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.