Hugging my kids, looking for answers, finding none

The Baltimore Sun

Last day of vacation, and my largely ignored to-do list was foremost in my mind. I dropped my sons off at daycare and got some errands taken care of. I came home to attack the pile of laundry that never seems to diminish, took a glance at Facebook, and the world stopped.

CNN had posted a story about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Newtown, Conn., saying two adults had been killed. My horror multiplied when I saw the first comment on the post, saying that other outlets were reporting that 27 were dead. "That can't be right. That can't be right. Please let that be wrong."

I turned on the TV and started flipping through the channels and realized that it was worse than I'd even imagined. I watched, stunned, as the story continued to unfold, one horrifying detail at a time. All I could think about was the poor parents still waiting in the staging area to find out their children's fate, and knowing that the longer they waited, the less likely there was going to be good news.

And after a while, I realized I didn't care a whit about my to-dos. I spent half a moment contemplating whether I should try to maintain the kids' evening routine, then decided I didn't care about that, either. Not today. I needed to go get my boys and hug them. Now.

On the short drive to daycare, I got more and more emotional, but I pulled it together before I got to my 4-year-old's classroom. He wasn't ready to leave, so I stayed and watched show-and-tell and then went outside to play with him and his friends. A game of chase with a bunch of preschoolers was tonic for the soul, and I reveled in their contagious joy as they called out to me -- "Isaac's Mommy! Isaac's Mommy! Chase me! Chase ME!"

But it was bittersweet tonic because everything about these soon-to-be-kindergarteners screams, "Potential! Future! Nothing but time in front of us!" (One little girl, peppering me with such exclamations as, "Isaac's Mommy, can I ask you one more question? When do you go to sleep?" made me think, "This one's going to be a reporter.") And of course, today's events remind us that you don't know what's going to happen. You just don't.

The future was robbed from these little babies in Connecticut today and from their families. It's just wrong. It's just unfair. It's not OK. It's mind-bogglingly unacceptable. Against the natural order. And then I start to think about how many lives have been cut short not only by this tragedy, but also by illnesses and accidents -- still more things we can't control -- and despair and fear start to overtake.

I don't know what to do but hug my boys, pray for these families, light a candle, remember ... and to revel in every moment I can. Get chased by preschoolers. Write down my kids' funny quotes. Watch them learn and grow and be. Be present. Read more books with them. Play more. Laugh more. Tell them I love them even more, every day, with words and actions. Revel. And be thankful for every day. For every hour, even as my heart breaks for those who have been robbed of these moments. Because you just can't know what the future holds.

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