This past Friday as our country prepared to honor and mourn the lives lost at Sandy Hook one year a go, another school shooting occurred at Arapahoe High School in Colorado, leaving one 17-year old girl in critical condition. As if the usual worries of sex, drugs, and driving weren’t enough, parents today also have bullying, violent video games, guns and school shootings to worry about. Like many other parents today, this reality breaks my heart and makes it just a little harder to sleep at night, just a little hard to send our kids off to school and just a little harder to find the balance.

Friday December 14th 2012 was a day I am not sure I will ever forget. A day of incomprehensible horror and loss and a day in which my fear grew as a parent along with the uncomfortable reality that there is only so much I can do to protect my child. On that very day, now one year a go, my parenting perceptions and ideals were hastily challenged and changed. This past Saturday was the 1st Day of Remembrance since the Sandy Hook Elementary School Massacre last year, which left 20 little children and 6 adults dead and parents around the country shaken with loss, sadness and fear. Some of us couldn’t sleep at night. Some of us made headway in our school districts in regards to security. Some moms decided to homeschool! And some of us simply made changes in the way we parent our kids as we realized yet again the fragility and the gift of life. However we reacted, we all gained new perspective as a parent that day and many of us have been forever changed by the tragedy. This piece is a collective reflection of our parenting in the year post Sandy Hook. 

Like many other moms that day and in the weeks and months following I was shaken to the core. I cried a lot and hugged my child more often and more tightly than ever. Throughout the year I have continually thought about and reflected on Sandy Hook. It was not one of those horrible news stories that I was able to just shake. As a mom, it has stayed with me; it has changed what I think, what I fear, what I appreciate and how I parent today. Today when my son climbs in bed with us in the middle of the night I embrace him, rather than send him back to his room, and sleep far more peacefully knowing he is there snuggling with me even if I almost hit the floor. I have far more patience and sweat far less small stuff. I enjoy every moment, even those seemingly less desirable ones as I can only imagine that the parents who lost their children that day would give anything for one of those all out tantrums today. I freak out about school security and I am angry that I even have to consider it at all, but with a heavy heart I accept that this is part of our new parenting reality and I make informed choices accordingly to the best of my ability. I accept that there is only so much I can do to protect my child. I hate it but I accept it. Today I kiss and hug my child tightly at every goodbye and at every single morning drop-off even if it means chasing him down for it after he’s already run into class. Today I have reaffirmed trust in myself as a parent as it relates to living my values of no toy guns, no aggressive or violent pretend play and no violent media. Sandy Hook taught me to sweat what really matters and to enjoy and be truly present and grateful for each moment with my child.

I spoke with several moms across the country about their experience of Sandy Hook and the ways in which it has changed them. Amanda (mom of three, Dallas) shares: “That shooting was the turning point for me as far as my son and toy guns….I will not encourage that type of pretend (play)…by giving him toy guns”. Michelle (Michigan mom) says the massacre reminded her that she cannot keep her children safe alone and that it is “incumbent upon all of us to rear happy, healthy, loving children so that they may become those types of young adults and protect each other”. Jennifer (Arizona mom) shares “it was incredibly heartbreaking for me as (my son) is about the age group of most of the kids who died. The event reinforced my decision to homeschool even more. There’s too much violence in schools and especially public schools”. Yael (mom of two, Dallas) nearly shed tears as we spoke about Sandy Hook’s impact now almost one year to the day later. She too was shaken to the core and no longer sweats the small stuff with her kids in the middle of the night and otherwise. Amy (mom of two, Michigan) says she couldn’t wait for her kids to get home that day and was scared to send them to school the next day, “even though I feel we live in a safe area”. Amy’s school district made immediate changes to security, which made her feel safer. Kristen (mom of two, Texas) also shared that her kids’ school made rapid changes to security that allowed her to feel safer “knowing the schools are trying to protect my precious kids,” amidst the sadness and fear. Michelle (California mom) was “horrified” and “scared about the adequacy of our school security systems….makes me want to teach (him) survival skills…to trust his instincts….and to get him outdoors more and teach him to run fast!” 

As we remember, mourn and honor the lives of those precious children lost just one year a go, I invite you to look at the ways in which this tragedy has impacted you, your parenting and your family. What future do you envision for your child and what can you do to support that?
Please share with us! 

Galit Birk, PhD is a PCI Certified Parent Coach® who walks folks through parenting with wisdom and grace in her private practice CORE Parent Coaching.

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