This weekend has been something of a refuge. With the boys home all day, we've been unable to have any news coverage on. I think that if they weren't here, I would have found myself glued to it, and although I don't want to stick my head in the sand, I don't think watching it nonstop is a good idea, either.
We talked to Gabe and Dante yesterday, and it went as well as I think it could have. Gabe does seem to have some level of worry/concern about something like this happening at their school, but he didn't seem too terribly scared. I kind of suspect that he's still processing it, though, and I wonder if more questions will come up as a few days pass.
We gave them as few details as we possibly could. There was no mention of the ages of the kids, or how many people died. I can still barely comprehend that information myself.
And it was obviously clear to them that we were upset, but we were calm, which I think was important. As we finished talking, I reassured them that their teachers and everyone at school is always looking out for them, and will do everything possible to keep them safe.
Since Gabe is notoriously bad at talking to us about things that are worrying him, I reminded him today that he could talk to us at any time if he had any questions or was upset or just wanted to talk. He did ask me a few questions - what was the name of the school; what was the man's name who did this; how old was he; why was he so angry?
When I answered him about the name of the school, I made the mistake of telling him it was an elementary school. We hadn't shared that information with them, and he was surprised when he heard it. And of course he asked the question that we're all asking - Why would someone want to kill little kids?
What I want to know is - Why do my kids live in a world where they have to ask a question like that?
As the weekend went on, and we existed in this sort of surreal normalcy - putting on a brave face for the kids, and going about our daily routines - I remember thinking that this is sort of how it felt after 9/11. Everything was in some ways the same - life goes on - but it was also completely and utterly and forever changed.
But 9/11 provoked a very different kind of emotion - it made me question whether or not I wanted to ride the subway to work every day; and made me feel claustrophobic and anxious when I got in an elevator to head up to the top of a tall building. I don't know if I could even call it fear so much as discomfort. Everything just felt unsettling.
This, however, is fear. Heart-pounding, terrifying, nightmare-inducing - especially because it's not myself I'm worried about - it's my babies.
We went to church this morning, and as they always do, the boys left the service after about 10 minutes to go to their church school classes. I watched them walk out of the room, and from that point until the moment I picked them up, my mind was racing.
I am trying my best not to let my mind go to the places it wants to go, but it isn't easy.
Because I know that if it can happen there, it can happen here. Places that always seemed safe - and that should be safe - don't seem that way anymore.
I also know that I can't live in fear for the rest of my life, though, so when those thoughts start bouncing around in my brain, I work very, very hard to push them out.
It's going to take some time for me to quiet them, though, and I know that being away from the boys for 45 minutes this morning was nothing compared to what I'll face tomorrow morning when I have to put them on the bus. I was up well before 5am this morning, worrying about it.
Clearly, though, it's what I have to do. And for their sake, I'll hold it together and act like nothing has changed. Even though it has.
But one of the blessings of having small children is that, even in the face of emotional upheaval and stress and tragedy and confusion, life must go on.
Breakfast, lunch, and dinner have to be prepared and eaten. Activities have to be attended. Books have to be read. Homework has to be done. And holidays have to be celebrated.
It feels wrong to be continuing on with our fun and festivities when I think of the families who will not be able to do these things with their kids. But as a wise friend of mine pointed out on Facebook - "don't feel guilty about spreading joy and magic during the holiday season, we all need it, especially children."
As we enjoyed a Christmas-filled weekend, I tried to remember that. And maybe that's a fitting tribute to those families that are suffering - cherishing the time I have with my kids, and making sure that they know how loved they are, and how much they mean to me - not taking anything for granted, and not forgetting how lucky I am to have these amazing little people to share my life with.
To that end, we continued with our Christmas Countdown -
Day 11: Gabe chose his favorite dinner - nachos
Day 12 - Make a gift for someone. Paint was everywhere, but they loved working on their special projects, and I loved seeing how focused and concentrated and proud they were of their work.
Day 13: Donate food, clothes, or toys - We made a donation to the local food bank. The boys always like to donate their favorite - mac & cheese.
Day 14: Visit the library to get Christmas books. We ended up with a pile of books big enough to last us 'til next Christmas. And mixed in with the holiday titles were many, many Captain Underpants and Diary of a Wimpy Kid books. And I wonder why Gabe and Dante are up in their room giggling until 9:30 every night......
Day 15: Go out for pancakes - wearing your PJs. Because it's always more fun to go to breakfast in your PJs : )
Love. These. Boys. : )
For more from Michelle, check out Me and the Boys, her blog.