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Thoughts on school shootings and the emotions behind them

POSTED March 8, 2018 7:39 a.m.
It was early in the afternoon — nap time to be exact — and I was sitting in my room next to my sleeping babies, scrolling through the week’s news feed after days of not doing so. I saw post after post about the recent school shooting in Parkland, Florida.

As I sat there, my eyes were swollen from tears I had cried, and my whole body felt weak after an unimaginable feeling of anxiety and fear was beginning to dissipate into the air. I then looked down at my 2-year-old son, kissed his forehead, and a feeling of relief came over me because he was safe — everything would be OK.

The gamut of emotions that I felt was real and raw but at that moment, the sadness, fear, anxiety and relief had little to do with what I was reading about on my news feed.

Not long before this moment, I was in my 2-year-old’s room, putting away his laundry. He was helping me and as he was, he climbed up his dresser that I thought was secured to the wall, pulling it down on top of himself. I saw the whole thing happen and was too far away to stop it.

The top of the dresser came down on his little forehead right between his eyes. In those milliseconds, time slowed and I saw the impact and what it was doing to his face.

Blood was everywhere, and he was crying. I lifted the dresser and picked him up, using a nearby blanket to put pressure on the wound, and I sat there holding him tightly until we both calmed down enough to assess the damage. Thankfully, all that he had was a small gash, a few scratches and a swollen face. I began the process of cleaning him up, dressing his wound and talking to him to make sure his mind was OK.

I breathed a sigh of relief because it could have been much worse. However, I still had all of these emotions running through my body that needed to be acknowledged and even felt. I needed to cry. I needed to recognize my fear and anxiety. Then I needed to resolve it by hugging my little boy who was now sound asleep.

As I read those stories and statistics on school shootings, complete with all of the emotions felt in my own moment of crisis, my mind went to the shooter. I’m not quite sure why, but it did. I wondered about all of those emotions that he must have been feeling when he was at the school that day and leading up to that day.

I wondered if he was sad and was allowed to cry. I wondered if he was scared, and if he was able to express that fear to people he trusted. I wondered if he felt anger and was given an outlet to express that anger or, at the very least, acknowledge it.

Then I thought about my own growing children — particularly my boys. It was perfectly OK for my toddler to cry in his time of need, but was I allowing my older sons to do that, too? Was I a safe place for them to talk about anger, fear, anxiety and sadness?

Perhaps this is one piece of the puzzle as we continue the discussion of this epidemic that is plaguing our nation’s schools, or maybe it’s not. What I do know is that those emotions I felt that day as I took care of my little guy were so intense that if I kept them in, I knew I would burst.

Emotions are real, and they need to be felt. They need to be experienced and acknowledged, and I hope that as a parent, I am doing my part to allow that to happen.

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