Parents, you’ve got questions, we’ve got answers.

Or just as likely, we’ve got questions and you’ve got answers.

Challenge: Digging Deep

One decision away: Reflecting on a hometown mass shooting

Vote up!
Share on Facebook Share on Twitter Email this article

On Thursday morning's to-do list I'd written "-nails?" because I knew when writing it, my feelings towards a manicure could go one of two ways when the free time arrived: enthusiasm over the idea of being relaxed and refreshed, or an intense aversion to holding myself captive to the chair and fumes.

I'm a sucker for the first days of Fall, so when the afternoon opened up and I paused to consider what my next steps would be, it felt sinful to spend such a beautiful day in a nail salon. Plus my latest book order had arrived. So, I grabbed my copies of "Mary Magdalene Revealed" and Amanda Gorman’s children’s book, "Change Sings" and headed for the porch.

I thumbed through "Change Sings" first spending several minutes pouring over the right words to inscribe on the front cover for Field and Louise - a happy for my newly minted guitar players as they embark on their next creative endeavor. I wrote: “Always remember you have a song in your heart and power in your voice. Sing it, strum it, scream it- listen- then use it.”

Then I dove into Mary Magdalene. I know when the one who suggested this book makes a recommendation, the wisdom of the read will be deserving of my full focus and sure enough, within a few pages I was reaching for my pen to underline. Focus is not my strong suit though, so when I caught Bedi's silhouette from the corner of my eye, I had to snap a picture of our blissful back porch moment time stamped 1:07. As I continued reading, I was struck by how timely the words felt for me.

I had just spent Tuesday morning crying to my therapist about how scary it is to be a mom. She asked me what I was afraid of and it seemed like such an obvious answer: "Where do you want me to start?" I asked.

I'm scared they will get sick, I'm scared they will get hurt, I'm scared they will stop loving or believing in themselves. I could never put words to the fear that goes into loving someone as much as I love them, but I assume most mothers understand. She had no solution, of course, because there is no guarantee that these scenarios or anything worse won't happen. We all know we aren't promised a single second of safety, security, or health.

I try not to spend my days dwelling on the "what ifs" but when you have so much to be grateful for, it's difficult not to wonder when the shoe will drop.

No one gets a pain-free existence this side of heaven. It seems lately though that my natural maternal worry has become more extreme. In trying to explain the feeling to my psychiatrist I used the word, "co-dependent". I want them with me all the time. I tried to talk myself into that label as I left, wondering if I quit listening to the stories of others suffereing if I might feel less like a crazy hover mom. But, no. How then would I know to be so grateful for what we have? How then would I know how to teach my children empathy?

So having resigned myself to walking through life aware and afraid only days before, I found some much-needed peace on page 9 of Mary Magdalene in the italicized words, "Give to me what you cannot carry." I read it over and over. This fear is too much for me to carry, I thought. I have to pause and breathe and give it to God or it could very well consume me. It's that great. But I've always known to share the weight of my burdens with God, so why now have my fears grown even though my faith remains the same?

The thought was interupted by a text from Field. 2:06: "are you ok?" From there those fears of raising children in this world became justified again.

Around 1:30 a man opened fire at our local grocery store. Reports say in the 4 miuntes he had before police arrived and he took his own life, 15 were shot. The coverage has basically already stopped, because I suppose at this point mass shootings aren't noteworthy when there is only one fatality. Only one family stripped of their mother.

The grocery store is in the same shopping center as the nail salon I opted to avoid. At the risk of sounding overly dramatic, I admit I can't quit thinking about how likely it is I would have remembered while hostage to the salon chair that we had no post-football dinner plan. I try my best to avoid grocery stores (mostly out of disdain more than fear), but I almost never skip a quick trip when I'm already out and about. The odds of me walking over there at the wrong time and into an actual life or death crisis are so high it takes my breath away.

Thinking the worst part of my day would be sweating over the amount of time I sat watching nail paint dry, only to find myself hiding in a freezer, as reports have described, instead, or in critical condition…or worse. When my mind starts playing the hypothetical scene I think, "at least the kids would have been in school" in some twisted attempt at comfort as if their lives wouldn't have stopped all the same had I walked in there and not come out.

Like Tuesday's appointment, no solution can be found in words. The sentiment script is offered: "Pray", "hold your family a little bit tighter tonight". But, I don't think I can possibly pray any harder or hold them any tighter. My reserves of gratitude for my family making it through another day alive are depleted.

Then there's the solution script: "All the more reason to carry", "Turn off the news", "Don't live in fear." Carry what? An assault rifle? Call me pesimistic but I think the odds of most people becoming renegade cowboy gunslingers in an active shooter situation and saving the day against a mentally ill man toting an automatic weapon with their permitless handgun are very small. I'd love to turn off the news but I think I owe it to my community cashiers to listen as they share interviews describing what it was like to see their coworkers shot in the head, or the slightly more inspiring stories of saving the lives of their customers as they lead them to safe hiding spots.

Suddenly this relentless fear I've been living with - wrestling with - made perfect sense. It's not born of personal co-dependence or lack of faith, but rather lack of control over preventable tragedy.

I am not a hypocondriac. I'm a human being living through a global pandemic in which 688K American lives have already been lost, witnessing large scale blatant disregard for the health and well being of others on a daily basis.

I'm a citizen of a country where politcal agendas mean I was one decision away from getting murdered while grocery shopping last week.

I am a mother at a complete loss for how to prepare my children to enter such a sick world.

I will find a way to give these fears to God because they are certainly too heavy for me to carry, but I will not spend a second more working to convince myself that they aren't valid. Pray, yes. And you better hold your families tight because it's open season all year for hunting people in America. Carry your guns and with them the weight of the responsibility to demand common sense legislation that will keep us all safer.

Turn off the news if you must but I beg you, tune IN to what is happening here. We don't have to live like this. We don't have to die like this.

This post comes from the TODAY Parenting Team community, where all members are welcome to post and discuss parenting solutions. Learn more and join us! Because we're all in this together.