Now that a week has passed since we all watched in sheer horror as the massacre unfolded at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, CT, we’ve had some time to move through the stages of shock and grief. This entire time, one thing in particular kept gnawing at me and I just couldn’t put my finger on it, until now. What the unspeakable loss of these beautiful 20 first graders has reminded us is this: just how profoundly young children touch each one of us to the core. Not just parents and grandparents or aunts and uncles but strangers on the street, passers-by, neighbors; every single one of us.
We have been grieving because Sandy Hook forced us to spend time reflecting on what it actually means to be six-years-old. We all thought about how these kids are still babies with missing teeth, who fart in class and don’t fully appreciate that violates all social etiquette, they spell birthday “brithday”, they talk to the Elf on the Shelf every night because they really do believe he talks to Santa and finally this: six year olds, even those who have seen a hard life already, believe only the good in every single one of us. We’ve all spent a week crying and feeling rage and pure sadness because finally we have stopped and slowed down and paid attention to the beauty and importance of children. We’ve put down the phones and turned off the TVs and just sat in our grief and reflected.
And so, as we end this year and move into 2013, my single wish is that this true appreciation for children will stay with us and remain at the forefront of our culture. Too often lately we’ve become a country that begrudges children, that seeks “brat bans” in restaurants and looks in horror at a young mother boarding a flight alone with little kids. We don’t help her with her bags and we glare at her children because they do things that kids do and that annoy busy, important adults – like spill drinks, kick some seats and ask endless questions. Oh and they cry. We ignore pregnant women on the metro. Far too often, we look away and hope the kids won’t bother us instead of ushering forth our patience and looking at them, offering to help, or even just offering a smile. We talk about the “mommy wars” and worry about “having it all” when really, “it all” is right in front of us.
Sandy Hook happened to every single one of us and we are so devastated because without children – what do we have for the future? Far too often, we don’t take the time to focus and appreciate that reality.
Let us keep this reminder with us beyond the holiday season and once the initial shock of this loss passes. True, even us parents need the occasional reminder on the fleeting perfection of childhood.
In this moment, where we all remember that it does take a village to raise a child, we must preserve this feeling of love for children. By remembering, we will honor the lives of those precious first graders and their surviving families who will never, for one day, forget that children give every single one of us far more that we can ever give them.