I started writing this article a while ago, all fired up and ready to say what’s on my mind. But the longer I thought about it, the harder it became to write anything. I sank into a deep suffocating sadness that was hard to shake. The sadness that every parent in the country has felt since the tragedy at the Robb Elementary School in Uvalde, TX
I am a go-getter by nature. I speak up. I protest. I march. I make my voice heard. I believe that people change the world they live in. I speak loudly and proudly about all the issues I care for, from healthcare to human rights.
But when it comes to this issue of mass shootings in schools, I find myself paralyzed. I don’t want to face the facts because, quite honestly, they are terrifying. I don’t have the courage to admit that this is our present reality!
Every day on our way to daycare, I feel my anxiety creeping up as we drive past the elementary school that my son will join in a few years. I squeeze the steering wheel as I try to suppress the tremor of my hands. When I reach the daycare building, I see a big “NO firearms allowed inside this building” signboard on the entrance. It is a stark reminder that guns are everywhere in our country. I let go of him as I say, “I love you,” and turn around immediately to hide my tearing eyes.
It took me months to process this tragedy and finally find my voice. As I put my son to bed every day (making sure that he is tucked in with love and comfort), I can’t help but think of the parents who have empty beds in their homes today. No duration of time will heal the scars or fill the gaping hole in their heart.
When I read my son’s bedtime stories of the moon and stars, I think of the day I will have to talk to him about guns and shooter drills in schools. As I pull up his covers and kiss him goodnight, I’m reminded of the unfair, cruel, and nonsensical world he lives in.
As a parent, it’s my job to keep him safe. Not just from the guns and violence but also the everyday fear of survival. Even though most schoolchildren won’t experience a shooting, they will still need to learn about it. They will still need to process it — and what it means to them. They still need to be told how to stay safe and avoid getting shot, just in case.
The mental trauma of hiding under a desk, locking themselves in a room, and playing dead will be something they carry into their adult life. Children should not be responsible for carrying the burden of adults who fail to protect them. We have a generation of children defined by violence and expect them to be mentally well. We have created a war zone in our own country.
And then I think about teachers. Teachers who are underpaid, overworked, and not appreciated nearly enough are working tirelessly to educate our country’s next generation. It already is a very stressful and unfair environment for them with dwindling resources and increasing demands of testing standards, parent relationships, and growing class sizes. Teachers are often called heroes in the wake of school shootings — a label that does not capture the complexity of what teachers are expected to do and be every day. They’re expected to be counselors, nurses, human shields, and more. How far should teachers be willing to go to keep their students from harm’s way? What is an acceptable price to pay to stay in the profession they love?
It’s not the first time innocent children and hardworking teachers have paid the price for our country’s lack of gun reform and abysmal mental health care. And the most heart-breaking, gut-wrenching, and maddening part is that it likely isn’t the last. My heart aches for the families affected by this senseless act of violence. I am changed forever, as many of us moms in this nation are.
These devastating acts will get closer and closer to home if things don’t change. Real change will take follow-through and teamwork. It will take grassroots organizations being supported. It will take parents, grandparents, and communities coming together to push for reform.
So here is what I am doing. I am writing about this painful topic instead of pushing it under the rug for a few more years. I am supporting grassroots organizations. I’m volunteering, showing up, donating, and wearing the red shirt of moms-demand-action all summer long. I am speaking up for my child’s future. And I ask that you do the same for yours.
- momsdemandaction.com – Join this amazing grassroots organization. You’ll get updates about local and national events and find out ways you can help. Connect with local moms demands action groups. Connect with moms like you and me.
2. everytownsupportfund.org – Text DISARM HATE to 644-33. It’ll get you on a non-partisan list that will give you actionable things to do to make a difference.
3. sandyhookpromise.org – Talk about non-violent ways of disagreement resolution with your children. Hug and thank your kid’s teachers for being the saints of our dysfunctional society.