Tragedy, I See You

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tragedyI sat down to write about something else this morning. Something that now seems embarrassingly trivial and petty and ultimately inconsequential. But, like tragedy always does, ambushing the unsuspecting between sips of coffee or amid an ambivalent trip down the chip aisle, I caught my breath when my husband’s phone rang too early on a Sunday for good news. And there it was again. I staved off my body’s natural inclination to revolt completely long enough to ensure our own children were okay (which they were) but was soon lambasted by the guilt and despair that someone else’s were not. Three of our son’s friends and teammates had been killed in a car accident. Two more were injured.

I wish it were the first time we’ve been jolted by similar phone calls, but it isn’t. Our children have experienced a lot of loss lately, and it scares the hell out of me. In the last few years, they have lost friends, classmates, and teammates to suicide, cancer, accidents, and gunshots. They’ve lost a new sibling to miscarriage, relatives to old age, and pets. In a mostly-sheltered midwestern version of Pleasantville, our children are frequently facing tragedy. As their parents, bridging a generational gap that is arguably far greater than any other in history, we grieve alongside them but cannot possibly comprehend the depth of their emotions. Growing up, teen death seemed a once-a-generation occurrence. But now, preventable deaths are on the rise, and it makes me ache for all of our children. Most of us came to age in an era without technology distractions or social media pressure. I didn’t have a cell phone until I was an adult. My world only extended as far as a tank of gas (that I couldn’t afford anyway) could take me. I was around adults all the time, adults who weren’t omniscient but vigilant. Our houses were smaller, our crappy cars were slower, our communities were closer, and our rules were stricter.

Mornings like today make me re-evaluate my parenting and make for uncomfortable introspection. Am I strong enough to be the parent they need versus the cool one they want? Am I open-minded enough to seek a true understanding of an adolescence that I clearly do not understand? Am I brave enough to have the most challenging conversations and allow my kids the “freedom” to learn on their own? I don’t know. Today is just for grieving and hugging my kids tightly. Today, I declare a national “Blow-Something-Off-to-Spend-More-Time-With-My-Kids Day.” Because even though I have grown up wanting more for our children, I didn’t mean more of this. These mornings reshape us all.

The tragedy is an unassailable enemy, but we can limit its effectiveness. We can make the moments we have matter. We can listen better. We can instill responsibility and accountability. We can love our neighbors better. We can make more informed choices. Our young people need us… and I know I don’t want to live without mine. So, tragedy, I see you, and I feel you. But, I am armed with a burgeoning offense that is working to do all this hard parenting stuff better. Hey, Village, let’s keep tragedy in retreat. And to the families of our son’s dear friends, you are in my constant prayers.

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