Everybody is talking about the Newtown shootings. It is sensational in the worst possible way. It is already being politicized—it is a conversation starter for gun control, for mental health support, for how awful it is that we are politicizing a tragedy, and for the total fucked-upness of the media interviewing surviving six year olds within hours of their friends and teachers being shot. There are plenty of pleas for people to stop talking about the political issues swirling around, but to focus on the losses of the family.
For me, I certainly have opinions about guns, politics, and the media, and a lack of well-formed ideas about the ways to resolve the state of mental health in our country.
But first and foremost, I have a six year old.
First graders are something pretty special. They are smart, they are articulate, they can wipe their own butts (which is HUGE!). They are moody, they talk back, they whine, and they test boundaries. They are beginning the awkward phase of missing all of their teeth. They have crushes, they are navigating friendships. They take spelling tests, they read, they want to be more grown up, but are also still just kids.
Oliver is six years old (he would tell you six and three-quarters). He believes in Jesus, he believes in Santa, and he is so frustrated that he hasn’t lost any teeth that weren’t forcibly removed by the dentist. He wants to like hot sauce like his dad, so he puts it on everything. He hopes that on his seventh birthday, I will let him have a can of caffeine-free diet coke. He plays BeyBlades, obsesses over iPad apps, and cries when his friends move away. He is finally learning how to tell a funny joke (sometimes), and still will give me lots of hugs and kisses and tell me he loves me and that I’m the prettiest lady in the world.
Oliver drives me nuts sometimes, too. He nags and whines about stuff that he wants. He doesn’t like to share, and his insistence that he is right all the time is trying on the nerves. If he doesn’t think something is fair, he will go on and on and on… actually, he will always go on and on…
Oliver’s hair is so long that we could cut off half of it and it would still be longer than anyone else’s in our house. He insists on keeping it long, even though people mistake him for a girl all the time, because he loves it and thinks it is cool. He loves swimming and can’t wait to start swimming lessons again. He adores Taylor Swift and has dreams that she is also six and they play tag together. He wants to grow up and be a rock star, a singer, a doctor, a cowboy, a scientist, and an adventure writer. He adores his siblings, and sometimes asks Hazel to climb up to the top bunk so they can snuggle together. He is infinitely patient with Henry and doesn’t get mad when Henry pulls his glasses off, tries to tear up his books, or takes up so much of my time that we aren’t able to do all the fun things he wants to do. Oliver describes himself as “a little bit serious”, but you can crack him up by talking about bodily functions or making up silly songs.
And all I have been able to do since he stepped off the school bus on Friday is look at him, and make sure that I cherish him. It doesn’t help anyone else; it doesn’t make anything better, or help the victims and their families. I’m hugging him extra tightly, and we are saying extra prayers. I cannot imagine life without my sweet boy.
I can’t lessen the loss for the victims’ families. I can’t answer the political questions or come up with a solution to prevent this from happening again. But I can love my family a little bit harder, and try not to take for granted the wonderful family that Kullervo and I have created. I will be a little less distracted when I’m with my kiddlywinks. I will read with them more often, watch more movies together, play a little bit harder, and pay attention to how amazing my kids are. It is the only way that I know of to honor and respect those who no longer have that privilege, and would do anything to deal with one more tantrum if it meant one more day.