I Am Not Okay

My third grader came home from school Monday afternoon and told me all about their school-shooting drill they had that morning, how they’ve been prepared with special hiding spots, how he was chosen to be in the group that gets to climb to the top of tall shelves, how the bell will ring when they are in Lockdown Mode, how to survive something that has knocked this country to its knees.

I wept. Or I should say, I weep. Because I haven’t quite stopped since Friday.

When he showed me how they were taught to hide in bathroom stalls, curled into tight, tiny balls on top of toilets, a fury boiled within me. The tears I cried then were hot and red, righteous in their anger.

I am not okay.

I sift through the senseless and scavenge for meaning, for justice, for change. I listen as my heart beats a subtle unsteadiness as we near the school doors where I drop my son off and away and into the world ripe with heroes and villains, with uncertainty. I fight the urge to stay put just outside those doors, my arms poised open and ready to grab him back, molding him into my chest where it is safe, where I am not blood and bone and breakable but steel and unyielding, where no one will claim him from me.

My daughter twirls clumsy pirouettes in her favorite skirt, and the beauty of it, of her innocence shatters me. The brittleness breaks through and I am sobbing at the sight. Her cheeks are pink and feather soft, her hands warm and sticky. I tuck her under my chin for as long as she will let me, spreading kisses all over until her skin smells like my breath. I don’t care that she has crumbled pretzels in my bed or trailed crackers up the stairs. She is vivid and alive and that is enough.

I am not okay.

My children, with tiny nail polish-chipped fingers and growing feet and apple-scented faces tasting of caramel kisses, are subject to the brokenness and the meanness of this world. And with that I am not okay.

I wonder how this could happen, how black this world can be, and then my hatred and my bitterness grow fierce, my judgment unwavering, my wrath filled with poison, and that is when suddenly I know. I crawl through the tunnels of my own darkness and realize the only thing that tempers it is love.

I am not okay.

In the lulls of constant chatter, at stop lights, when they wake up, when I tuck them in, when I make them grilled cheese sandwiches and ignore the pile of vegetables untouched on their plates, when I read their favorite story though it’s thirty pages long and well past their bedtime, with every fresh box of new crayons, in every squeeze and kiss and touch and fingers tickling backs of knees and in between ribs, I love them. I tell them over and over and in every which way, I hold them until they squirm, I whisper it when they’re sleeping because I never want them not to know.

I try to make that love louder than the noise that threatens to drown it out, the noise that circles the earth and prowls outside their windows and roars inside my own temper.

If I love louder, then maybe it will be okay.

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7 Comments

Filed under Parenting

7 responses to “I Am Not Okay

  1. Bang that drum and love as loud as you can. I lost my only sister years ago before I became a parent and it has shaped the way I parent. I never take a second for granted even though I know that I am only borrowing them.

  2. Jess.

    This is by far the most beautiful piece I’ve read since these horrors started being reported. It reminds me of when I was very pregnant in 1999 with Monkey. Remember when I called him that? And the morning i was teaching, how I heard about the shooting at Columbine High School, and I wondered what kind of horrible world was bringing my son into.

    And it has been horrible at times.

    But it has also been filled with beauty and cartwheels and warm pretzels and couch snuggles. And now Monkey is TechSupport and his feet continue to grow. And I have not lost faith in the world. Or its people. Because I truly believe that most people are good. There are, of course, some people out there who will do anything to hurt others but, for the most part, I have found my faith renewed in people likr you: people who have all the right words to express the goodness in their hearts. You’ll be okay. Bug and Bean will, too. You’ll see.

  3. Carol

    Excellent response to hated filled world. Love well, protect as much as you can, and pray.

  4. Bill Wolff

    Thank you very very much

  5. Beautiful, lady. So many of us feel that anger, that fierceness, that worry that we are all too fragile and ready to break.

  6. Pingback: Friday Five | Elizabeth Hyndman

  7. Mary Kathryn dean

    I went to hs with Erin caylor and read this on her fb. You have touched my heart with everything I feel but couldn’t put it to words. I’m an emotional hot mess over your “I’m not okay” well said. Kudos!
    Thank you for sharing!
    Mary Kathryn

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