Risks I Never Imagined

I did not plan on this.

There’s a quote from Elizabeth Stone which goes, ““Making the decision to have a child is momentous. It is to decide forever to have your heart go walking around outside your body.”

This is truth.

Parenting is a lesson in not having control. For the most part, this is a good lesson to learn. Letting go, being in the moment, not sweating the small stuff; these are all lessons I’ve learned as a parent, and I’m grateful for them.

The dark side of this is YOU ARE NOT IN CONTROL. Of anything, really.

There are the little risks that you can mitigate, to a degree, through proper care. Like, your kid might choke to death, or accidentally drink poison, or scald themselves with hot water. So you cut their food into tiny bites, and put household cleaners and prescription drugs out of reach, and lower the thermostat on your water heater to below 120 degrees.

There are the life risks. Like maybe your kid isn’t the most popular child, or s/he really wants to play a sport for which they no talent, or they don’t get that part in the play they tried out for. Learning that we can’t stop our children from getting hurt is a hard lesson for parents and kids, but all part of helping kids learn to be self sufficient.

Then there are the “act of God” risks. Your kid could get hit by a car. Or get a cancer and die. Or be terribly unlucky as a teenager, when doing stupid things is seemingly programmed into the DNA of the species. Those are the risks that you push away at night when you can’t sleep, and why a lot of parents just can’t watch movies with children in true peril; it’s unbearable to think about.

But of all the risks I prepared myself for when I became a parent, worrying about if my kids are going to be gunned down in cold blood while they are at school wasn’t one.

I had my first child in a post-Columbine world, but it was still such a shocking event, considered so abnormal, that I never dreamed that it would enter my list of “Things I Need to Worry About As A Mom.”

It’s on there now.

As of right now, there have been 25 fatal school shootings in America since Columbine—122 children and teachers whose lives were snuffed out, just like that. Not by an act of God, not as part of a life lesson, but by a lack of care from every single American who believes that their right to “bear arms” should include semi-automatic and fully automatic weaponry with no other purpose than mass slaughter.

Think about the facts: There are now more guns in our country than there people.  More than 22 million children live in homes with a firearm. Yet only 54% of gun owners with children under the age of 18 say they lock up their guns.

So you do the math. Kids—kids who are hurting, who are still developing decision making skills, who see violence glamorized in our society every day, who are seemingly in despair as never before—have access to guns. What do we think is going to happen?

I never thought when I had children that they would one day be more likely to be gunned down in their school—the place they go to learn and be safe—than they would crossing the street to get there. That’s a risk I’m just not willing to accept—because it isn’t an act of God, it’s an act of violence, and one it is in our power to prevent.

So stop sending your thoughts and prayers. I demand action and change. Because the list of things that keep me up at night is long enough, dammit, and I have three pieces of my heart walking around every day, going to school.

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