Do you remember your time in Kindergarten?
I remember my teacher, Mrs. D'Maio. She was blond and young. When I close my eyes and think about her now, I remember her as warm and with a big smile.
Did I feel safe, I'm sure I did. Or maybe it wasn't that I didn't feel safe but rather I wasn't scared. I'm not sure I would have been able to verbalize the idea of safety as a 5 year old.
I remember two bad things that happened that year.
1. I didn't get to be Snow White in the school play. I was cast as the Mirror on the Wall. My mom and I always joked that it was because the little girl who was cast as snow white had a mother who could sew and I did not.
2. I once convinced the staff that I was allowed to walk home alone and didn't need to wait in the car line. I was so happy that the crossing guard picked me to push the button to change the light to green, I never noticed my mom racing to the intersection. You see, I wasn't allowed to walk home alone. I was supposed to be in the car line. My mom pulled up to school and I wasn't there, where I was supposed to be.
This is what every child should take away from kindergarten. One or two blips on the radar or maybe a little separation anxiety in the beginning, perhaps an unfortunate bathroom miss after too much juice, even learning that in kindergarten, not everyone wins.
What no child should ever take away is fear. Fear of huddling in a closet or being led out of your safe haven with your eyes closed and your hands on your best friend's shoulders. No child should ever hear gun shot in their own school hallways or their parking lots end up like a staging area of a war zone.
But that is exactly what happened to those children at Sandy Hook. As a parent, I can hardly look at the images without crying. I am struck by how young they are. Most still have a baby-ish face. Although, I'm sure if you told any one of them that, they'd promptly correct you and inform you that they are big kids, not babies. When I first read the story online, I was stunned. I continued to read the news on my computer while Toddler T watched The Cat in the Hat. I tried to fight back my tears as I didn't want to alarm him. I wanted to hold him and hug him and promise out loud that I would never let him be hurt. Unfortunatly, he would have been annoyed to be interrupted from watching his show and the reality is, Is that a promise that I can make as a parent?
My brain was trying to take it all in while my heart was breaking right there. I could not imagine any worse thing for a parent to be forced to endure. I have found that these images invade my sleep and make my thoughts bounce around my head like a ping pong ball.
That is my reaction as a parent.
My reaction as a social worker is much, much darker. I know the statistics, there will be an increase in divorce, substance abuse, nightmares, clear cases of Post Traumatic Stress Disorder. There will be families that move away and those that stay. There will be siblings who, for the rest of their lives will feel guilty that they couldn't save their younger brother or sister. There will be parents who raced off to work with a quick kiss and will beg God for the chance for one more hug.
This ripple effect will be so far reaching and so intense.
The debates on gun control and reform to the mental health system are getting revved up again. I have my own opinions on both, but am reluctant to put them out there. I'll wait until some more information becomes available about what the nature of the gunman's mental illness was or was not.
In the meantime, my heart and prayers will be with the parents, siblings and families of those beautiful children, teachers and staff members as they walk through this unbelievable tragedy.