When I heard about the shootings in Sandy Hook, it was right after I had dropped my two preschool-aged boys off at school. I had my baby girl in the back seat of the car, and as we drove home, I listened to the updates on NPR. I began to sob immediately. As the story emerged, I cried more. I don’t think I did much that day but cry, and, after my children were home, hug them and try to hide my tears.
My oldest son is now in elementary school. His school is so much bigger, and, while I fully trust the faculty, a larger school feels that much more dangerous to me. The playground is wide open, as it should be. But in these days of school shootings, I now look at playgrounds and think about how easily children could be targeted.
It’s an awful, horrible thought.
Earlier this year, my boys and I discussed bullies. This was triggered by a few incidences of mild name-calling at school. Toward the end of the conversation, my six year-old said, “And what do we do if a man comes to school with a gun? What if the bully has a gun?”
This isn’t a question that any six-year-old should have to ask.
When I was six, my biggest bullying-related concerns had to do with people teasing me about my funny name or freckles. Kid stuff. Not men with high-capacity machines.
We talked about running away, telling grown ups, and yelling that someone has a gun. And then, as quickly as he’d asked the question, he asked if we could play. We went off to build a fort and pretend to be baby foxes.
I answered his question as well as I could, trying not to act panicked, holding back my tears about the men and boys who’ve come to schools with guns before.
But I also found myself wondering about what more I should do, what more our communities can do, to prevent anyone from coming to schools with a gun. In the days following the Sandy Hook shooting, I signed a few petitions, and felt overwhelmed by the immensity and complexity of the problems that have contributed to school shootings, from lack of mental health supports to gun control to a culture of violence. What, exactly, could one mother do to help?
One parent may not be able to do much. But, together, communities of parents, grandparents, friends, teachers, and leaders can do a great deal.
Sandy Hook Promise, a nonprofit founded and led by community members and parents who lost children in the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School, just launched Parent Together. Through Parent Together, they want to refocus the conversation on “sensible action and love.” Those are certainly things we could use more of these days.
Parent Together will be providing evidenced-based programs, tools, and supports for communities to help prevent gun violence. They’ll focus on mental wellness, healthy development, community connectedness, and gun safety — areas that can make our communities stronger and safer in so many ways.
You can join and make the Sandy Hook Promise to Parent Together, and then receive support and tools to use in your community. Those who sign up will be connected to local groups that can then take action.
It’s one way to move from feeling overwhelmed by a complex problem to action with fellow parents, neighbors, and friends, and to take action before the 12/14 anniversary of the tragedy at Sandy Hook.
You can join Sandy Hook Promise here.