible things, but they are not most people. That every dad should be kind, loving and never hurt his children. From then on I started to sleep better. I felt safe taking car rides alone with my dad again. My loving, caring dad. I realise this was probably a really big deal to my parents at the time. I can now imagine how tough it would have been to see their young, innocent child realise not all of the world is good.
This is why I feel for the families of the children who survived and the remaining family members of those who did not. This is the worst imaginable way to discover that the world is not always a good place.
As I look at my Little Mister, I wonder when he will learn that people can do horrible things. I can only pray that he doesn’t find out in a way as devastating as the direct experiences of these people affected by the latest shooting massacre.
I am going to hug my Little Mister so tight today and I will be thankful that for just a little while I will not have to explain to him any of these things.
If you have been watching the news and you are not sure how to explain the situation to a young and inquiring mind, here is a link to an iVillage Australia article that talks about making your explanation about the shooting age appropriate.
*the details in this linked article were current and up to date when this post was published but may change over time as the story develops