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17 Dec

Why I’m Not Talking To My Kids About Sandy Hook

I did not tell my children about Sandy Hook.

I did not tell my children about Sandy Hook because, look: I don’t want to talk about Sandy Hook with my children. I don’t want to talk about Sandy Hook, at all. To anybody. Unless, that is, it’s to a gun rights advocate who is insisting that guns didn’t kill those little kids – a person did! – or maybe to one of the idiots who has said that that massacre of children had something to do with the lack of school prayer, and I’m not so much talking to them as I am yelling at them, probably incoherently, because, my god, my god, my god.

This is where talking breaks down. This is where we lose our faculty of dialogic speech. Because, what can be said about this? What can we say to each other about this? Other than, how do we make this stop?

That’s a good part of why I don’t want to talk about what happened at Sandy Hook with my kids: because, right now, there’s nothing that I can say to reassure them. It happened there; it could happen anywhere. Sandy Hook Elementary had security drills for exactly this sort of thing, just like my kids’ school does – did those parents tell their kids, it was a just a drill, it was just in case, just in case, because it’s always good to know how to be safe, but nothing like that will ever happen, I promise? That’s what I told Emilia. You don’t need to worry, sweetie. It wouldn’t happen here. Maybe Robert Parker said that to his daughter, Emilie, who is no longer here to be reassured.

There is no reassurance to be had, and that’s a big part of why I don’t want to talk about it with anyone, really; not my kids, not my husband, not my friends, not my online community. Because there’s no kernel of hope here. There’s nothing to hold back the horror and the fear and the overwhelming sadness. I don’t want my kids to be crushed by the weight of that horror and that fear and that sadness. I don’t want to be crushed by it. But how can any of us not be crushed by it? Has it not taught us – has it not forced us to see – that the world is a terrible and dangerous place full of horrors of our own making, and that those horrors can reach any of us? This is the abyss, isn’t it? When we look out our windows and what we see there is not only terrifying – but terrifying, and of our own making?

I don’t want my children to look out that window. I don’t want to explain to them what’s outside. I don’t want them to see the tears in my eyes, and hear the hopelessness in my voice.

I don’t want to talk to them about this until there is something hopeful to say. I am holding out hope (is it faint, this hope? maybe) that there will be something hopeful to say.

I hold on to the hope that what happened in Sandy Hook might become the catalyst for change. I hold on to the hope that, maybe, if we scream and cry and yell about what happened in Sandy Hook, something will change. I hold on to the hope that if we scream and cry and yell loud enough and hard enough and long enough, maybe, maybe, it will sink in. That we all want something better. That we all need something better. That we owe it to ourselves and to each other to build and preserve our communities around principles of care and consideration. That we need to talk about gun control and mental health resources and our responsibilities to each other. I know that dialogue doesn’t usually start with wailing and weeping (human beings are what they are, Aristotle said, because they make meaning together through speech, but meaning-making isn’t much served by incoherent sobbing, I don’t think.) But, maybe, by making our feelings clear – our mad, messy, inarticulate sadness and fear and rage – we will find, in that mess of feeling, the common feeling that will bring us together on this. Because we have to come together on this in order to have a real conversation about this. A conversation about making things different.

Because things need to be different. I need to be able to tell my children that things will be different.

I need to be able to tell them something. Until then, there’ll be no talking. Only hugging.