Suburban Snapshots

The Slow Return to
Our New Normal

Sunday, December 16, 2012

I think we all tried to push through the fog and funk of knowing the depth of what happened in Newtown, Connecticut on Friday. We had holiday parties and pageants, bought and decorated trees, made cookies, and posted the pictures to Facebook. And now it's Sunday night, and all of us parents are faced with sending our kids off to school tomorrow morning, and we know it will be all right. But we can't shake a little unease, we'll probably sleep badly, we'll definitely take more time getting out the door and into class. We are heavy with apprehension and grief.

This morning, 2 days of the gentlest, most appreciative parenting I could manage had to come to an end. Anna's room needed to be cleaned. She was asking for and then not eating different breakfasts, she called us mean because we wouldn't let her watch cartoons.

And so, as would happen on any day that hadn't been preceded by a tragedy beyond the worst nightmare, I counted to 3. I refused her bargaining, I rejected her stall tactics, and Steve got her started lining up her shoes and putting dirty clothes in the laundry.

If you haven't already, you'll eventually come back to the routine of raising a child who is present, even if you've been given a brutal, stinging reminder of how quickly that could change. I want you to know that it's okay. It's still love. It doesn't mean you don't appreciate how lucky you are to be able to hold a warm, beating body tight before bedtime.

Part of being present is not being aware that you're present. We don't stop every few minutes and ask, Am I appreciating this enough? Am I giving enough love? because then we're so consumed with the concept that we're forgetting the gestures. We live in passive recognition of our blessings, and when it comes to our children, love is at the root of everything we do.

In a few weeks, you might leave your child at the door to school and rush to work, you might forget to say, "I love you." It will be a normal day, and it's all right to have a normal day. Our kids aren't capable of knowing how much we love them. I don't think they can know, despite our anxieties and best intentions, despite morning I-love-yous and bedtime stories, hugs tight enough they struggle against the affection, they just can't. But they know enough.

As we start having normal days again, let's not doubt ourselves as parents. Let's not waste time questioning or being deliberate. Let's just love our kids and know that we're all doing our best.

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