Wednesday, December 26, 2012

Keeping Our Children Safe

I started this post on Friday, December 14... it's taken a bit of time before I felt ready to complete and publish it...

Today I saw a post on my Facebook from a good friend of mine back home.  It said "Worst nightmare, school shooting at the kids' school. Both are fine thank God. Please pray though."  These are the words that no parent ever wants to see or for that matter, hear.  And sadly, in the US, it's becoming all too common.  And today, it really hit home - how safe are our children in today's society?  

I was in Sandy Hook, CT this summer with the kids when we were home visiting.  My friend Kath used to live in our neighborhood in Attleboro and moved to CT a few years before we moved to Spain.  Aidan and her son, Chase, have always gotten along great and Katie, her daughter, is in the same grade as Aidan.  I've read about tragedies like these before, sadly, but the impact was never like this.  Knowing people who have been directly affected by such a tragedy has intensified those feelings a hundred fold and I can't stop the tears from flowing.  Knowing that her children could have been victims is heartbreaking, gut-wrenching.  Knowing that any of our children could be victims of such a horrible act - terrifying.  

Sandy Hook is a tiny little town.  It's adorable.  It's kind of in the middle of no where.  Which is why this all feels so inexplicable - it's not like it's in the middle of a big city or even all that close to a big city.  It's suburban.  It's well to do.  This is not the type of place that these kinds of tragedies occur.  And that's why it makes it scary - because now, they do.  

I don't intend this post to be about gun control and the pros and cons of it.  I honestly don't have a strong opinion on it - I believe people have the right to bear arms but I also think that there needs to be stricter control over who is allows to bear those arms because obviously, they are getting into the wrong hands.  Not to mention weapons that are military grade should not be in the hands of common citizens. And I don't want to seem insensitive posting about something so tragic.  Even if no one reads this post, that will be fine by me.  I'm writing this because I'm scared for my children and what their future looks like.  And this blog is about writing about my feelings as events unfold during our time abroad, whether or not those events are here in Spain does not matter.  

No, we aren't living in the States right now.  But we will live there again.  And I've expressed fear over moving back because I was afraid I wouldn't be challenged in my life.  However, this tragedy brings another point to light.  I'm also afraid because after a catastrophic event like today, I'm also afraid for my children and their futures.  

One of the things I have noticed in our 3 years of life abroad is that despite living in a city versus the suburbs, I feel safe here.  I actually feel safer here than I did at home.  And honestly, I never felt unsafe, or so I thought.  Or never did til I lived here and looked back and saw just how overprotective I had become of our kids.  Because there is always this underlying fear that something will happen.  Maybe it's not gunshots in your child's school, but the fear of someone stealing your child.  I know I'd have to be foolish to think it could never happen here, I know it could, but it's not the first thing that comes to mind when I lose sight of one of the boys for a moment or two.  

In the States we live in a very close knit neighborhood - we even have a neighborhood Facebook page :)  And yet, up til I went home this summer, with Aidan being 8 years old, I was still a bit nervous about allowing him to roam the neighborhood unsupervised.  Back in the day, I was roaming my neighborhood when I was 5.  You came home when your mom called you.  You were outside from dawn til dusk and in the summer, you'd play flashlight tag or catch fireflies.  I don't remember a parent in sight.  But times were different - we didn't worry about kidnappings (I do remember the story about the clown driving the ice cream truck though - that freaked me out!), molestation, guns or any other unspeakable acts of violence.  

And yet, I can't imagine this life for my boys.  I want to imagine this life, but it's not a life they will ever get and it makes me sad.  And the events of Sandy Hook are one more example as to why - the world has changed since we were kids.  Why has this happened - is it more hyped up media?  More mentally ill people not getting the care that they need?  Is there even one specific reason why the world has changed in such a depressing way?  However, living in Europe, they might get one or two steps closer to normalcy than they would at home.  At least it's something.  

I don't want to live that way.  I don't want to live in fear.  I don't want my children to live in fear.  I know that Josh will read this and then say to me, "and tomorrow you could be struck by lightning".  Josh is all about living for today and not fearing those things you cannot control.  But as a friend and I were talking about the other night, we may not be able to control every situation, but we can remove some of the factors that can cause tragic things to happen. 

So how do you remove those factors in this situation?  It's a well-to-do, suburban elementary school.  For all intents and purposes, this should be one of the safest places on earth for your kids.  So why wasn't it?  I can't explain it.  It was the "perfect storm" of events unfortunately and that's all it takes, all the elements coming together at just that right moment.  

So do we live in fear and home school our kids?  Do we stop leaving the house for fear that someone may open fire in a mall or on a university campus?  Putting guards up in schools (and then do we put guards up in malls and movie theaters too?  Where is the limit?)?  How do we protect our kids from suffering the tragedies that these young, innocent kids and their families had to face?  And the parents that sent their kids to school like any other day only to not have them come home - ever again?  

For us, for the moment, living in Europe is one way to reduce our risk factor.  That's not to say other tragedies couldn't befall us, I'm sure they could.  But based on this wikipedia article (and yes, I'm well aware that this does not mean it's 100% valid), Spain is a pretty damn safe place to be, ranking in the top 15 of safest places out of the 75 countries listed.  The US, a dismal top 12 highest gun fatality rate.  The statistics are based per 100,000 people so it does not matter that one country is bigger than the other, because yes, I know that the US has a much bigger population than Spain.  

In the end, I don't have an answer.  I don't even have a way that I want to end this entry - this is one of those entries that I started writing in a flurry of emotion and then, it just stopped.  My heart aches for the families of Newtown, for my friends and their kids and the emotional rollercoaster that they have been on for the last week and knowing that just because time has moved on, it doesn't mean that the healing process won't take time.  All I know is that we never know what tomorrow will bring - we can only continue to live day by day and live the life that we have to the fullest.  


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