Thoughts on the Tragedy in Newtown

I walked my kids to the school bus Friday morning.  On the way there, my 7 year old son formed his hand into a gun and pretended to shoot "bad guys."  My daughter quickly stated, "You better not do that at school, that is an automatic Step 4." (Side note: a Step 4 is a trip to the office).

My son looked up and asked, "Why?"

So we got into a discussion about why you can't bring guns, even "fake" guns to school.  I talked about how you aren't supposed to bring guns to school because children need to know that they are in a place that is safe.  We talked about how for some kids, school may be the only place where they feel safe.  And it was also mentioned that there may be kids who have had a traumatic experience in their life, and even the pretend "hand" gun would trigger pain for them.

It was a really matter-of-fact kind of conversation.  The kids seemed to get it and I was feeling pretty good about the points I made.

The bus came and off they went to school.  I waved to them as they headed down the road.

Then I came home and got on Facebook.

OH MY GOSH.

The news of what had happened in Connecticut was just hitting the internet.  I could not believe what I was reading.  I turned on the radio and heard nonstop coverage of events as they unfolded....

My gut hurt.

My heart ached.

Like so many others around the country, I thought, how the hell could this happen?????

I got nothing done all day.  All I could do was stay plugged into the news from Newtown, Connecticut...  Imagining being a parent who got that call to come to the school....  That something unthinkable had happened and not knowing if my children were alright...  Then finding out that they weren't...  The tears are still right on the surface.

That afternoon, as I arrived at my own kids' school to pick them up, I couldn't help but think of those parents again, and feel overwhelming grief...

My kids, of course, had no idea what had happened on the other side of the country.  They still don't know.  We carried on with our weekend plans, and kept the radio tuned to music instead of the news...  I didn't share with them the inner termoil I was feeling with each regular thing we were able to do together as a family...

They didn't go to school today, both a bit under the weather and tired this morning.  I have struggled with sharing the sad news with them, wanting them to hear it from me, rather than a kids on the bus or on the playground, but I don't know where to start.  Or even if I should...

There have been some great links passed around that support parents in having these kinds of conversation with their kids, a couple of which I posted on my own facebook page.  One of my favorites is by Dr. Laura Markham at Aha! Parenting.  She does a wonderful job of breaking down the best way we can support how our children are making sense of what happened...

My friend and colleague, Sarina Natkin, was interviewed on our local TV station this morning and she also had some great thought about how we stay open and available to our kids.  Something that really spoke to me was when she said that how important it is to model handling emotions.  "Its okay for kids to see you vulnerable, " she says, because then they learn that emotions are ok and that there are ways of dealing with them...

I also read the blog post that went viral, Thinking the Unthinkable originally titled, I Am Adam Lanza's Mother....  There has been a lot of controversy about this mother's post, and talk of how it violates of her sons privacy (yikes!  Is that me too??).  My hope is that we, as a country, spend some serious time working out a better system for parents with mentally ill children.  It was fascinating to read the comments to her blog post - and recognizing how many people felt as though she was telling their  story.

I know a small amount about mental illness.  One of my closest friends from childhood has been in and out of hospitals for the last 13 years and I have watched her become gripped by the darkness of her mind.  She became sick as an adult, and her parents have struggled to get help for her, often relying on a 911 call during on of her breakdowns, to get her to the hospital (after praying that the officer will take her there instead of to jail).  I grieve for my friend, whom I have slowly lost to her mental illness.  But what I feel comes no where near how her parents must feel, watching their daughter, so full of light, life and promise, deteriorate into someone they hardly recognize....

And yesterday I read January First, by Michael Schofield.  It's a story written by the father of a young girl diagnosed with schizophrenia when she was 6 years old.  The book chronicles how challenging it was for this little girl's parents to get help for her and illustrated how isolating it is to live with a child with severe mental illness....  Yet there is a huge stigma about talking about mental illness.  My friends family kept her struggles a secret for a long time, and still don't share too much about what has happened with her.  But until our society hears these stories, and recognizes that many of us know these people, nothing will change.

And yes, I hate guns too.  Hate them.  And I also think that meaningful gun control is absolutely important.

But I would take an long conversation about changing our mental health system over gun control.

So there you have it...  My musings on the tragic events of last Friday.  Love is pouring out of me and wrapping around all of the parents who are burying their small children this week...  Hoping that our society can start having the hard conversation about mental illness and gun control that results in a safer environment for us all...

Love and smiles to you,

Casey