A few years ago, in another life, someone asked if I wanted children one day. Of course I did. Would it ever happen? Who knew. But I never didn't want to be a mom someday.
"But why would you want to bring children into this world?" she asked.
Not just the world, in general, but this world. The world we've created in my lifetime. I scoffed at the idea. No world was going to keep me from being a mom. I could have a child in this world. We can protect our children.
Of course we can protect them. What a silly thought.
But now, what... the fuck.
I can't stop thinking about the latest in a long line of mass shootings. MASS SHOOTINGS. They have a name. It's no longer, "Well, someone got shot." It's, "There are 17 confirmed dead." Or 58. Or 20 children less than 7 years old. In Florida, 14 teenagers are now dead. Also a teacher my age. A coach my age. The athletic director. The adults died protecting the children. The children probably died protecting each other. The children probably died terrified. They all died terrified.
This happens over and over and over and over and over.
And now I'm a mom. I brought a child into this world. I don't regret it, of course. Not for a second. But I now fully understand the power of fear.
Politicians and gun laws are failing us in every way, and don't bother arguing that point with me here. I'll burn your comment to the ground. Take your hobby assault rifles and second amendment and shove them up your ass.
I'm not here to argue politics. I'm here because I'm a mom, and I don't know how to wrap my mind around the next 75 years of my child's life. Doom and gloom are not new topics of conversation, but I used to be able to think, "Well, when the world runs out of natural resources or that meteor plummets to earth or another country revenge-nukes the United States, I won't be around when it happens."
Well, first, I'm not even entirely certain I won't be around for those apocalyptic moments anymore, but I know someone who probably will be -- my baby. He won't be a baby anymore, of course, but won't he sort of always be my baby?
But I feel like I have an even more daunting task before fretting over end times, and that's sending my child to school. TO SCHOOL. I have to send him off into the world and hope he comes back to me.
Look, I get that anything can happen. Lots of worst case scenarios. But getting gunned down in math class was never quite so prominent an option. News footage of parents scrambling to the school to find out whether their child survived is gutting. I think of the parents of the Sandy Hook Elementary children. Babies, really. They were babies. Their soft faces, tiny hands.
How the hell do you drop your child off at school with their over-sized backpack and lunch box, kiss them goodbye, and then hope they stay safe?
When I was little, we had fire drills. The occasional tornado drill. We'd sit our tiny bottoms on the ground, leaning against the lockers in the hallways. I was so scared of tornadoes. I never wanted a tornado to happen.
Today, small children are learning how to protect themselves against an active shooter. Do they even understand what that means? Do they know it's not normal? It's not supposed to be this way? Do they know the teacher helping them sound out new syllables or teaching them to shoot a basketball in gym class may be the same grownup who uses their own body as a shield to protect them from being shot?
Teachers are already heroes, but now they're actually dying in the line of duty. They are not law enforcement. They are not soldiers. But now they have to understand protocol and know how to best protect a roomful of our children from a person hellbent on killing all of them within 20 seconds.
This is not normal. Yet here we are. Tragedy after tragedy after tragedy.
I know living in fear is not living. I know the probability of worst case scenario is low. But I sit in the darkness of my baby's nursery in the middle of the night while be buries his face into my shoulder, ready to go back to sleep, and I don't know how I keep him safe forever.
Right now he fits in my arm. His diapered butt nestles into the crook of my elbow. He needs me. But more than that, I need him.
I always wanted to be a mom. But what I've realized in four-and-a-half short months is I needed to be his mama. Everything. Every decision, every path that led me to Todd, that brought me to this life, they were bringing us to Owen. We didn't plan him, but I can't imagine any other outcome.
So when he clings to me, grasps my hair in his strong and tiny hands, I cling back. Right now I can cling to him. I brought him into this world. This world, the scary one that is so much more than tornado drills. I feel like I owe it to him to keep him safe. But I know I can't do that forever.
That is terrifying.
We'll make this better for you, my sweet baby potato. And when you grow up, I know you'll keep fighting the good fight your mama and daddy started for you.
Until then, we can cling to each other.