I wish there was a way to break down how much time a mother spends worrying about EVERYTHING. Everywhere we turn and everything we do leaves us with an unsettled feeling about something, making it impossible to turn off that inner voice. It’s always there. It reminds, reasons, guides, coaches, and gets us through all the things. Sometimes it’s frustrating, but like an old friend we do come to rely on it. . . on her.
I am mentally preparing for a new stage of parenting. I feel that worry and voice evolving. The climate of our world is tense, dangerous, and chaotic. A new kind of march and fight are upon us with our children, and without hesitation I can freely admit, I’m really scared for what’s to come next.
You see, just a few days before the high school shooting in Parkland where 17 innocent people lost their beautiful lives, my husband and I sat down at the table with our 14-year-old. He will be a ninth grader this coming Fall, and it was time to pick his schedule. Somehow in the same breath he appeared uninterested, eager, nervous, annoyed, and excited . . . a mixed bag of emotions that easily define the word teenager.
We discussed academic programs available to him. He contemplated his options for electives, and also checked the boxes for extracurricular activities. Who knew he would throw the word football around? It all implies such promise and made me remember the excitement of a fresh start, and all the possibilities to come.
A high school freshman. Just wow. How did we already get here? Although it was so unknown as we talked it out together, when the conversation concluded, we felt ready for what will come.
Fast forward a few days later to Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School.
I began to consider the possibility of what can come of letting my boys loose in this dark world. I don’t mean I haven’t thought about the what-ifs. What mother hasn’t? But, it was the first time it felt like a terrible possibility that he too could be sitting in one of those desks or hiding for hours in a teacher’s closet. There is something about the vastness and freedom of high school and this new chapter in his life, that taps into my deepest fears as a parent.
I think part of what we come to terms with, at this age in particular, is realizing and accepting that these lives eventually do belong to them. They are not dependent on us in the same way they use to be. In fact, they want to boldly assert and declare their independence. As our control slowly begins to fade, they are just on the brink of finding their voice.
I’ve thought a lot about the parents since the Parkland shooting. I think about how they trusted their teenagers would be home for dinner on February 14th, 2018. Instead, they began the process of funeral arrangements. I think about how they may have been looking forward to watching their son’s next basketball game, or their daughter in the school play, or maybe they had plans to drive them on their first date, or watch their favorite show together. I think about all the regular things those parents, ALL PARENTS, do with their kids every single day, and then just how horrific it would be to have all that taken away in a violent instant . . . at school.
I also think about the parents of their friends; the parents of those kids with the fire in their eyes stemming from the pain in their hearts. It’s ironic to call them kids, as they have experienced more trauma and fear than many of us will in a lifetime. I think about how those parents must feel as they witness their daughters and sons gathering the troops and beginning a revolution; on a mission together to fight for their lives . . . my kid’s lives.
I imagine somewhere in their heartbroken grief, they must be proud. They get a front row seat to watch their kids not only find their voice, but use it for the common good. Whether or not you agree with them, isn’t my point. This isn’t about that. It’s about hope. It’s about hope for moms and dads everywhere as we somehow find the courage to really cut the cord.
Yes, the world is dark and scary. But, where there is darkness, there is light. When we think about our kids starting high school and navigating new hallways, or growing up at all, we have to hope that they will seek out the light. We know they won’t be perfect, as mothers are not a naïve or stupid bunch. But, we have to trust we taught them how and where to look for it. If they don’t, we will again point them to it.
It is hard to wrap our brains around how much of their lives we may not have a say in or how many of their experiences will be out of our control. This is unfortunately a reality I needs to accept. But, it can’t be all bad. It absolutely won’t all be bad. My son, like many before and many to follow, will find his way.
And we will be there for every single step.
To those parents and students of Parkland, you are warriors. You are in the midst of a great battle and you must keep fighting, and more importantly, don’t dim your light. You said it best in the lyrics of Shine; the song through sorrow you created, and then bravely performed in a room of tear-filled-faces. Keep doing what you’re doing and teaching those that follow what to do when we’re afraid and life hurts the most.
Keep giving us hope.
For us moms, when the growing pains feels too scary to face we will always have that voice. She will know what to say and do, and maybe she too will shed a little light.