Last week’s Newtown Tragedy has upset me more than almost anything I can think of in my life. I was happily doing some Christmas shopping on Friday when my mother texted me and asked if I had seen the news. She gave some brief statistics and I sat in my car in the parking lot, absolutely horrified. And then I began to sob uncontrollably as I thought of all of those sweet, innocent children whose lives had been taken. I thought of their parents and the absolute and indescribable grief they were surely feeling. Today, I think of the children and teachers who survived. The first responders (I don’t even want to imagine). Nobody will ever be the same. I, who doesn’t know a soul affected by the tragedy, will never be the same. I have shed tears over it on a daily basis, as I know many of you have. It has affected all of us.
I have a six-year-old. My first-grader is bright and happy and amazing. I love watching her learn to read and write. I love hearing her stories about her friends at school. I love her indomitable will, even though it is often exhausting. I love her pout.
I love how she won’t let me take her picture, even though I also hate that she won’t let me take her picture. I love her passion. I love the way her smile lights up her little face. I love how she heard her first grade teacher mention it was her birthday, and she insisted upon taking a present for her the next day. And I love how she asked before she gave it to her, just to make sure, and found out her teacher’s birthday was actually in July and brought the present back home because she was embarrassed.
I love how she can navigate the iPad and the computer and the iPhone with an expertise that I will never have. I love how she still sneaks down in the middle of the night to climb into bed with me. I love how she puts together crazy outfits for the next day at school and sleeps in them to save time in the morning. I cannot get her to wear PJs anymore except on the weekend (remember her indomitable will?), but whatever, it saves me laundry I suppose.
I love watching her play her violin, even though getting her to practice is nearly as difficult as getting her to wear her pajamas. I love the questions she asks me every fifteen minutes, always wanting to learn something new, and showing just how deeply she thinks. I love how she gives me a hug and kiss in front of all of her classmates whenever I show up to volunteer in her classroom.
I love that I could keep writing this list for another hour and come up with a million more things I love about this child. I love HER.
Having all of that ripped away from me is unthinkable, unimaginable, unfathomable. And yet, twenty sets of parents are having to think the unthinkable now.
I have two other daughters who were first-graders not so long ago. I have thought a lot about their little first grade selves this week, too. How blessed I am to have also known both of their 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade selves. And my eldest’s 5th, 6th, and 7th grade self.
So, to my six-year-olds, past and present:
I promise to love you more than ever. To listen to you when you have something important to say, no matter how much work I have in front of me. To teach you everything I know about the Gospel. To pray with you and for you. To hug and kiss you daily. To read to you often. To forget about all of my commitments and spend time with you—the dishes will get done eventually. To help you with your homework without frustration. To answer your questions truthfully. To be patient with you. To teach you how to do the laundry. To teach you how to balance your checking account. To teach you how to clean your room “Mommy clean,” but to do it for you sometimes just because. To make you real dinners when Daddy isn’t home instead of macaroni and cheese. To send you off to school with kind words, a hug, and a kiss, no matter how difficult our morning was. To take you on more Mommy/Daughter dates. To make a huge deal over your successes and help you grow through your failures. To teach you to treat others with kindness. To be an example to you of all things I want you to become. To be the best mother I can possibly be. To forgive myself when I fall and to do better the next day.
I may not be able to change what happened in Connecticut last week, but I can change myself. I can remember how I have been feeling and keep my children closer than ever. If, heaven forbid, they are ever taken from me too soon, I want to be able to look back and know without a doubt that they knew I loved them and have no regrets.