I have been thinking and thinking over the things that happened in Connecticut. No understanding can be found for the murder of these innocent children and their teachers. My brain literally can't wrap around the idea of coldly killing a child. It isn't so much a surprise to me - after all, horrible things happen to children all of the time, but it has me really thinking on what I can do, as a parent, to attempt to make the world better.
A friend posted something on facebook recently about making the world a less sucky place. I kind of quickly sounded off my thoughts of how to do it, and it was to better the world by sending my kids out into it as good people. I've thought a little more about it, and decided to get the words out of my head and onto 'paper'.
I've said it before, and likely will again; my kids are my greatest achievement in life. They are vibrant, smart, loving boys that test me every day. I truly feel humbled by them. My heart can't contain, and no words can do justice to the way I feel for them. There are moments when I catch myself needing to remember to breathe, because they fill me up so completely that it seems there isn't enough room inside me for even a lungful of air. I'm terrified of the thought that I can't protect them, so I try my hardest to teach them as much as I can about the world. Right now, when they are still in my home, before I have to hand them off to school, and the world in general, is the moment to do it. I know that soon, no matter how much they love me, I will no longer be as important to them as I am now.
There are things I want them to know and practice as they start making their path away from me. I want them to love wholeheartedly and enthusiastically, to not be afraid to show and tell the people in their life that they love them. Compassion, sympathy, empathy - these are traits that they need to own, that instead of looking at people with differences with scorn or apathy, they should look at them kindly and with as much respect as the next person is given. People younger, more vulnerable, should be protected and not bullied, whether it be a kid with Down syndrome, someone that is poor, or just a child that is smaller and could use an extra hand.
I want them to know that it is good to stand your ground when you are right, even if popular opinion doesn't agree. Courage is an overused word, but I want my kids to be courageous in life, throwing themselves into things with passion, and to stand up against cruelty. I'm not such a hippie that I am against physical altercations, but my boys need to learn that it should be the last option, and to stop hitting when someone is down. Falling into the trap that emotion is weakness in boys isn't what I want them to do. Caring about other people isn't weak, and will not make them less 'manly' as they grow older. Emotions are life, and there isn't a limit on them: they don't have to be reserved for special occasions. Feeling the world is as important as seeing it; yes, people who feel the world more are more prone to being hurt, but the payoff comes back tenfold by the boundless joy and beauty that is out there.
Intelligence is to be cultivated. In curiosity, reading books, trying to find out how and why things work, the edges of the world get pushed even further back. There isn't any shame in being smart, in opening your mind to new ideas and possibilities, in always wanting to look further into something. Being curious is what has lead the greatest thinkers in history to be remembered today. No one thinks of the countless people who just watched an apple fall and never stopped to ask why it fell, how that simple object is interacting with the entire world.
In short, I just want my kids to fall into this world and take it by storm, without forgetting the basic idea that trampling people underfoot isn't the way to stand on a mountain. Credit should come from accomplishment, from grabbing each handhold yourself and always striving to move forward. Mistakes are to be expected and learned from, not blamed on someone else.
I think I might be on the right track. At 5 years old, my son is the first person to give a toddler a boost on the playground, and is fast to run to someone if they are hurt or upset to see what is wrong and to help if possible. (This rule doesn't generally apply to his little brothers, but no one is asking for perfection here.) My two year old has recently found the word 'love', and almost daily runs down the list of people in his life that he loves, and just as importantly, fully expects that these people love him back. They don't hesitate to climb into my lap, to kiss and hug, and say 'I love you'.
I'm not a perfect parent, and I don't always remember these grand ideals when I get caught up in the day-to-day events of life. My patience runs thin, and sometimes the sheer volume of three children makes me want to find a quiet place in order to regain my sanity. I've made many mistakes as a parent, and will make a million more in the coming years. But, the bottom line is that I love them, and right now, I am the center of their world as much as they are mine. If I can get these points across to them now, maybe they stand a good chance of making this world a little bit less sucky. When the time comes for them to influence the world as much as it influences them, I hope that their influence is good. If I can send these three vital boys into the world as good people, I will have made my difference in a way that is much bigger than myself.
The world lost the opportunity to see how 20 children in Connecticut would grow up, and my heart is heavy with their loss. It has, however, renewed me in my promise to give the world kind, intelligent people in order to better it. If the kindness I hope to teach them sticks, maybe their openness to a loner will be the thing that helps that person find hope instead of distancing themselves to the point that lives become as meaningful as video game characters.