On Wednesday, I was planning on starting a silly post listing all the nonsense reasons why I am still awake at 11:30pm on a weekday. It’s a phenomenon I’m sure all moms have experienced. We are exhausted at the end of a long day of mothering, yet we stay up until the wee hours doing nothing, because we finally can.
But there was nothing silly about why I was still awake at 11:30pm this past Wednesday night. Since mid afternoon, my heart had been flooded with the pain of the families and fellow students of the children involved in the school shooting in Florida, reaching a paralyzing crescendo when the final death count was announced. Seventeen people. How could this happen? Why did this happen?
After dinner, I watched my three girls toss balloons in the air while yelling “Look at me, mama,” and I did look at them. I looked at them so intently that I started to see into their future. I had to stop myself as I realized that future involved at least fourteen more years of school. Fourteen years of school that should consist of sleepovers, dance recitals, and the prom … not the possibility of getting shot.
There’s a widespread consensus across this country that these are isolated events committed by mentally disturbed people. And while that may be partially true, the frequency of school shootings has made that argument moot. I think it is the result of a growing sense of hopelessness amongst people who feel like they have nowhere to turn, children whose behavior has been overlooked or unrecognized by the people around them, and teens who feel like society is working against them. One thought always crosses my mind when I watch my well-adjusted and cared-for children react to difficulties and uncertainties with fear and confusion. How do children without this support system cope? What happens to their emotional state? What kinds of adults do they turn into because of it?
The other concept adding fuel to the fire is individualism, the “not my kid, not my problem” way of looking at the issues in our society. For all the individualist thinkers out there who claim that each should take care of their own and that the answer starts at home, guess what? The school shooting epidemic is officially in your home. It is at your schools. It is your problem.
More money and more effort needs to be put into schools and supporting our children, period. How is there more work being done to ensure that these shooters have the right to bear arms than there is the right to a stable childhood and education system? Our children do not exist in bubbles. They have to interact with society. Investing in a better society should be the first step in taking care of our own children. Why should your taxes pay for another child’s after school activity or counseling? Because it gives that child hope, support and purpose. It keeps that child from feeling like they have nothing in this world to lose.
So, that is why I was awake at 11:30pm on a weeknight. That is why it felt like my heart was being ripped out of my chest as I watched my girls leave for school the next morning. That is why my hands are shaking as I write this. We are all in this together as a country, and there are ways to fix this. We have to do better for not just our own children, but all children.