It happened again yesterday. We woke up to the news of another mass shooting. The sound and sight of people running for their lives was/is almost unbearable. Almost. I say “almost,” because we seem to be bearing these massacres just fine.
Yesterday, I readied and packed up my four kids for school. It was a typical Monday morning: frozen pancakes, a frantic search for clean socks, and last-minute additions to heavy backpacks. My 13-year-old is a bit of a news junkie and checks his phone before his feet even hit the floor. He’s always eager to hear and debate the day’s headlines. He’s sharp, quick witted, a lover of history, and the kindest kid I know. I tell people he was born that way. As a Kindergartner, every Friday he used his good behavior tokens to buy his three-year-old sister a prize from his class store. This morning he glanced up at me from his phone, and we shared a look: “Again?”
My 11-year-old is my sweet Drama Queen. Her creativity and enthusiasm for friends, animals, and her family is boundless. She’s battled an autoimmune disorder with courage and a transparency that is shocking to her introverted mom. I murmured the bad news to her at the kitchen table this morning. With raised eyebrows she grabbed a handful of Sour Patch candies and continued with her morning routine.
Both of my older children were concerned but unfazed. I asked them to please not talk about it in front of my five-year-old twin boys. My inquisitive daughter, of course, wanted to know why. Why were we whispering about the day’s horrors?
My twins couldn’t be more different. We affectionately call Wyatt, “Mop Head.” His mass of long, curly hair crowns the bluest eyes and the sweetest smile. He’s one of those kids with a huge personality and the energy to go with it. He’s all snakes and snails and puppy dog tails. His giggles are infectious, and he can often be found bouncing on sofas, careening into walls, and wrestling his twin, Quinn.
Quinn is a delight of chubby legs, a round belly, and dimpled cheeks. He is our little Lumpy. I think Wyatt somehow stole all of Quinn’s energy in the womb. Prince Quinny insists on being pulled in his wagon from ride to ride at Schlitterbahn. He asks to be carried home from the bus stop, but not before exclaiming about his great day. He says “grrreat!” like Tony the Tiger. He’s happiest, though, cuddled up next to his daddy, whom he has nicknamed “BFF.”
The first week of school Wyatt came home full of new friends and funny Kindergarten stories. One of his favorite things to do was to show his mommy how to duck and cover. He’d curl into a little ball on the floor and put his hands over his head. Quinny chimed in with his own thoughts on duck and cover: “Mommy! We duck and cover for tomatoes!” Yes, Prince, tornadoes can be dangerous.
Wyatt told me about their school’s plan in case strangers try to get into their classroom. “Bandits,” he called them. If bandits come, they will lock the door and follow their teacher. I understood that Wyatt was telling me there is a procedure in place to deal with the bad guys.
Our kids are being taught what to do if a gunman enters their school. This should be unimaginable.
Listen, I was born and raised in Texas. I have hunters in my family. I don’t want your guns. I really don’t. I don’t want to take away your second amendment rights. I don’t want to debate about mental illness and the NRA. I don’t want to hear that bad guys will always get guns and good guys with guns will try to stop the bad guys. Unless thoughts, prayers, and moments of silence can stop a bullet, I don’t want them either.
What I want is less bad news to whisper to my children. What I want is a generation of kids who can feel safe at school. What I want is to know that when the four pieces of my heart walk out the door in the morning, the chance they will face down a machine gun is inconceivable.
How many times can we shrug our way through another mass shooting? Why weren’t Columbine or Aurora or Newtown or Orlando enough to jerk us out of complacency? How many hearts are breaking for the victims in Las Vegas?
I don’t have any answers that won’t inflame one side or another. I can barely grasp that this is an issue with sides. We’ve dug into our respective trenches at our own expense and the expense of our loved ones—the pieces of our hearts. Even if we can’t agree on a solution, can we agree that we have a real problem?
It happened again yesterday. I wish I were sure it wouldn’t happen again tomorrow.