Written By: Leslie Means
Just after 1:00 a.m. central standard time last Friday, I was asleep beside Ella in her bed. While tragedy was just a state away, Ella and I were nestled peacefully underneath her multicolored polka-dot comforter.
“Hold my hand, Mama,” she whispered as we fell asleep. “I’m scared of the spiders.”
Little did we know something much scarier was happening.
The next morning as my coffee was brewing and my laptop was loading, I heard the news; a terrible shooting had occurred in a movie theatre in our border state.
Throughout my 30 years of life, waking up to national tragedy is a fairly common occurrence. I can recall my exact location of most major events including the Oklahoma City Bombing, Columbine, 9/11, the Virginia Tech tragedy and so forth. Unfortunately, that list seems to be growing.
But for me, there is a difference between the recent tragedy and all those prior. Something struck my heart when I heard the news this time. It wasn’t because this was more tragic than any of the others –they are all horrific events – but, something was different.
After I read a brief report about the shooting, I instantly turned the television from cartoons to news. Most stations were covering it and I, like the rest of America, was trying to figure out what happened.
While images were being shown and reports were coming in, I looked over at my two precious girls. They were oblivious to the awful event; laughing, and playing.
I tried to talk to Ella about it. We discussed saying prayers for all involved in this “scary, scary event.” When I told her about the shooter – the man who was “very sick and needed help and extra prayers” she said to me, “Mama, it’s OK. The bad guys are far, far, far away; across the ocean. They won’t come here.”
That’s when the tears found my eyes.
“Ella, there are lots of wonderful people in this world, but there are many people who aren’t very nice. We have to remember to be nice to them,” I tried to explain.
Truth is, I had no idea what to tell her. But for some reason, it seemed important in my mind to discuss it.
I’ve hit a point in my life where my everyday actions are no longer of self-interest. Everything I do, whether it’s for work or play, is so I can be a better mom for my girls. My actions solely reflect my desire to provide a loving environment for them to grow and become the best adults they can possibly be.
But I know I can’t protect them from all the dangers in this world. There is so much evil amongst all those trying to be good. In an instant it can all be gone. I can’t shelter them from the unthinkable situations and when a horrific event like Friday’s shooting occurs, I don’t even know how to prepare them.
I don’t think preparing my girls for tragedies will ever be easy.
What I can do is show my girls how much they are loved. I will hold their hands extra tight, and comfort them when they are afraid. Whether it be scary spiders, or a broken heart; I will do my best to calm their fears.
The rest, I fear, is out of my control.
To read more from Leslie, check out her column each Tuesday in the Kearney Hub.