So. This happened. Not five minutes from my house, a suburban mother killed her two kids (aged the same as the Captain and the Little Miss), then herself. A stay-at-home mom who walked her kids to school and was head of the Neighbourhood Watch. Her kids would have gone to the same high school as my kids.
I didn’t write anything after Newton. It felt odd to act like nothing had happened, but I just did not have the first clue as to what to say. I couldn’t even process it, couldn’t fit something like that into the world that I know. Of course, we have to talk about it, we have to figure out how we can avoid something like that happening again, but on the other hand, I need to pretend it didn’t happen, need to lock it away in a small corner of my brain so that I could bring myself to send my kids to school again, and believe that they were going to be okay.
I didn’t even talk to my kids about it. I worried that they might hear something and have questions, but in the end I trusted that if they had concerns, they’d come to me. In the meantime, sitting down with them seemed to give the whole matter more weight than I wanted to give it, make it more real for everyone when I wanted it to just be a scary story someone told me once. I didn’t want to download my own fears onto them, to have them share the feeling that the everyday world had become a dangerous place. They shouldn’t have to feel that way. None of us should.
And now this. I sent them to school this morning again with nary a word. Will someone else say something at school? Will they come home with a secret fear that the next time I yell at them, I’m close to snapping?
That woman was like me in so many ways, yet she seems so far away, too. I’m grateful, so grateful, that I’ve never had to struggle with depression. I have fantastic support from friends, neighbours, sisters, and my husband, all of whom are willing to listen when I’ve had a crap day, willing to take the kids for a while so I can get a break. I have bad days and cranky days and screamy days, but I always have found the strength to set my sights on the next day, with a new resolve to make it a better one.
I am so, so lucky.
I really believe there’s nothing anyone could have done here. Something like this is so far outside the world as I know it, that it would never enter my head as a possibility. Even those close to this woman could never have thought for a second that this could happen. It’s the unthinkable. It’s impossible.
So I will tuck it away in that little locked corner of my brain.
But I will ask for help if I need it.
I will offer help to other moms in need.
I will take a deep breath and take a moment for myself in times of emotional stress.
I will find the strength to carry on.
7 thoughts on “The World As I Know It.”
That story just broke my heart and I thought of you when I heard it. I wondered if you knew her or if her kids went to your kids school. There was a time when I couldn’t imagine the loneliness and despair that leads a woman to do something like that but after being a stay at home mom I understand how lucky I am to have support, stability, and my mental health. Like you I am resolved to reach out even more to my other mommy friends. We need each other more than we sometimes realize.
I have been carrying a ball of dread around in my stomach since Newtown as well, and it grew more after hearing yesterday’s news. I didn’t talk to my kids at all about Newtown for the simple reason that I didn’t want to scare them. I couldn’t process it so how could they? I didn’t want to strip them of their innocence unnecessarily when all it would accomplish is that they would lose sleep at night and be afraid to go to school everyday. I was very worried that it would be spoken of at school, and I felt strongly that my 6, 8, and 9 year old simply had nothing to gain by being made aware of this horror. As far as I know they still remain in the dark about it, and for that I am grateful.
I volunteer in my child’s grade one class once a week, and the last time I was there I couldn’t help looking around and thinking, that it could have been them. The same age, the same number… makes me thankful for every moment.
We (reluctantly) did tell our kids about Newtown – very abstractly – that there had been a terrible shooting in the States. This was partly because I knew, for a fact, the story was being circulated at school with much sensationalism added in.
We used Newtown as an opportunity to bring up things we hadn’t talked about before; what would you do if you were at a friend’s house and they showed you a gun? We reinforced that it’s never safe for children to handle / be near / play with guns. The types of things that aren’t always top-of-mind to discuss in Canadian households but which that tragedy made me realize were worth discussing.
This one, though, is harder. Maybe it’s that old journalism truth that small disasters closer to home hit harder. The farther away an event is, the bigger and more sensational it has to be to grab our attention.
But I think it’s more because of the sacred trust that was broken. How can we ask our children to understand “ill” and “pressure” and so on when it’s hard for us to even wrap our heads around it? And how, as you say Lynn, can we expect them to distinguish between really, worryingly “stressed” and the stress that surfaces in all our lives, sometimes and inevitably?
When none of us really know exactly how it could come to this, how can we tell our kids?
Oh, no. What an awful story. Something very similar happened here in the fall. A mother at our school took her son’s life, and her own. The little boy was the same age as Jake, played with my boys after school. I was in shock that I could have known so little. But then, we can’t always know what is going on in people’s lives. We can only reach out when we can.
I really don’t know how to process it all either, Lynn. With Newtown, it was far away. It was with automatic weapons. I figured, hey, this is not part of my children’s reality, I do not need to tell them about this. But now? In our own community. A mother. Two children. Their own home. It’s impossible to understand, but I suppose we must try so that these doesn’t happen to another family. (In case it’s helpful, Krista at Life in the Hutch and I have posted additional resources to help anyone struggling with how to speak to their children about homicide today.)
This messed with me, more than I would have thought. It felt strange to be leaving Stittsville just a few days afterward with this story vibrating in my bones. I know one thing for sure: An offer of friendship from you is a treasure, and anyone would be glad to have it. So if this inspires you to reach out more often and give more people the Gift of Lynn, then go for it.
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