Today in Oklahoma

posted in Parenting Challenges on by with No Comments

We shouldn’t have to lose our children.

It’s a huge risk to become a parent.  Loss and devastation and pain and suffering and injustices of all kinds happen every day all over the world.  I know this.  But we shouldn’t have to lose our children.

Parents in our country are shaken tonight, and if you’re like me, you can’t sleep.  The tragedy of today in Oklahoma is stabbing at my brain and replacing my insides with howling beasts.  I couldn’t watch much of the news reports.  A couple of pictures and a few updates were all I needed to know that there are parents in Oklahoma whose hearts have been ripped apart, whose brains must have lit on fire when they heard the terrible, terrible news.  I don’t know what they’re feeling right now because I imagine that when something like this happens to you, you cease to be for a while.  Their children have been taken from them today, and another piece of our collective parenting soul has been taken along with them.

I don’t live anywhere near Oklahoma.  I have no frame of reference for understanding a life lived in the path of tornadoes.  It seems to me that the people who live there would feel so vulnerable all the time, going about their business and living their everyday lives, but always knowing that an unseen force is out there, capable of ripping through their towns, homes, and hearts and devastating everyone in its wake.

What I do understand is the love of a parent for her child and a life lived with the knowledge that while we may not live under threat of tornadoes, there are always unseen forces out there, forces that could grab us by the throat and hurl us into darkness in an instant.  When you have a child, you love her so much that you wake breathless and frantic in the middle of the night until you remember that she’s sleeping in the bassinet beside you.  You weep at the thought of another kid hurting her feelings or making her feel bad about herself when she goes to school.  You can’t even voice the greatest fears that you have for your child because your throat tightens and your heart pounds before you can fully form those thoughts.  But for parents in Oklahoma today, the thing they feared most actually happened.  There’s no reason, explanation, rationalization, or lesson to be learned.  There is only great pain and loss.

When bad things happen to children, we all suffer.  And I know that bad things happen to children all the time, that human behavior covers everything from depraved to divine, and that the forces of nature are fierce and unmoved by mere mortals.  Having this knowledge is the reason it’s such a big risk to become a parent.

Now, you love someone else so much that you truly feel like you couldn’t live without her.

Now, you can work your hardest and give all of yourself to nurture her, encourage her, teach her, and protect her, but none of that has any effect on those unpredictable forces in the universe that can sweep in and suck the hope and joy out of life, just like that.

But we do it anyway.   We take that leap off the cliff and bring children into this world.

As parents, we are all vulnerable, all exposed; we have put ourselves directly in the path of the potential tornadoes of life.  And now that we’ve seen, in the heartbreaking images on the news, that the worst has happened today in the lives of some of our fellow parents, we feel so helpless and small.  All we can do today is send our love to Oklahoma and hold our children close.  Kiss their heads and squeeze their hands.  They are love.  They are life.  We shouldn’t have to lose our children.