People want to move on. Move forward. Laugh. Stop crying. I get it. I want all those things too. I am moving on and forward. I’m laughing a lot and I’ve really cut back on the crying. But the haunted feeling I’ve had since the Newtown shooting is always just under the surface. It fills every gap and silence. Sometimes it seizes me entirely.
Last week I fled Target in a panic. As I shopped I constantly looked for places to stash my 3-year-old in case a crazed lunatic opened fire; I suspiciously studied the other holiday shoppers, wondering which one was the one who would render me daughterless or her motherless. I finally found myself in the center of the store with no Sally-sized hiding places. As my panic rose, I knew that I was leaving sane thinking, but I couldn’t rein it in. I left the store and drove home with my heart in my throat.
But life is moving on. Especially for the people who don’t know that anything has happened. My kids are still blissfully unaware that the world is a dark and scary place. They never noticed the meaningful looks passed between parents at school drop off – the ones that said, “I’m scared to leave too, but what can we do?” They didn’t notice the looks between teachers and parents either – the ones that said, “Please take care of him, and stay safe, and oh God, oh God!” And because they are so blissfully unaware, they are unchanged.
Which means they are just as irritating as ever. I’m fully aware of how horrible it is for me to be annoyed by my living, breathing, beautiful children at this time when we should all appreciate living, breathing, beautiful children. I should do a lot more cherishing. I want to. But…
They don’t listen.
They fight with each other constantly over anything.
They are sneaky.
They make messes.
They cry and complain.
And they won’t put their damn shoes on.
Which is to say that they are normal children.
I find myself wracked with guilt after a bedtime routine full of frustration, threats and warnings. Just last week wasn’t I swearing I’d always sing one more song? Always hug and kiss one more time? But then today we had that car ride with all the fighting; and there was all the whining; and there was us in the restaurant and the screaming fit… and DAMMIT GET IN HERE AND BRUSH YOUR TEETH ALREADY!
I’m so torn between telling myself that it’s OK that life in my family is as it ever was, and feeling like the worst sort of person because life in my family is as it ever was. I know that there are so many families whose lives are forever broken. And I know, or imagine I know, how badly they wish they were in my situation instead of theirs. So why can’t I just hold it together better? Why can’t I appreciate my vibrant children while I’m still lucky enough to have them in my arms?
Are you struggling with this too?