Wednesday, December 14, 2016

Waiting on the world to change

Four years ago, the unfathomable happened at Sandy Hook Elementary School.  Children and adults who tried to protect them were slaughtered in a place where they should have felt safe, where they should have BEEN safe.  After that horrific day, there have been terrible shootings in San Bernadino, the Navy Yard in D.C., and Orlando just to name a few.  Since Sandy Hook, there have been 186 shootings on school campuses in the U. S.


What are we going to do about it?

I don't know.   I don't have all the answers; hell, I don't even have one answer.  One thing I do know, however, is that nothing has changed.  There are still mass shootings and individual shootings and horrific public spectacles of hate.  And what are we doing?

We're arguing about "illegal" emails.  We're arguing about deflated footballs.  We're watching celebrity meltdowns with a gleeful sense of schadenfreude.  We judge people who say "Happy Holidays" and others who say "Merry Christmas." We're blatantly ignoring the fact that maybe something could be done, and we're just not doing it.

Maybe we're all becoming numb when we see the news of yet another shooting and more death and more sorrow.  Perhaps we fall asleep at night thinking about how lucky we are that it wasn't us.  It's always someone else, somewhere else.  Worse yet, there are people who believe it never happened, and Sandy Hook was simply filled with actors playing parts.

This is unacceptable.  It was unacceptable then, and it's certainly unacceptable now.

Now is usually the time when people chime in about the rights of gun owners and the Constitution and, you know, the things.  But I don't care.  I really don't.  What is it the kids say, "Sorry, not sorry"? The victims of Sandy Hook had rights.  Those little ones, 6 and 7 years old, they had rights.  Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness were stolen from them in single, awful moments, so please, don't tell me about your right to be able to shoot whatever you want.

While you're decorating, baking, buying, caroling, and hugging this holiday season, take a moment to think about the families who can't hug their loved ones this year because of a gun.  Really think about it.  Then think about what we need to do to ensure that this won't keep happening. Unless we all decide to make a change, the horror of all of the mass shootings will become just another blurb in the news.  We're better than that; we truly have to be better than that.

On the inside of a kitchen cabinet, I have a list of the victims of Sandy Hook.  It reminds me each and every day to be sure my children know how much they are loved before they get on the school bus and to kiss my husband every single time one of us leaves the house and to let go of the little things in life that are annoying, to be sure, but unimportant.  The list reminds me to live, but it also reminds me that there is work to be done, hard work.   I hope it reminds you, too.

Charlotte Bacon, 6                                            
Chase Kowalski, 6
Daniel Barden, 7                                                
Catherine Hubbard, 6
Noah Pozner, 6                                                  
Josephine Gay, 7
Jack Pinto, 6                                                      
Emilie Parker, 6
Jesse Lewis, 6                                                    
Caroline Previdi, 6
Grace McDonnell, 7                                          
Arielle Richman, 6
Dylan Hockley, 6                                              
Benjamin Wheeler, 6
Jessica Rekos, 6                                                
Allison Wyatt, 6
Ana Marquez-Greene, 6                                    
Vicki Soto, 27
Madeleine Hsu, 6                                              
Mary Sherlach, 56
Olivia Engel, 6                                                  
Dawn Hochsprung, 47
James Mattioli, 6                                              
Rachel D'avino, 29
Lauren Rousseau, 30                                        
Anne Marie Murphy, 52

Go to Everytown for Gun Safety for more information.

Thursday, December 1, 2016

Truth, lies, and ice skates

So far, the holiday season chez Wells has been...interesting.

Thanksgiving weekend, Lottie lost a tooth.  Awesome, typical happening for a fourth grade kid, right?  Normally, yes.  This time was different, though.  When Trevor crept into the room the next morning to be the Tooth Fairy, he got busted big time.  Lottie saw him, and although Trevor tried his best to cover up why he was up there, our girl wasn't buying his excuses.  Once the Tooth Fairy cat is out of the bag, it's almost certain that questions will follow about other important figures.  Trevor and I decided that it was time to have the Santa discussion.  We knew we had to talk to them both because Lottie would have gone off and told Dallas whatever we said anyway.

Logically, I wanted to talk to the kids about Santa before someone at school spilled the beans.  Frankly, I was stunned that the topic hadn't come up before, but I was happy that it hadn't.  I didn't want the kids to be shocked if another kid insisted that there was no Santa, you know?  There was a little voice in my heart, though, that said to leave it alone and let it all happen organically. I didn't listen to that voice, and I wish I would have.


Trevor and I sat the kids down and talked a little about the Tooth Fairy discovery.  We eased into the conversation about Santa, and neither kid seemed to be getting it.  I looked to Trevor for help, but he was across the room, looking at me expectantly just like the kids were.  I plowed on and talked about the spirit of Christmas and the spirit of Santa, and I was pretty sure that had gotten through.  Pretty sure until Lottie said something about how she knew it wasn't Santa who delivered the gifts because it was his elves.  Sigh.  Not computing.  I pressed on, and I could tell when Lottie understood because her sweet face fell.  Dallas stayed pretty stone-faced and stoic, but it always takes him some time to process what he is hearing.  After we finished the talk, Lottie disappeared for a bit, and Dallas went back to his video game.  I was pretty pumped thinking that it had gone better than I thought, and I was really relieved.  I should have known that things are rarely what they seem.

Later that night, Lottie confessed that she had gone to her room to cry.  I felt terrible hearing that, but she seemed to be okay once she had her initial mourning period.  She even talked about ways she could continue to share the spirit of Santa with kids at school and people around her.  A few days after that, Dallas started to make some noise about his feelings.  It started small, just some off-handed comments about not liking Christmas anymore.  Then he said he wished I had never told him.  (You and me both, buddy.) It came to a head as we were sitting in the waiting room at the dentist's office because, you know, that's always a great place to wallow around in emotion.  The office was playing Christmas music, and "Santa Claus is Coming to Town" came on.  Dallas looked at me, said, "Liar song," and immediately began to tear up.  Solemnly, he said, "So, do you eat the cookies?"  I nodded and said, "Yeah, but it's mostly Dad." I was trying to lighten up the mood a bit, and good dad joke usually does the trick.  Not this time.  Big tears rolled down his face, and he didn't want me to talk to him or try to soothe him at all.  Ouch.

We made it through the rest of the dental appointment (no cavities!) and headed home.  I wanted Dal to have a little downtime because we had plans to go ice skating later that evening.  He seemed to perk up with some food and a little playtime, so I felt good that the skating would go well.  We arrived at the rink, and I worked up a healthy sweat getting all of us laced into our skates.  Once we reached the ice, Lottie glided off like Dorothy Hamill, and my sweat kept a-comin' as I watched Dallas struggle to stay on his feet.  Within about twelve seconds, he was frustrated and angry that he wasn't full-on skating like other people, and I could see a serious meltdown on the rise.  Just as I was about to suggest a quick break, the inevitable happened, and he fell.  He screamed as if he had been hit by a stream of hot lava and started to weep.  By this point, I was already at my limit of daily drama.  I pulled him up to his feet and guided him over to the rail.  I firmly told him that no one gets good at something without plenty of practice, and his two choices were to get a skate aid or leave the rink.  After some angry muttering, he agreed to the skate aid.  It took him a little time to get used to it, but he eventually got the hang of it.  A half an hour later, he abandoned the skate aid and ventured off on his own.  He'll never be a speed skater, but he stayed vertical for the most part, and he had a lot of fun.

I was happy as the evening ended until Dallas grabbed my hand on the way to the car and announced that although he had a wonderful time, he was still upset that I had hurt his feelings at the rink.  Approximately one hundred responses flashed through my mind, ranging from sadness to annoyance to thinking of the innumerable times he has hurt MY feelings.  If I hadn't hurt the kid's feelings, he would have spent the rest of the skating time being mad that he wasn't instantly perfect at something he hadn't really done before.  I'm happy that he stuck it out and made a concerted effort to work at skating instead of giving up, so hurt feelings or not, I'm calling it a win.

I don't know what the biggest lesson learned was.  Maybe I learned to listen to my instincts next time and not spill the beans on something that didn't necessarily need to be spilled.  Maybe Dallas learned that he'll survive even when he's upset or angry about something.  Maybe the rink employees learned that even adults like to ride on the seal-shaped skate aids.  All I know for sure is that Trevor can take the kids to the next dental appointment.