I am sorry I was cranky, Bye [sic] Ellie. Ellie wrote me this note a few weeks ago after an evening tantrum.
It always happens like this. A terrible event, a horrific loss puts it all in perspective, reminds us of what really matters. Being late for school suddenly feels trivial. The giant piles of laundry that require me to wade through the floor of the laundry room? Eh.
And then gradually the loss fades away, and my occupation in trivialities returns.
But this time really feels different. And nearly everyone I know agrees.
In the last week I've cried washing dishes. I've cried on the bus to and from work. I've cried listening to "I'm Dreaming of a White Christmas." I've cried reading about how one of the children who died at Sandy Hook had special needs and his aide reportedly died trying to protect him. I've cried reading about the teacher who barricaded herself and her class in a bathroom, telling her students she loved them because she thought it was the last thing they were going to hear. I've cried dropping Ellie off at school, not because I'm afraid for her safety, but because of all those little faces, all those teachers and support staff and the principal. It could have been any of them.
"I can't even think about it," a dear friend wrote in an email yesterday. "Except I can't stop thinking about it."
It just feels so close.
"What Six Looks Like" summed it up perfectly for me (if you haven't read it already, please do). Why are so many parents of young children having such a difficult time with what happened in Newtown (aside, of course from the obvious horror of it?)--By the way, I'm not saying that it's only the parents of young children who are struggling--I'm just speaking about it from that perspective:
"I think it's because we know what six looks like. We see it every day... in all its glory...this friend and I both have a six-year-old child. I, a six-year-old son. She, a six-year-old daughter. Both are in first grade. Both, I imagine, so heart-breakingly similar to those 20 kids who were so brutally and senselessly killed on Friday morning. And we do, indeed, know what six looks like. We do see it every day. In all its glory. We see the good, the bad and the ugly. The beautiful and the infuriating. It's in our face. We live it and breathe it."
Overnight, mundane events like school drop off and bedtime became fraught and loaded.
For some reason Ellie has been having a hard time going to sleep the last few weeks, and coincidentally it heightened following the Newtown shooting (and no, she doesn't know about it).
She wants to sleep in our bed. She wants us to stay with her until she goes to sleep. She's lonely. She's scared and sad. But she can't tell me what she's afraid of or why she's sad.
In my head I'm thinking: Will you just go to sleep? I still need to pack lunches and snacks and clean up the kitchen and hopefully do a load of laundry-lights-we need more washcloths-before I collapse into bed with Words With Friends. Really I just want to play Words With Friends.
But in my heart? I'm thinking about how she is hurting and scared. And would it be so terrible for me to wait another thirty minutes to make the damn lunches? I could lie down next to her and listen to her breathing change as she slowly relaxes and falls asleep, feel the warmth of her small, sturdy body next to mine (but not too close--she gets hot--sleeps with a fan in December--don't ask).
I think of the parents less than two hours away who I imagine would love to have a drawn out bedtime with their children.
This is Five: Ellie's illustration of last week's unit on Probability. I realize I'm biased, but I don't think it really gets much cuter than this.
"The harder life is, the softer I must become," read a comment on a blog I read sporadically. Yes. This. It's hard to care so much about packing lunches and loading the dishwasher, right now. Except that those tasks do still have to get done, preferably before 10:30 p.m.
But right now, I have more patience. I am yelling less. I am hugging more. I am stepping over toys instead of fretting about the mess and clutter.
I would like to stop crying, and I know that I will. But I don't want to forget this feeling, or all that we lost that day.