It's remarkable how tempting it is to over-stuff the weekend when so many opportunities and priorities compete for the limited waking hours. There's so much life to cram in.
I had hoped to help register voters at the March today but I have A LOT of cleaning to do ahead of my kid's 8th birthday costume dance party tomorrow: my costume to layout, her costume to mend (thanks to Cocoa, our Rabbit with Bad Habits), baking, shopping, my first jog after three days of crud, cleaning and more cleaning still.
I wanted to march in remembrance. But as I ease into gear today, I'm going to try to exorcise my memories of pulling the van over on the way to my kid's preschool, on my Mom's birthday, to ugly cry at the news of Sandy Hook. I'm going to try to exorcise my memories of the gallows humor I began to develop in the early Nineties when "going postal" entered the national vocabulary and I had already attempted to bury memories of the shooting at my Mom's work a few years before, under layers of other drama (mostly involving Butthead, my stepfather, who thankfully never had a gun).
As I bake Z's favorite sheet cake and scatter rainbow sprinkles over the buttercream frosting she loves, I will rehearse how to ask family and friends - without judgment, just due diligence - whether their kids know the combination to the family gun safe, or know where the concealed but unsecured guns are. I don't want to seem nosy or judgey - because finding and keeping Mommy Friends is hard, y'all. I'd just like my kid to keep living to see another play date.
And as I whisk and rehearse, I will remember that one time she won at hide-and-seek when we visited some friends. They lived on an island where break-ins were common but no alarm service seemed to operate, and both violent crime and vicious wildlife were practically non-existent (well, except for that one cougar who had swam across the inlet and laid low, except for a couple chickens...unless that was the raccoons). After the other kids couldn't find her, I joined the search and found her in the parents' bedroom closet (Ugh! Kid!) - giggling quietly, one hand on her mouth, the other grasping the door jamb ready to spring from her hiding place. She was utterly unaware that her little hand was next to a shotgun -- barrel up.
I have since repeatedly reminded her about staying out of grown up spaces - for so many reasons. I don't know what to do about our new friend's gun safe in the family fun room where the computer and family pets live. Why is it so much easier to compare and align strategies for holding our kids accountable during play dates in our respective homes than it is to discuss the steps we each take to insure that our children are safe in each other's homes? How do we talk with friends and family who seem to be responsible gun owners and parents? We are all raising kids who also seem pretty good...until they're not.
We are raising human beings who are learning everyday, how to be good people. And they often, heck, almost always learn by making mistakes. Don't touch the fireplace grate, it'll burn you. Check. Walk before you run, or you'll face-plant. Check. If you grab the cat by the tail, she might scratch you. Check. Don't eat the yellow snow. Ever. Ugh, check. Don't throw sticks or play shovels, someone could get hurt. Check, which is why my dear girl has a third dimple thanks to the teacher's kid who will forever be That Little Sh*t, to me.
But at least he didn't have access to a gun with which to kill her as he overreacted to her hoarding of that swing.
On the spectrum of bad choices when kids can access their parents' guns (not because they should or are allowed to but because they are physically capable of finding or stumbling across damned near everything we don't want them to find), we have:
- the two year old boy who broke the rules, unzipped his mom's concealed carry purse, and accidentally killed her
- the six year old who shot a classmate,
- the eight year old who played with a poorly concealed family weapon and accidentally killed himself - apparently one of three such kids in that weekend
- the twelve year-old girl whose show-and-tell gun shot two classmates - one in the head -when she accidentally dropped the backpack
- the sophomore at my high school in 1992, who shot himself in the head playing Russian Roulette in a car in the school parking lot (though, to be fair, I'm not sure where he got the gun);
- the "love-sick" misogynist teenage boy just last week, who couldn't handle rejection, so he shot and killed the "Object" of his "Affection";
- and the list goes on and on and shamefully on.
The gift of childhood as fought for and created and nurtured in America requires that we create environments for our children that foster Failing Forward into being better individuals, better citizens, better friends, better family... better people making better choices. That means minimizing their exposure to the dangers that are not age-appropriate. That means creating opportunities for learning - and failing - that can help the children we know and love without hindering or killing the children we don't know (or even the Little Sh*ts we don't like).
Guns are the third biggest killer of American children. And the majority of children killed by guns in the developed world, are Americans. While most of that death is intentional and caused by their own family and friends, or themselves, a non-negligible amount is accidental. And more than 80% of the accidental gun deaths occur in the home, with unsecured guns. There are nearly 2 million children living in homes with unsecured guns and I can guarantee that the vast majority of those kids go to and host play dates.
I don't want any more children - but especially my child - to be exposed to that degree of risk. And yet it feels increasingly like too many of my gun-enthusiast friends and family prefer to protect their weapons more than our children. The tools they have embraced for protecting their children have become more precious than all of our children. As adults, he have failed backward and our children - all of them - are being dragged by the backdraft.
No wonder so many are marching. And crying. And screaming. And acting out. It's what our children do when they are hurting. And scared.
I miss the days when my girl was only afraid of zombies because I may have prematurely shown her Michael Jackson's "Thriller". So far this year, she has brought home a flyer from school featuring the NRA's Eddie Eagle, and parents have received two incident messages THIS WEEK with allegations about creepy dudes and kids from her K-2 elementary school talking crap about guns. None of it was true but all of it caused anxiety.
No wonder my girl is desperate to be homeschooled. At least with homeschooling, she's unlikely to be normalized into accepting the risk that a kid, a parent, a neighbor, or a teacher might go rogue (with a gun or without) and kill her while she practices her cursive.
But homeschooling does nothing about play date safety, which ever since she won hide-and-seek, has taken on deeper meaning for me.
And as a single parent, working for a nonprofit, I cannot afford to homeschool her or hire an old school tutor. So...I guess I'll just bake an effing cake, prep my Mommy Pirate costume, pregame my knees with ibuprofen to prepare for garage dancing to KidzBop with a dozen of my kid's friends and parent-friends, who will also hopefully be in costume.
The life-and-death matters that should plague me today are how we are going to get through the pre-tween years without me having a heart attack, and whether the party will wrap before the late afternoon hangries create an elementary Battle Royale. Instead I remember the ones lost, the ones we could have lost, and the childhood innocence my eight year old is rapidly losing. I could march but instead I'll bake a cake and try, one more day to keep the anxiety of this worsening Normal at bay.