First appearing on Strong Figure
I wrote this back after the Newtown Connecticut shooting. I thought that my personal site was a better fit for this post, so I’m happy to add it here. It’s never to late to remember a loss, reflect on the living, and cherish the ones we love.
I often wonder what kind of mom I would be if I had kids. Would I push my same nutrition and fitness goals on my own children if I had them? At what age do you start educating a toddler on the differences between the sugar in a piece of fruit or the sugar in a piece of candy? How do you raise a little girl to love herself and her body but encourage her to make smart food decisions so that she is a healthy little girl–on the inside and out? Do you just let little boys eat whatever they want because the metabolism of a boy is incredibly better than a little girl? What about genetics? I wonder if I’d pass along the short, squatty, sucky metabolism genes that I’ve got. If I had a boy, I’d want him to receive the muscle-building genes but not the short genes. If I had a girl, I’d want her to receive the good hair and skin gene, but not the crappy metabolism one. Even though I don’t have kids, I think about what kind of mom I would be. I really hope I’d raise healthy kids who don’t hate me for not allowing the sugary cereals or cabinets full of Pop Tarts and Chips Ahoy cookies. I wonder if they’d ever even notice that the muffins are gluten free, or that other kids are allowed to have soda whenever they want. I wonder if I’d push too hard and make them hate me, turn them into binge eaters, and spend the rest of their lives fighting obesity and disease; and then I wonder if I would be their inspiration, their go-to for answers, and their role model of mommy fitness. I wonder about all of these things every now and again, and sometimes–sad to say–I’m thankful that my life is easy and I don’t have to make these tough decisions.
But what I can’t stop wondering about lately are the moms and dads who just lost their babies in Newtown. As a high school teacher, I complain all too much about all my bad days, and I reflect way too little on the good. As a teacher, I look at the others who stepped in front of bullets to save their classroom children. And as a teacher, would I be so brave? I keep thinking of the faces of the kids in my classroom. Even though they love to drive me crazy, they’re just children. Even at 16 and 17, they are still babies–to me, to their parents, to the world. Of course I would try to protect them. And I think some of them would try to protect me too.
I think it’s so sad that violence–especially gun violence–is starting to become commonplace in our schools. I don’t blame the NRA, and I don’t blame separation of church and state; I’m not going to get political or religious on you–that’s not my style. But it’s so scary to think that students are shooting students, young adults are shooting their teachers, and grown adults are shooting babies. Little 6 and 7-year-olds. I can’t stop thinking of the terror of those poor children. Or the teachers who tried to save them. Or the ones who were led to safety being told “keep your eyes closed” so that they didn’t see the bodies of their dead classmates on their way out. How much psychological damage has been done to these poor children? Will they ever feel safe again?
And my heart is just broken for the parents of those who are gone. Absolutely broken. As nothing more than a member of society, I can’t begin to wrap my head around the feeling of loss, sorrow, grief, anger, pain, and shock that these parents must be dealing with. I wonder how they’ll survive. I wonder how many siblings don’t understand that they won’t see their brother or sister on Christmas day. Or ever?
I remember losing my dad a couple of years ago and feeling the worst, most intense, soul-wrenching pain that I could never in words describe. And I believe that feeling must be tripled for these moms and dads right now. When I lost my dad, I remember wanting the world to mourn with me. I refused to move forward for a long time, and sometimes I catch myself still in disbelief, shock, anger, sorrow, and still refusing to let go. I hope the moms and dads know that the world will never forget, and the world will never be the same again–even if it must move forward.
There are a lot more angels in heaven right now. I have a strong sense that my dad is up there teaching them to play ball, passing his intense kindness to all who come his way. I imagine a world full of puppies and kittens, laughing children, and loving adults. I imagine zero violence, 100% peace, and a perfect, wonderful, joyous setting. I imagine that it’s Christmas time all year round. I imagine these things because that’s the only way for me to deal with the loss, the pain, and the disbelief. I believe in what “must be” to shield myself from what is: a world of hate, violence, gunmen, and tears.
My grandmother once said, “Who would want to bring up a child in a world like this?” and at times like this I believe she may be right. Maybe I will and maybe I won’t have children. If I do, maybe I’ll teach them how to eat properly and how to exercise. Maybe I’ll teach them about books and how to write poetry. Maybe I’ll just teach them that I love them–each and every day–and that in a world full of violence, they’ll always have a place to call their home, and they’ll always be surrounded by love. I’ll teach them about the grandfather they never knew, and I’ll tell them that he’s waiting for us all. And when that time comes, it will be we who are the lucky ones again.
To all my friends and readers who are parents, God bless you, thank you, and my heart is with you. To all the teachers out there, you are a hero each and every day–no matter how tough the “bad days” are. And to anyone who has ever felt a loss, may you feel warmth and comfort again–and soon. I believe John Donne said it best when he wrote Meditation 17:
Any man’s death diminishes me because I am involved in mankind, and therefore never send to know for whom the bell tolls; it tolls for thee.