On Sunday I took my three kids to the Gilroy Garlic Festival with two other military wives and their kids to give our husbands some time to get work done. Six kids, three adults, and a typical military spouse outing with everyone coparenting is equivalent to herding cats.
We missed the shooting that killed three and left countless others injured by 30 minutes. We were not victims of this incident, but we nearly were. Meltdowns were imminent and fast food was calling. We were spared the burden of explaining a mass shooting to our kids ranging in age from age 6 to 2. I am grateful to have been spared. But I keep asking myself, why am I so shaken?
Yes, we could have been there if kids were just hungry instead of whining or if I wanted to try just one more garlic dish. But we didn’t. We left.
It was about 90 degrees out in an open field with food tents and activities all around central areas. We hopped from shady spot to drink station to shady spot to sweaty bouncy houses. We ate garlic fries. We drank cold, sugary drinks and had snow cones. We spent too much money on kid activities and I thanked God that I chose to wear my husband’s antiperspirant rather than my all-natural deodorant.
I am a planner and an overachiever. I am the mom with sunscreen in her bag at work in addition to mints, a Paw Patrol Band-Aid and snacks. I am over prepared. I obsessively watch(ed) diaper bag packing videos on YouTube. But how can I prepare my family for this?
I am shaken because I have no control over the safety of my own children. I feel helpless, like I can’t go anywhere in public or send my kids to school without fear.
But, who is protecting our kids if not us?
Before we got off the bus to go to the park, I asked my 4 year old what my phone number was in case we became separated. When did being separated stop being the thing we worry about? And when did I become so desensitized to gun violence? It has become so normal we, as an unaffected nation, don’t miss a beat. We watch the finale of “The Bachelorette” and zone out — I did this; no judgement — because it is easier to do so. It is easier to ignore this and move on.
Yet these horrific instances keep happening, and it is hard to not see a divide emerging between a they, them and us. But who is “they”?
“They” is not a person, but a feeling. In the case of the Gilroy Garlic Festival, witnesses said they heard the shooter say the reason he shot into a crowd with an assault rifle, killing three, was because he was “angry.”
We want a straightforward solution to a complicated problem. We want to fix it and move on, but what happens when fixing the problem is bigger than gun control?
One of the women who attended the Gilroy Garlic Festival with me on Sunday with her 3-year-old twins, D’Marie Bartolf, reflected with me.
“Why are we not looking at the bigger human issue that is going on? I want to look at my children and say is not ‘guns are bad.’ I want to look at my children and say is ‘do you see those children who are in school with you? Love them. You don’t have to like them. You don’t have to agree with them, but they are another human beings and you have to treat them with respect,’” she said.
Bartolf continued, “I’m saddened because I look at the response to all this and it’s not one of bonding together and teaching our children to love one another. That is not what the response is. In my mind that is why this is not going to change, because our response has not changed.”
What has changed is parenting. We adapt our parenting to protect our kids as best as we can within our world. We avoid danger, we sanitize hands and experiences. But why is this the solution?
Media responses highlight political reactions, largely focusing on gun laws. Because legislation is easy.
You can legislate guns. You cannot legislate love.
“There’s not an easy fix, but we want one. ‘I want to go out tomorrow and have the world be different so I need something that will be fast.’ But this was not a fast and quick change either. Our type of society right now was not created overnight. This was a slow process. The fix is going to be a slow process,” said Bartolf.
Today I can’t fix this system. I can fix myself. So, I will put this out there as a military spouse, friend, parent, daughter, Christian and human being.
To love my kids through words and actions.
To respect and love my husband in front of my kids.
To treat strangers as friends.
To treat friends as family.
To banish my “I deserve” mentality and to focus on what others deserve as human beings.
To be decent when no one is looking, i.e. return grocery carts, not cut people off, tip well, etc.
To teach my children to do the same.
I have to believe that people have the capacity to love and to change.
I would challenge other parents, specifically my generation, the generation who knows life before Columbine, to focus on love. It is great to be politically vocal. But we desperately need to love. We need to hug our kids and teach them to love others and we can’t expect politics to magically fix something that starts with us.Read comments