Like many of you, I’m sure, I am struggling to wrap my brain around the tragedy in Aurora, Colorado. And, also, like many of you, I feel saturated by the news coverage, the blog posts, Facebook updates and tweets. I hesitate to add more chatter here, but I hope you’ll understand my need to further digest this cruel event by plucking out a few words here on TOBB. Bear with me, mamas and papas, friends and Facebook fans.
While I’ve always found these kinds of senseless acts of violence heart-dampening and mind-boggling, it wasn’t until I became a mother that they left me feeling breathless with inquietude and helplessness. The morning I gave birth to my son, my heart swelled immeasurably, straining at its seams to contain the flooding love and devotion for this tiny, perfect creature. It’s at those very seams that my heart has ached deeply again over these last few days. I sometimes wonder if motherhood has changed me, or if it simply has punched up the way my life feels, like the way salt accentuates the sweetness of chocolate. There is no question that motherhood has made me feel these tragedies more acutely and intensely.
As parents, we make so many choices with the aim of protecting our babies, of insulating them from harm, of providing them a well-nurtured start in life. We meticulously inform ourselves so that we can influence and cultivate what we feel is best for our children. I think of the choices I have made in this direction in my son’s last 19 months: babywearing; breastfeeding into toddlerhood; bedsharing; cloth diapering; vaccine discrimination and staggering; buying organic, whole food and trying to avoid processed foodstuffs; adopting gentle discipline approaches. I am continually educating myself about these ideas, continually practicing them to the best of my abilities on any given day. But none of these things would protect or insulate my son should a disturbed, dangerous person walk into room and begin firing a weapon at him.
And that’s precisely what leaves me so deeply unsettled in the wake of these kinds of tragedies: they make me feel powerless as a mother. It’s a paralyzing thought.
I think of the gunman’s mother, and I wonder, empathetically, if she feels a similar sense of powerlessness in all of this. I imagine she questions her role in this, wonders what she might have done differently to protect her son from his deadly decision. As I nursed my son down for his nap this afternoon, I stared with awe at his blond curls, his delicate eyebrows, the fine peach fuzz on his ears–all of which feel like tiny little luxuries to me. And as I watched adoringly while my son comfort nursed, I wondered if the gunman’s mother ever did this, too, this affectionate accounting of the ethereal gifts in her arms.
Yesterday morning I took my son for a long walk through our neighborhood’s park. We talked about the runners, cyclists, dog-walkers, robins and squirrels we passed. We stopped into the park’s farmers’ market, perused a rainbow’s colorful bounty of fresh produce, and purchased a mid-morning snack to share. We sat together, elbow to elbow, on a stone bench while we split a crusty, artisan grilled cheese sandwich and munched on juicy sun gold tomatoes. My son leaned into me in that spontaneously affectionate way that makes a mama’s heart skip a beat. When I leaned back into him and said, “Arlo, I love you,” with a tender inflection he responded, “I know.”
And perhaps that is what we should remember in the face of these stunningly sad tragedies: the greatest power that we can wield as mothers is ensuring that our children understand–without doubt, come what may–the immense strength and depth of our uncompromising, boundless love.
Rhianna lives in St. Louis with her husband and toddler, both of whom she’s been hugging a little tighter these days.
Photo credit: rosmary, Flickr Creative Commons