Mother to Newtown: I Stand With You

What our young children believe about us and the world is magical—and heartbreaking.

As any parent or teacher of a first-grader will tell you, it can be a magical time.

Those clinging tightest at the first day of kindergarten bound into the classroom the next September. Simple sight words mastered over the summer blossom into sentences and then paragraphs, even chapter books. Come December, writing neatly with pencils becomes old hat (but still makes so little sense next to the allure of crayons, markers and glitter glue).

For parents, the magic of first grade reveals itself in the everyday details of life.

It's the moment you realize the challenges of toddlerhood have fallen away and the trials of middle school seem a lifetime away. You revel in it. No problem seems so insurmountable—yet. Don’t worry honey, we can get some tape and fix it, here, see? All better now.

But the true magic of first-graders is that they still believe, unshakably so, that we can fix everything.

Intellectually, yes, they get that a shattered glass cannot hold water again, but everything else, the big stuff—the scraped knee, hurt feelings, fear, frustration, the dark of night, the scary wind—we can fix it all.

Teachers, moms, dads, grandparents, we all have powers, powers that keep them safe, and they believe in us. They believe, briefly, wonderfully, fervently that the world is there to protect them from harm.

This is what rips parents up inside, even when we aren’t confronted with heart-stopping evil like that which came to Newtown on Friday.

It's that we know this is a lie. We can't protect them forever—if we ever could. And we know that we must not be the first to show this. 

So we continue to love all our children and love fiercest the ones still innocent to these facts.  

Our youngest daughter, Geneva, is 6.

She sat in a first grade classroom on Friday, almost exactly 40 miles west of Newtown, in a chair probably identical to those for the first-graders of Sandy Hook Elementary. Twenty children, ages 6 and 7, gone, killed by gunfire.

That afternoon as I helped my colleagues on this story for Newtown Patch, Geneva jumped off the bus steps with her older sister, all excited and happy over something, as she usually is until her ravenous hunger hits and then all bets are off. That view, from the bus, is one I love to watch quietly through the window before opening the front door.

There is no beauty like a joyful child unaware they are being watched.

I quickly shut off the news and did what all parents do. I pretended everything was OK.

And because she’s 6, she believed me.

Mothers and fathers of those slain, I can only offer what helped my family when my parents lost two of their children, my brothers, Mark and Kevin Ryan, and when my sister-in-law’s brother and our childhood friend, Andy Sperr, was killed in the line of duty as a New York state trooper.

It isn’t these words. They are just words and therefore not enough. It was that a community stood with us in those dark moments. It's a comfort I know we all carry, still.

So I stand with you. All of Newtown stands with you.

The world is standing with you.

Heron December 17, 2012 at 02:48 AM
Do you "stand by" Newtown by supporting gun control legislation?
Noturconcern December 18, 2012 at 11:27 PM
No. Guns were the catalyst that were used in this tragedy that day. At the same time some 84000000 gun owners did not do anything to have their rights stripped away. I am so tired of people attacking guns as the problem. The problem here is obvious, the mentally disabiled child of this women snapped. I am not saying that any of this should have happened. The security steps put in place by the school didn't fail, the boy broke in the school and wreaked havok...IT'S TERRIBLE! I have a 6 year old and a 3 year old, I have taken my 6 year old shooting and taught her safety and gun control. I also have a very large gunsafe that only opens if my finger print and code are done together at the same time. She will take the appropriate classes when old enough. I am not neive to this, bad things happen, but outlawing guns like all the liberals want is not the answer. If we get rid of everything that kills people on purpose or not the world would return to the stone age if you really think about. On 9/11 we didn't outlaw airplanes that killed almost 3,500 people we don't outlaw cars, and sure don't outlaw alcohol, and that kills more than anything else. Now why don't we make the ammunition harder to get. A gun is nothing more than a inanimate object without the cartirdge, right. No one ever does that. In the constitution it is our 2nd ammendment right to own, produce, and have guns,it is kinda what created our country everyone.It doesn't however say anything about the bullets
Marianne December 20, 2012 at 04:59 PM
Guns! Guns! Guns! GET RID OF THEM ALL!!!! Shame on you for taking your 6-year-old shooting; that is simply disgusting. Try instead to take them volunteering, hiking, creating a community garden - building something, renewing something, affirming life, not destruction. GUNS ARE FOR KILLING THINGS, HURTING THINGS, BRINGING HARM. Period. They have no other use. Get a positive hobby, and for god's sake, bring your daughter to soccer or ballet or piano lessons - and NOT shooting! She's only a baby too. And you are so lucky to have her - to hold and hug and love. Scores of parents in Newtown do not have their six-year-olds - because of GUNS!!!!!!!!!!


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