Grief is sneaky.
And it can only be kept at bay for so long. Above all else, grief wants to be felt. To be dealt with. Grief wants you to sit right there in it.
Some stupidly beautiful TikTok song that Jane played for me on our way to the Little Tart for a before-school treat sent me into a tailspin of grief. I tried valiantly to grab grief by the tail and wrangle it, so I didn’t scare the shit out of the kid, who was just trying to have a nice morning with her mom and her apple cheddar turnover.
But, I’ll tell you, the weight of 6 people dying in yet another school shooting came cascading down on me this morning.
As I drove my child to school and thought Jesus, is this ill-advised?
It’s something we should get to do, you know: take our kids to school each morning as a lovely, or snarky, or just staggeringly mundane part of our everyday. It’s horrifying to try to chat with the kid about her friends’ upcoming Spring Break trips and to remark on the cleverness of the added lemon zest in the strawberry icing on my scone over the rush of what if I never see her again? what if I never see her again? what if I never see her again? ringing through my brain.
And who do I tell this to? How do I address that I fleetingly–but seriously–thought: maybe we should move to the country, so we can be outside. Away from people. Who might shoot my child. While she’s sitting in a classroom.
Should I tell her, in macabre detail, how to best survive a school shooting? Does anyone actually even know? Or do I just tell her I love her every morning and hope I get her back each afternoon?
How the fuck has America ended up here?
We’re so mired in grief. How much can we stand? I wish Congress didn’t seem hell-bent on finding out.
I lingered longer outside her school than would have been acceptable to the kid, had she known about it. It was a small indulgence. But I couldn’t figure out how to walk away and leave her there.
And then I did the one thing that will pull me out of a cyclone of despair every time: I looked up at the sky.
There it was.
Perfectly blue. Clear. Constant.
I took a breath. I felt the grief. I stood under the blue sky and understood: this is all we have. Right now is all there is. And right now I am under this brilliant blue sky, grieving America’s love of guns over people.
Everything is beautiful and terrible, all at once..
I want to hold on to Jane, to protect her. But, like all of us, all she wants is to be free. If I could keep her safe, but it meant being somewhere other than Atlanta, Georgia with the people we love in the place we love, she wouldn’t choose it. I know that.
I also know that it is impossible to keep her safe from anything. That is the cruelty of parenthood, that you cannot infallibly protect the one thing more important to you than your own heartbeat.
I do the best I can with that knowledge.
I love her every day. And I try, especially in these middle school years, to be in-the-moment for every hug, laugh, stupid joke, and crazy dance move. We talk about, well, pretty much everything, and I try to offer her tools to decode situations and make smart choices. I help her recognize her feelings and encourage her to feel them. Even the messy ones. I give her guidelines and suggestions, and I cheer her on.
But ultimately, she gets to choose. In ways big and small. In some ways I’ll never even know about.
Which is terrifying.
But here’s another truth that bubbles just below the surface for me: if I allow it to, literally everything in life can start to look like a threat.
I will not live my life that way.
And I certainly won’t ask this brave, beautiful kid to start being afraid of all the things that could hurt her. I won’t ask her to play small to stay safe. I refuse.
I will keep existing in the both/and. For her and for me.
But I will never, ever believe this is how things have to be.
Grief may be part of the beauty and horror of life. But gun violence is something we’ve opted into. And it is utter bullshit that we can’t change it. That is supposed to be what freedom is: the power to choose something better for ourselves.
Damnit, I want something better. For all of us.