A few years ago, Iris went through a phase where she was terrified of falling asleep. She feared the monsters would come into her room while she was alone and attack her. While this is pretty common with kids, we naively thought we could avoid the monster issues. Iris didn’t watch much TV, we kept her away from scary movies, and we constantly reminded her that monsters weren’t real. Still, she insisted that there was cause for concern. Finally, I took a shot at a creative solution. One night, as she was starting to get upset about the potential monsters and ignoring reason, I left her room and went to a closet in my office, grabbed a base station from an old mobile phone, walked into her room, and sat it on top of her dresser.
IRIS: What’s that?
ME: It’s a monster-stopper and alarm. It goes off whenever a monster is within 20 feet of you. I was just getting it tuned.
IRIS: Will it stop all monsters?
ME: Yes, it’s the top of the line model. I should know. I am an engineer.
IRIS: (smiling) Yes, now a monster can’t come in here! Maybe we can get one for Robyn’s room.
ME: Uh, OK, sure! And you shouldn’t worry. I know all the monsters from when I was a kid. They don’t want to mess with me after what I did to them.
IRIS: OK, so if you hear the alarm, you’ll come in and save me.
ME: Absolutely Iris. I’ll never let anything harm you. I love you too much. Don’t ever forget that.
I’ve been thinking about how I mocked the concept about monsters that night. I’ve been thinking about that promise I made to Iris that I’d never let anything harm her. And I want to weep uncontrollably, not only for the children of Newtown who lost their lives, but also for the parents who undoubtedly made the same jokes and promises to their children and now have to endure this unthinkable grief for the rest of their lives. As parents who watch this tragedy unfold from afar, we want to look at the stories and find answers, as if to say “well, that won’t happen to us because I was more thoughtful than that parent” or “well, that wouldn’t happen in our neighborhood”, but the fact of the matter is that these were all pretty much Grade A parents in a middle-class neighborhood who loved and cared for their children and sure believed they would never let harm come to their precious loved ones. But monsters take all shapes and sizes and, in this case, it was a disturbed 20-year old man who snapped. And none of the parents saw it coming. How could they?
Is this a gun control issue? A mental health issue? A media issue? Do we need God to save us? I don’t think it’s too soon to have those conversations and I certainly have my opinions, but I’ll abstain for the moment. I have to come to grips with the fact that evil does exist and, try as we might, we’ll never be able to shield our children from it–even with all the gun laws and religion possible. To say I have a crisis of confidence would be putting it mildly. My entire foundation as a parent has been upended, my value system challenged, and my trust in mankind severely damaged. I keep hearing that we shouldn’t pay attention to the killer because that’ll only encourage the next one. Sorry, but I’m not gawking at CNN for details of the killer because I am enticed by the sensationalism. This isn’t Honey Boo Boo. I’m desperate for answers. Why did it happen? Could it have been prevented? Am I naive to let my child go to school every day? I’ve made promises to the most important two girls in my life and I am now painfully aware that much of that promise is out of my hands. Perhaps that is why so many parents are fixated by this story.
Last night, Robyn (who knows nothing of the tragedy) couldn’t fall asleep and told Cherise that she was worried that a car or motorcycle could drive through the house in the middle of the night. This was going on for a couple of nights in a row. When Cherise mentioned that it happened again, I suggested we build a “stop light” in front of the hallways leading to our bedrooms so that no cars or motorcycles would go by. When Cherise peeked in later that night and saw Robyn was still up, she passed along my suggestion and Robyn was elated. Yes, the perfect solution! Obviously, a car could not go past a stop light. Robyn started brainstorming about how we could make the it together as a family project before Cherise finally suggested we could probably discuss it the next morning. And with that knowledge to ease her mind, she went down in a matter of minutes.
I wish I could say the same for her father.