Telling Our Own Stories


In blogging it’s sometimes difficult to know which stories are ours to tell. Victoria has been pushed into the unimaginable situation of burying a nephew, a child and you can see here on AC that she’s beautiful and eloquent and protective of the surviving siblings and of her own child. There’s a #LoveForNoah hashtag on twitter that folks might want to follow.

It’s unimaginable that as I write this a family is burying a child so small. We don’t have words for this. We have widows and widowers, we have orphans but we have no words to describe parents who have lost children. Perhaps because there is no single word that could describe the pain. It’s terrifying that a community would have twenty pairs of parents with holes in their hearts and as a nation we feel some of what they feel. It’s a grief so palpable it radiaties coast to coast and beyond.

But it’s not our grief. Our kids are okay and many of them won’t know about this for a dozen years or more because they are too small to comprehend what has happened so recently. Let’s not burden anyone unnecessarily, let’s fight the urge to co-opt the grief of others for pageviews or attention.

We have problems folks. We have big problems with our media. They’re doing a pretty good job of keeping the story to the victims but we’ve been warned by mental health experts that our obscene coverage of this tragedy will bring about more shootings. When I say that the coverage is obscene I’ve chosen my words carefully. If our 24 hour news stations were movies they would be rated R, and sometimes NC 17. I will once again suggest that parents everywhere turn the news off when their children are home. If your kids know the story already there’s no reason to beat them over the head with it. They are children and if this isn’t your hometown or your family it’s fair to let it go.

We have problems with our gun laws. A Bushmaster AR-15 is a weapon that our military uses in Afghanistan. It’s unnecessary for hunting or even home defense. The AR-15 is a weapon meant to spray down the enemy. I like that there are weapons in this house I’m not anti-gun, I’m anti-semi-automatic weaponry. Everyone should be, that’s just reasonable.

We as a nation don’t care for our infirm. We don’t care for folks who have cancer, we don’t care for children who have pneumonia and we don’t care for the mentally ill. We fail in healthcare in every direction and unfortunately the only reason mental health will be addressed in the coming weeks is because it hurt someone besides the mentally ill. You see, had he just killed himself (as people so often do) there would be murmurings and hand wringing but because this particular bout of mental illness collided with evil actions and killed so many people we are forced to deal with the suffering of hundreds, perhaps thousands who will be pained by the loss of their loves. We only pay attention to mental illness when it leaks out into our pristine spaces. This is an unspeakably selfish flaw in our society.

A mother wrote a compelling piece that millions have seen. She wrote about what it’s like to live with a violet and mentally ill teenage boy. It’s well written and had she done anything to disguise her child I’d share it with you now. She compared her son to a host of mass murderers. It’s unimaginable to me that mothers will exploit their own. Some say it’s her Hail Mary and that she’s sharing out of desperation. I know it’s a good discussion but I like it better when we discuss ourselves and not our children’s weaknesses.

I know that there are stigmas to mental illness. Perhaps the duty of breaking those barriers belongs to the mentally ill and not to those they trust.

We deal with the parts of illness we can see. We deal with cancer because we can see bald and frail and we can see death but we don’t deal with depression because that’s a quiet one that slips by us. On my corner is a man who stares into space all day. He’s homeless and there’s no good reason for it. He’s clearly mentally ill but he doesn’t hurt anyone so he doesn’t get help. He reeks of urine and feces and his legs are swollen and red with cuts that don’t heal. We don’t care for him and it’s a crime.

We as a nation have failed to care for our children, our elderly and our infirm. A great society would do these things before all else.

A victims relief fund has been set up for Sandy Hook and a fund to pay for Noah’s funeral and related expenses has also been set up.

Parenting Through Tragedy and a 24 Hour News Cycle


Newton Connecticut school shooting news

This morning children went to school in Newtown Connecticut and were slain by a madman. Perhaps an evil man, perhaps both. Children were slain, adults were slain and the preliminary news is horrific. It will actually get worse.

Something else will happen, because with the advent of a 24 hour news cycle we will need to fill some gaps. There will be debates about this, there will be stories about how to talk to your children in the wake of a tragedy. There will be debates about gun control and body armor. Surely it will devolve in to a political bit of mudslinging that everyone will find distasteful and then the nation will forget. Newtown Connecticut will remember but the rest of us will move into the holiday season and shop with aplomb.

During all of this tumult people will get on TV and tell you how to talk to your four year old about death. They’ll have advice on how your eight year old deals with tragedy and your teens too.

Your four year old never needs to know about this. If your eight year old is your eldest child there’s no reason to talk to them either. I’ve got a really easy solution for you and it began for me on September 11, 2001.

When America was invaded by terrorists I had a newborn child and a toddler. Every image on the television was of the towers crumbling to dust. I did not want my daughter to have that image seared into her brain so I turned the TV off and lived without cable TV news. I got my information from news sites online and broadcasts after the kids went to bed. Not only was it the right decision for my kids, but it turned out to be the right decision for me.

It’s been 11 years and I haven’t turned cable news back on yet. The background noise of television is gone from my life and I’m really happy with it. I wasn’t getting particularly well researched news, I was getting breaking news. You don’t need breaking news outside of your own community. It’s okay to find out about things 4 or 5 or even 12 hours after they’ve happened. It’s okay to get news later in the day.

It’s also okay to have children who never consume TV news. It’s not the best of journalism and your children won’t be missing vital information. No one who watches these shows becomes informed, literate or balanced, they just watch TV.

Will you want to talk to your friends about this event? Absolutely. We adults are collectively shocked, horrified and saddened but we don’t burden our children with life events they cannot process. Why would we burden them with this?

You get one chance to give your children the gift of childhood. If you don’t live in Newtown Connecticut there’s no good reason to rob them of that.

If you live in Newtown my heart aches for you.