Parenting in the Midst of Valentines and Violence (A Confession to my Son)

Peace

Dearest Felix:

On February 14th, you came home with your arms full of Valentines-small red and pink papers covered in finger paintings and stickers. You and your classmates exchanged these cards during circle time. In the very moments that you exchanged gestures of love and sweetness with your peers- students at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida witnessed one of their peers kill 17 people and injure dozens more.

Today, a little boy at our local middle school took a gun to school and hurt himself in the bathroom.

You are 2 1/2, so you probably won’t ask me about this sad event today or what happened last Wednesday. But soon, my sweet child- we will have to have the talk about what to do, what to think, and how to respond when such horrible events happen.

I don’t know where to start. I don’t know how to talk to you about this.

As a parent in 2018, when our country averages 3 school shootings each week- I live with such fear. How do I protect your innocence and still prepare you for tragedy?

When you hear “pop” you think of Pete the Cat and his groovy buttons popping off his shirt. But I think of the way the students in Parkland described the sounds of gunshots.

When you say “Crash, bang, boom”- you mean to imitate the sound of a front end loader building a road from your A to Z construction site book.

When I hear “Crash, bang, boom”- I fear the sounds of an attack, and I shudder.

Your eyes light up when we talk about heroes and yet I want to teach you how to hide behind a desk, and how you don’t need to be a hero for me, you just need to survive.

Darling boy: please forgive me-forgive all of us- for letting it get like this.

These are broken times, and I do not have the words to begin to explain to you how we got here, or why there is so much to fear.

But I know this: blessed are the peacemakers, for they will be called children of God.

I know that you are made out of love. And so is everybody else.

I know that you are a source of light and you were made to shine that light. And so is everybody else you meet.

I know that things can be different, and we are going to work together to change them. I will teach you how we can work for change.

In the meantime, we will continue to be kind and gentle with everyone we meet. We will practice building people up. We will build bridges instead of walls and extend welcome instead of exclusion.

And every day- I’m going to hold you close, remind you I love you, and encourage you to be the good we wish to see in the world.

Love,

Mom

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