I have been struggling with this one for days. At times, I have felt too preachy, at others like I was rambling too much. I’ve decided to let the words fall where they lie and go with it.
This past Friday, my wife and I were working from home. The boys were at school and we were all in our daily grind. The television was off and I was patently ignoring the internet, so it was around lunchtime when I first heard about Newtown. K yelled down to me from the office upstairs and I was sure that I had to be hearing her wrong. She came down and we flipped on the “news” and watched the story unfold in mute horror.
I was faced with thoughts of mortality far too much last week. My parents are both aging, and both have suddenly decided to take on conditions that make them seem far older than they are in my mind. You always hear about how a parent should never have to bury their child, but they reverse is pretty terrible to contemplate in its own right. With thoughts of chronic conditions and diseases whirling around in my head, the news from Sandy Hook hit me like a truck. I was now contemplating mortality in both directions.
We decided to leave the house, go shopping for the boys and decidedly not listen to the radio. K tried to keep her mind off the topic by talking to me. Sadly (or luckily) my mind wasn’t forming whole thoughts and I wasn’t much of a conversationalist. We grabbed lunch, bought wrapping paper and finished our lists. It was a lovely day, really, but the dark thoughts prevailed.
We decided we needed to say something to the boys and started formulating a plan of how to inform, but not terrify them. Neither of us really had an experience with this. Our schools had had fire drills, K had been to schools that had hurricane or tsunami drills and I had spent a few years with earthquake drills, but never anything like this. I honestly wasn’t sure what a lock-down drill would entail.
We headed home, calling ahead to tell the nanny that we would be taking the boys out to dinner. We got home and gave the boys some very long hugs (much to their chagrin). The nanny mildly chided us for leaving the TV on CNN when we had left, but told us that he had quickly changed the channel and that as far as he knew, the boys hadn’t heard about the day’s events at all.
Off to dinner we went. We caught up on the day, played some cards and then gracefully broached the subject. K asked the boys if they knew what “lock-down” meant and when they confirmed that they did not know the term, she started approaching the idea gently. “Imagine a wild turkey was loose in the hallways at school…” she started. The boys thought this pretty funny. We talked about why you would stay in your classroom, do exactly what the teacher told you, etc. We asked for some other ideas on why you might have such a drill. M was, as always, quick to the extreme. “Maybe someone came into the school with guns and started shooting everyone?” Yup.
So, with that door now kicked wide open, we explained to them what had happened that day. Why people were so upset about it (besides the obvious), and did our best to assure them that their school was safe. M created a scenario of a gunman disguising himself as a child and sneaking in in the morning, but we did our best to ensure him that the principal was at least capable of determine child from adult. But, in my head, the thoughts spun wild again. Their school has essentially the same security set-up as Sandy Hook, and that had clearly not worked. We tried to steer the conversation to the safe and wind down any talk about the day’s actual events before details were demanded. They agreed that they would always listen to their teachers in any kind of drill, no matter how weird the instructions were. That if they were scared they would try and hold someone’s hand instead of crying, etc. All the things you should never have to tell your child.
Over the weekend we spent as much time as possible with them. We read advice from other parents and got some really great insight from the Boston Children’s Museum in an email they sent out to their members. We tried to avoid the news and the internet. We wondered when we would hear from their school, and K admitted that she was nervous about them going back today. I couldn’t disagree.
We started today like any other day, hoping the boys might not be thinking about our dinner conversation and they dressed and ran into school like any other day. When we hadn’t heard from the school, K sent an email asking whether or not the school would be talking to the kids, offering any insight to the parents, practicing lock-downs, etc. A few hours later we got an insipid email from the principal that essentially told us they would be avoiding the subject all together, but would be creating “quiet drills” to be practiced annually.
Now, for my preachy side. The next idiot who mentions that Newtown was “God’s will” is going to get a swift kick to the brain. It was not God’s will and the absence of the Ten Commandments or the Gospels in school had no effect on whether those kids died or not. It’s painfully ironic that the same people who chide the “left” for making this an issue about gun control have no issue when their talking heads make it an issue about religion.
What Newtown is, what it should be, is exactly another reason to talk about gun control in America. The argument that more restrictive gun laws won’t have any effect is ridiculous, almost to the point of lunacy. More restrictive gun laws are exactly what we need to prevent nut-jobs from collecting arsenals. More intelligent gun laws are exactly what we need to ensure that a criminal record is not the only thing that prevents your dumb ass from getting your hands on a gun. And what’s wrong with talking about it? Why can’t we have a conversation that might possibly end with fewer people having guns? Are the 31 school shootings since Columbine not enough to make you see that something is wrong? What is it you’re so afraid of that you can’t even discuss the issue?
The idea that came to me this morning is this. If you are going to rest on the Second Amendment to own all your guns, you need to know what is says. If you think it starts with “the right of the people to keep and bear arms…” you are not entitled to your gun, turn it in. It starts with “A well-regulated militia, being necessary to the security of a free state…” So, my suggestion is this, since we no longer have a militia, and the Amendment is, in fact, moot, let’s use a little cy pres and put the amendment to good work nowadays. You want to own a gun? You want to contribute the security of the free-state? Good, join the Reserves. Join the National Guard. Once you’re signed up, your firearms license is free. Otherwise, pack it in.
Another angry, and sad, parent, signing off.
Both boys had dentist appointments this morning. Both got clean bills of health.
C wiggled his way through his check-up, up and down in the seat, touching everything in reach.
M sat perfectly still through his cleaning and check.
Both boys picked out new toothbrushes and, of course, stickers.
M chose a monster truck. C chose a High School Musical picture and two stickers from Cars wishing you a Merry Christmas.
C came home from school and tried to floss.
And away we go.
There are times when your children suddenly become smarter than you. There's no warning, no alarms, just blam, kid puts you in your place.
Tonight was one of those times. In of all places, on the toilet. C was doing his business, M had just finished. Neither of them should be out of bed. We're an hour past bedtime, we've been running around, yelling and being generally crazy.
So, on my third trip up to be "angry dad," I find them in queue in the bathroom. M finishes, C takes position. Daddy says "why are you still up and running around? Didn't I tell you to stay in bed?"
"Yes," is the chorus.
"Then why are you out of bed even when I told you not to?" I ask.
"Why did you used to climb the rocks at Grammy's house, dad? Did Grampy used to say 'good job?'"
So, last night, we're sitting watching some Dragon Tales when C finds a sticker on the bottom of his sock. The Sunkist sticker from his orange at breakfast apparently. He peels it off, thinks for a beat and sticks it on my cheek.
Thanks son. Just what I wanted, a sticker from the bottom of your foot on my face.
"Daddy's an orange!" begins the chant from C and M. Laughter.
M then peels it off, because he wants to be an orange.
The doorbell rings. K and I are lazy tonight and ordered Chinese. I go to the door, making sure to close the inside door so Skyler the crazy jumping dog doesn't assault the poor delivery guy. (As it she runs from the kitchen, where she has been eating dinner, her own special brand of spit foam around her mouth, barking and bucking. I think she did a good Cujo impersonation.)
I grab the food, pay the guy and wonder why he's smirking at me. Assuming he's glad my dog is behind glass, I move on. I call up to K that's dinner is here. She makes her way downstairs.
"Why do you have an orange sticker on your face?"
Ah. That was the look I got. Thanks M. (Sneaky boy...)
In C's class the teacher has a "helping hand." The chosen student helps the teacher during the day, has a special seat during circle time and (so I learned today) gets a prize. The helping hand today picks the next helping hand tomorrow.
Today was C's turn to be the helping hand. It is a huge deal for him and he has cried on other days when he didn't get chosen. Today he got the nod, played center field and had a blast. He forgot his prize, but he'll get it tomorrow. We're thinking about who we choose tomorrow.
But, he did get a stamp. It being March, the stamp is a shamrock (or shamwock) and C being C, the stamp was on his forehead. (You have to wonder what the teacher thinks about home life...)
So, home we come and we are greeted by a bouncy, happy, Irish Jaffa.
That's right. M is the Celine Dion of bedtime. A performance, some screaming, and between every set? A costume change.
For some reason, when M is awake, he likes to change his clothes. Sometimes several changes a day. The outfits are often terrible to behold. This does not end at bedtime.
Last night we went to bed in our Cars pajamas. 30 minutes later we hear the telltale noise at the top of the stairs that lets us know M is awake and wants something. A kick against the stairs, a cleared throat, a sudden (pitiful) sob. I go upstairs to begin the performance.
Unlike other nights where we've been up to no good in our bedroom. Tonight, we expanded our horizons to the hallway. The attic door specifically. We have found stickers. Red, white and blue sparkly stars. The remains of the stickers we used for his potty chart. The sheet is just about empty and the attic door has been bedazzled in the most patriotic of manners. So has the dog (though, thankfully with only one dubious gold star).
We put the stickers away and head to bed. We begin the performance in earnest now. Our room is scary. I'm thirsty. I want a story, a song, that toy over there. Did we have desert? I'm cold. I'm too hot. Where's Blankie?
Son. When did you change your pajamas? (I have now noticed that a dinosaur is staring at me from his chest and not Lightning McQueen.)
He changed earlier. He was hot. He likes these better. Dino shirt and matching pants. We settle in for the final act. Sing a song and were done.
No encore tonight. Daddy's tired and, finally, so is M. And, we're asleep.
This morning I am greeted by a smiling two year old in a dino shirt and striped pants. He sleep changes.
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