It’s hard to write snarky prose about my kid when I’ve spent the entire weekend being so damn grateful he’s alive. I was going to say safe, but saying so feels like begging for trouble. I’m not even sure there is such a thing anymore.
I remember feeling that word as a child–safe. I lost the sense that nothing bad could ever happen to me when the body of an abducted child was discovered a mile from my school. I was in junior high, and was old enough to comprehend that bad things happen everywhere, including here. When I became an adult, that knowledge became background noise. I never forgot it was there, but it was a low hum that I could easily ignore. Yes, bad things can happen, but they won’t today. I’m too busy.
The minute my son was born, a switch went off in my brain that meant I would never sleep without one eye open. I remember meeting a single and childless friend of a friend who suggested that the threat of weapons in schools was overhyped. True, perhaps, I agreed. Then again, I did my best parenting before I had kids, too.
I had to take my son shopping on Saturday when I knew the malls would be swamped and lines would be long. I couldn’t wait to get him in the car. I soaked in every second we spent together. I love how smart and funny he is, without being too aware of either. His charm is effortless. We got home and finally decorated our Christmas tree. More accurately, my husband and I decorated our tree while my son texted his friend across the street. Sometimes you take what you can get.
I think he still holds that feeling of safe. I hope he does. It’s a tough balance to keep–wanting them to feel secure as they move through their lives, but making sure they know that they can’t take it for granted. How do I teach him how to keep himself safe, to be cognizant of potential danger without looking over his shoulder every minute? He knows about the news events of last week, but he’s not sure what to make of them. We listened to President Obama’s speech, and as he listed the school shootings in recent history, my son was struck by just how many the President counted off. Little does my son know it was only a subset.
I watched videos of my son at 5, 6, 7 years old, and lit a candle for those children and their parents knowing that no words would ever be enough, that my best way to honor their loss is to cherish what I have. My ran into my son in the hallway a few minutes later, and I was seized by the need to hug him and sing “You Are My Sunshine.” It was one of his favorite songs when he was little. He had a toy dinosaur that played the tune when you wound him up and my son would make me sing it over and over. If I didn’t, he wound up every one of his musical toys and made them play at the same time. It sounded like a Night Gallery soundtrack for some eerie story about toys come to life. I got used to singing.
Anyhow, at 15 he doesn’t find the song nearly as compelling. So I told him what I was doing. He was relieved.
“It was sort of random, Mom.”
No, it really wasn’t. Which means he doesn’t realize just how random life can seem. I hope he can hold onto that just a little longer. I wish the rest of us could.
Words by J. B. Everett
Photograph by Zdenko Zivkovic © 2010 Creative Commons