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How We’re Handling The Newtown Tragedy in Our House

Erin Zammett Ruddy

Writing my usual mom musings seems trivial right now and while I don’t have anything profound to say about the Newtown shootings, I did want to share this little story from last night, about Alex's first prayer...

I don’t have anything profound to say about the Newtown tragedy except that it hasn’t been off my mind for one minute since I first saw the breaking news alert flash across my homepage. Like many of you, I’ve been in a constant choked up state, the tears always ready to fall, which they do often. I’ve been watching the coverage, reading about the horrors, the heroism, all of it too unbelievably awful to comprehend. It’s literally been hard to breathe at some points. Nick and I were just discussing how if we feel this distraught and sad and we don’t live near the town or know a single soul who was personally affected, what must it be like for the people who do?

We had our annual Christmas party Saturday night (60 people at my house!) and though all day I felt weird about hosting such a thing in the wake of such a tragedy, it turned out to be just what everyone needed—to be with friends (almost all of us are parents) and to be thinking about something other than the unthinkable, if only for a little while. Like so many parents I’ve been kissing my kids more, telling them I love them more, staring at them more. And crying a lot. Every time Alex says something sweet (which is often these days), I feel worse. When I picked him up from my parents’ house yesterday morning he said, “Mom, I heard you looked very pretty last night. Will you try your dress on for me?” Nick and I looked at each other with tears welling. On the flipside, any time I get frustrated with the kids, I also cry out of guilt. And of course when Alex asked me to lie with him for a little while last night at bedtime, I said yes.

Nick had read him some books and was downstairs watching the president speak, waiting for our Chinese takeout to arrive. I had finished tucking in Nora and went into Al's room where we talked about Christmas and about Santa and went through our list of things we wanted to get everyone. Then I suggested we say a prayer, which felt strange coming out of my mouth. Despite the fact that Nick and I are both Catholic and grew up going to church every single Sunday, we do not have a very religious home right now. We’re still trying to figure out what it all means to us and how we want to raise our children. But I am a believer. And especially with Christmas here, we’ve been talking a lot more about church and baby Jesus (we have a Little People nativity set) and God. And last night, for the first time in a long time, felt like the right time to reach out to him. Maybe I was inspired by watching the Newtown memorial service and hearing the moving words of all the various religious leaders, maybe the Christmas spirit propelled me, maybe I just don’t know what else to do at this point, but I found myself teaching Alex how to pray. I told him a prayer is when we thank God for all the good things in our life and when we ask him to help others and take care of the people we love who are sad and sick. And to guide us through rough times. He said, “Mom, do you know that some people believe that God is invisible?” and then he asked me to say a prayer first, so I did:

Dear God,

Thank you for my family and for my wonderful friends and for my children and please keep my babies healthy and safe. Amen.”

“That was nice mom,” he said. Then he gave it a shot:

“Dear God, thank you for my family and thank you for this world and for all the kids in it and for keeping them healthy and for letting everyone live to be very old like 100 years old and for keeping our world clean and nice and thank you for Clorox bleach because that really makes everything clean and healthy, right mom? Except only moms and dads can touch it not kids. And thank you for the alphabet. Amen.”

Of course tears were streaming down my cheeks but I was also smiling. There really are no words. I have none, anyway. We haven’t told Alex anything about what went on and I am really hoping no one else does. But I don’t know if that’s realistic. This morning when I dropped him off at his kindergarten enrichment class, the teacher pulled me aside and asked if Alex knew anything about the shootings. Apparently a few of the kids do and so the teachers decided to just make ornaments and do festive activities all day instead of having circle time and optional comment when some of that stuff might come up. His teacher, who I adore, was visibly affected, as we all are. I wanted to give her a hug so badly but I knew it would unravel us both. And Alex was particularly clingy this morning, giving me tons of hugs and finally saying, “I just want to give you one more hug mom, OK? Because I love you so much it’s just so unbelievable.” I cried the whole way home.

I am thinking of all of you today, of all parents and our children, and of the teachers and administrators who work so hard to keep our children safe and make them feel loved. And I am thinking of everyone in Newtown and beyond who has been personally affected by this horror, especially those parents who are laying their babies to rest today. My heart continues to break for all of you. For all of us. 

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