Friday I subbed for a teacher who splits his time between 4th and 5th graders. He assists with instruction and has a small group of students who come to his room for support. I liked it because it meant that I got to work in small groups, something I enjoy. One of my duties to cover for this teacher was being present in the drop off line for parents who drive their kids to school. I stood outside in the cold morning air, winter sun was shining through leafless trees. I held onto my warm coffee mug and offered my "good morning" and "happy Friday" to the students as they got out of the cars in and walked into school. I watched parents hug their kids over car seats and bulky winter coats. I watched younger students turn to wave or give one last smile before darting off through the school doors. I saw a few parents roll down the passenger window of the car to holler "I love you" or "have a good day." I felt filled by this experience.
I hadn't really thought of the drop off to school as personal, but it is. It's in those tender moments that we, as parents, live out that remarkable quote, which President Obama so eloquently reminded us of when he spoke at a prayer vigil in Newtown on Sunday evening. It was Elizabeth Stone who said, "Making the decision to have a child - it is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body." We watch our children walk into school or board their school bus and part of us goes with them. Part of ourselves is always with them. It's the best parts. The parts that love and are filled with curiosity.
Near the end of the school day on Friday I had about 5 minutes to quickly check my email. I read a short message from John alerting me that there had been a school shooting and not to turn on the TV in from of Elliot and Sydney. John isn't always so direct, so I pulled up a news website and read the horrible headline. My heart sank and I logged off. There is a song called "When A Moment Changes Everything" by David Gray that immediately flooded my thoughts. How very, sadly, heartbreakingly true.
Friday night we ordered pizza, ate together around our island in the kitchen. We got some of the Christmas cookies out of the freezer and ate them. I looked deeper into my kids' eyes. I slowed down--a lot. We sat all together on one couch and watched a silly movie. John and I needed that. And, our kids needed it.
My kids have no understanding of the horrible things some people are capable of. For that, I am grateful. I want to freeze time; make it stand still so that they never have to learn about this or other sadness.
As parents we feel this tragedy. Our hearts break when we see the pictures of those adorable 1st graders. This is an unimaginable tragedy. I find myself just staring at Sydney. But what do we do? I can share what has bubbled to the surface of our hearts.
A few months ago John began talking to me about adopting a mission statement for our family. This statement would be visible when we enter our house and when guests are in our home. We've kept the conversation open and I have been praying about it. We agree on the foundation of what we want this statement to encompass. Last night as Sydney and I were finishing up a craft I heard John writing on the chalkboard-pantry door. I knew it was John because I heard Elliot ask, "what does that mean?" John read the statement to Elliot. Sydney ran out into the kitchen and read it herself. I stayed in the craft room. I closed my eyes and whispered "thank you."
You see for me this was a moment when John was leading our family. It was a moment when he solidified what our little family stands for. It was a moment that will change everything. The statement reads: We don't take the easy way out.
What the statement means is, we don't give up. It means, we do the right thing, even when the right thing isn't the easy thing. It means we stay true to who we are.
I'm certain we will have some battles over the years as we stay true to this mission statement. We will be tested by the kids time and time again. But, I will not give into the easy thing.
As far as Elliot is concerned...it would be easier not to kiss his cheek when I drop them off in the morning, as he sometimes pulls away because it's "embarrassing." It would be easier to give in on our "no playing Xbox games rated 'M' rule," but we won't. As far as Sydney goes...well, time will present challenges with her. She's only 6 and it's not too difficult yet.
What I saw in the drop off line Friday was so many parents not taking the easy way out. They were saying the "I love yous" and giving the hugs--probably to some kids that wanted to pull away. My kids mean too much to me to take the easy way out. As that quote said, when we have a child our heart goes walking around outside of our body. My kids are the reason I put my own career on hold, as so many of us moms do. They are the reason I swallow my pride and drive a minivan (gulp!). They are the reason John works long hours. Let's face it, being a parent is the toughest job we'll ever love.
Let's all bind together to do something good for our families as a result of this unspeakable event. Hug our kids tighter and tell them what they mean to us. Not because it's easy, but because it's the right thing to do.
Thank you for reading.