I should never have agreed to the playdate. I loathe playdates. And by conveniently dropping two boys onto the planet in such quick succession, I find playdates unnecessary as Pete and Repeat here adequately amuse and abuse each other. But Teddy is goofy, funny, and popular and little Matty wrote him a starring role in his new “show” and had been looking forward to script re-writes and set design for the whole week. Try as I might to pull one of my typical last minute cancels, even I couldn’t disappoint a little boy who writes “shows.”
But then on Friday afternoon, Teddy was headed somewhere else, when all I wanted (needed) to do was squeeze both of my boys and shuttle them safely into our house. On the day when all of us were holding back tears of sadness and rage and fear at bus stops and pick-up lines, feeling relief (and guilt?) over seeing our kids alive and well, and searching for any explanation that could satisfy children with devastating questions, my littlest one was at a fucking playdate.
Of course he was quite safe, and fed delicious food by a doting mom who texted me pictures of unharmed, happy boys (after the frantic messages, emails, and phone calls requesting proof of Teddy’s well-being). That night, like every other parent in the world, we did multiple checks on sleeping kids, feeling so lucky (guilty?) at the privilege of our safe haven in a shattered world.
Last night, it became clear that I would have to explain Newtown to my kids. Teddy reported on the formation of The Security News Team at recess yesterday. Apparently, one of the second graders, with limited access to televised sports on a school night, was able to switch to the news channel when his mom was around the corner, and so had some information to impart to the Team. The fact that these 8 year olds have the wherewithal to know not only that something dreadful has happened, but also that we’re trying to shield them from it, and that they’re looking for answers ON THE NEWS was all at once awful and adorable. Teddy said the Security News Team intended to do its own investigative reporting (apparently by sneaking access to TV and the internet on a school night) and then share intelligence at recess. They are as desperate to make sense of this as we are.
So began the discussion so many of you have had with your own children by now. Brodie hid tears, Teddy wanted to assess his own personal risk, and we all agreed that this is the most awful thing that has happened in our country since 9/11. They took a modicum of comfort in the idea that someone so mentally unwell would have no idea that what he was doing was real—that certainly no one could be evil enough to harm children. But Teddy was stuck on the unfairness of kids “who will never get to grow up and get to be anything.” It was a night that required more than a modicum of red wine.
The boys wanted me to linger in their room at bedtime, needing to hear more explanations, needing to feel safe. Brodie found a prayer book (left by Zealot Sister) and offered to read one aloud that he said was “exactly for today.” Somehow, my little 9 year old boy landed on a Rose Sunday, Advent prayer in honor of Mary. A mother… His Mother. And even with its biblical language asking for intersession and whatnot, I think they got the gist: these moms need prayers, and this is something we can do. Teddy would also like “…for guns to be illegal for everyone but police and people in wars.” But we’ll start with prayer, because it’s something we can do.