Yesterday, our oldest child celebrated her 18th birthday. I lay awake last night, thinking about how much the world has changed since she was born in the year 2000.
One of our biggest worries then was “Y2K”. The fear that computers worldwide were going to lock up and shut down. We stocked water, food and much more, anticipating the possible implosion of the internet. It’s almost funny now to think about, except it is not.
As I lay there last night, I thought about the world that our four kids now live in. A world in which they watch their friends’ parents die of cancer, take care of those at school with life-threatening food allergies, and practice lock downs.
It’s that last part that kept me up last night.
In the wake of the Florida shooting, I checked in with each of our four children individually. There is no handbook for this. There is no, “How to Parent in the Age of Mass Shootings” guide.
Each child shared different concerns. I asked if the school acknowledged the shootings, “Only the big ones, Mom,” was the answer.
Only the big ones. That got me. That there were qualifiers on these shootings. Some worthy of a moment of silence at school, others not.
My first response after the shooting in Florida on Valentine’s Day, which was also Ash Wednesday, was to contact my Senators’ offices. I’ve already heard back with meetings scheduled. My 18 year old is coming with me.
But it wasn’t enough. I spoke with my parents, Dad is a hunter in Texas, a gun owner, and has been his entire life. Like almost all Americans, he has no problem with background checks, 95% of Americans support them. He does not want access to assault rifles. He served in the U.S. Army, and the stories he shares of those times have never once touched on the death or injury he saw. Not once in my 47 years have I ever heard him talk about it.
Without saying a word, he told me everything I needed to know about what he’d seen and experienced, what it did to him.
And as I lay there last night, I wondered what happens to a generation of children in lockdown drills with moments of silence each week for school shootings. What happens to their hearts, their souls? How do they survive emotionally? Do they desensitize? Shut down? Numb it somehow? Will they be able to talk about it with their children?
I don’t have the answers or know exactly how to deal with it, other than to put that love into action. I try to role model that for the kids, our oldest has now written both Senators, too. But how to deal with it emotionally? What happens to their hearts?
Once again, we are running a real time experiment on our kids.
The only thing I know to do is to make home a safe place. Safe to live, safe to come home to, safe to express all concerns and fears.
Because lock down drills and moments of silence weren’t part of our childhoods. The moment of grief that I remember the most vividly that came even remotely close was when the Space Shuttle Challenger exploded. We were in Biology class, and the teacher who told us was also the football coach. He could barely keep it together.
How are the teachers keeping it together?
As Moms Demand Action and other organizations expand into the incredible leadership role we are seeing, the students are, too. As Shannon Watts, the founder of Moms Demand Action wrote yesterday, ” This moment feels different. So many new voices are speaking out. In a little over a week, than 115,000 people reached out to Moms Demand Action wanting to volunteer — including at least 8,000 students, who will become the first Students Demand Action volunteers. More than 70,000 people have made donations. And nearly 1.2 million people signed up to learn about the gun violence prevention movement.”
I’ve spent the last 20 years in the the food industry, and the last dozen or so specifically working to protect children. Far more bullets than peanuts are killing children in the classroom, and it has me deeply reflective on what to do next. A growing number of moms are running for Congress, and though many ask, that is not my path. Supporting them, however, very much is.
Democracy doesn’t work without us. And we have to move beyond what the internet first enabled, a type of slactivism, petition signing and check writing. We have to get out of our seats and put love into action.
I remember how intimidating that felt when I first contacted a Congressman’s office about a food labeling bill, requesting a meeting. But in hindsight, that fear was misguided. Inside of all of those offices are young Americans, eager to be part of meaningful change.
It is easy to forget that we are writing the history books in real time every day of our lives. But it’s important to remember: We can be bystanders or up standers. There are so many opportunities to participate.
And as I continue to work to protect the health of our families, and the health of children, I will also support more women and more moms who are running for Congress. I will support the voices brave enough to speak with sincerity and passion, to put their hearts on display for the world to see, because that is what will move us forward, and I will work to get the dark money out of politics.
In the words of Marjory Stoneman Douglas:
“Be a nuisance where it counts. Do your part to inform and stimulate the public to join your action. Be depressed, discouraged, and disappointed at failure and the disheartening effects of ignorance, greed, corruption and bad politics—but never give up.
For the sake of our children, who only represent 30% of the population, but 100% of our future, we can never give up
“The future belongs to those who give the next generation reason for hope.”
Let’s help create a future that our children will be proud to share.