June 12, 2016. A day our family will never forget. The day marks our country's worst mass shooting in US history at Pulse nightclub. 49 lives lost. Mothers, fathers, sisters, brothers, aunts, uncles, friends coworkers and family to many. It has been a month.
I won't focus on the shooter. I won't focus on the horror of what it felt like to wake up at 4 am and see the scenes playing out on television and social media. I won't focus on how incredibly lost and lonely and desperately heartbroken I felt lying next to my 3 year old and seeing what was happening. I'll focus here on how I chose to handle my emotions and parenting, because for us and our family we had to keep going.
That's a major theme in my life and something my mom and I say to each other constantly...keep going. Meaning, whenever we feel overwhelmed and buried by life's emotions and circumstances we just keep going. Head down, tunnel vision, laser focus on our jobs as parents. That's my sole responsibility in life. Being a great mother to my son.
On this day we happened to be planning on celebrating a big milestone for Boo. He was 100% diaper and pull up free! It felt like a victory. A long, arduous journey that ended in what should have been a celebratory romp through Disney as a reward for a job well done. I couldn't help the tears running down my face. I couldn't help but feel the unrelenting sadness as the body count kept rising. I couldn't help but be real and raw in those moments. He asked why I was upset. He knows me. He's my person, the one I spend all of my time with, the one who spent 9 months inside of me...he is a part of me, so he knew. Knowing that at this age death and evil are concepts little ones just can't understand, nor should they, I chose to say that I was "OK." But like I said, he knew. We underestimate kids this age. They see and feel more than we know or choose to recognize. He asked again and through my tears I said, "I'm sad because something bad happened to people because someone made bad choices." He got it. But I also assured him,"it's ok to be sad sometimes and it's ok to cry sometimes," and that today we would still have a great day with Gramma at Disney. And with that I packed up all of my emotions and put them in the "needs attention later" pile and went about a day at the Mouse House. He was happy and so for that I was happy.
Disney felt like a dazed dreamland of mindless happiness. I felt the numbness settling in while we rode some rides, sought relief from the heat and ate Mickey shaped cream bars. But on the car ride home I knew what I needed to do. I knew I needed to focus on raising my son through the fear and anger and let him see what I had already been seeing. I saw a community coming together in a time of crisis and pain. I saw straight allies supporting LGBTQ brothers and sisters. I saw people showing their love and support on social media and through memorial sites. I saw Orlando come together like never before. And we would be part of that coming together.
Boo has the fortunate circumstance of having not only a bad ass momma (brush my shoulder off) but an amazingly talented and supportive daddy with a career in theater and close friends from all walks of life. This brought us closer together as parents. We knew we would see tough parenting moments in his life time, but we had no idea it would be like this and not so close to home. Two single parents searching to unify our message and show everyone we stand side by side in raising a child who is solicitous about the welfare of others. Volunteer centers were inundated with water, food, toiletries...but not children's items. I'm a Mom! That's what I think of first...what do the children need? How can we help the kids that have been left victimized by this? Gathering dollar store children's items and dropping them off at a donation site allowed Boo to be involved on a level he could understand and relate to. "Sharing with people who have nothing makes them feel good and happy and important and so that's what we're going to do." Hanging onto his Dad's leg bashfully as they delivered toys and coloring books and a giant stuffed Nemo, waving at volunteers, and just his presence making people smile a little bit through tears and sweat and exhaustion. It felt like I was showing him through action that this is how you become involved, even if you're 3.
Our "modern family" chose to participate in a candlelight vigil at Lake Eola honoring the 49 victims and supporting the LGBTQ community and Orlando as a whole. We chose to do so because we all wanted him to se what coming together means, what it looks like, smells like, feels like, sounds like. The reality was that being there with him was overwhelmingly profound for us. I can't speak for everyone but I was proud to have my child with me that night. He saw all kinds of people supporting each other for no other reason than LOVE and sense of community. For peace and to show solidarity as ONE people. Isn't that what we want? Isn't that who we want them to be? Good, honest, kind, loving, respectful and to stand up for their convictions? To know that no matter who you love, you deserve love? That's what I want for myself let alone my own child. I don't know who he will end up being as an adult, but my hope for him that he feels safe to be the person he chooses to be and to be that person with his head held high. By the way, the whole time we were at the vigil he thought it was a Pride event (which he is not a stranger to) and waved his glow stick and enjoyed the free rainbow Mickey sticker and lots of hugs from friends. As his parents I think we felt like we offered some service by showing people who were feeling devalued and hurt that we knew they were important and that we vowed to raise our kid to know that people, all people, are important and should be loved.
During times like this it's hard to know what to say to your children. Too much or too little. I wish we could have done more. I myself felt depressed for some time, thinking I could have or should have done more. But this is what I have to offer the world. Being a Mom. There's no handbook explaining how to deal with this kind of hate and crazy for adults let alone our children. And I'm still struggling with what to say or how to say it. I don't want to shelter him, but I also don't want him to live in fear or to feel defeated in times when all feels lost. All I know is that children respond to action, so be active in how we raise these little guys. Show them that compassion and kindness is the center of how your family chooses to live and they too will show the world that love back.
W & B and our modern family
#OrlandoStrong #OrlandoUnited #OneLove