They say that when a butterfly flaps his wings a
hurricane is formed on the other side of the world. I
never believed that such a small occurrence so seemingly far
removed could cause damage, but it does. Tragedy and
pain are rarely contained to the person and family within
which they exist, there is always collateral
He comes down the stairs and my heart lurches into
my throat. I told him to dress warm, it's 10 degrees outside. He
did but he grabbed his school sweatshirt. My brain immediately
starts whirring. Do I ask him to change? He'll ask "Why?" and it
will be a big deal. Maybe it won't matter; it's small, just on the
chest pocket so maybe no one will notice. We're going to an
affluent area, a children's museum. No one would say anything to a
child would they? I'm more worried of whispers and people talking
where he may overhear. I push it aside and ignore the
They're fighting, again. Over and over and over,
nit picking here and there. She's crying. It doesn't take much
these days to bring them to tears. He's brooding this morning and I
work hard to coax words out of his almost preteen angst. He's sad,
he's angry. "Oh no mom, not about that! So and so says I'm mean."
He's complaining about something that happened years ago in first
grade. I sigh. We talk about how everyone is hurting, how sometimes
hurt looks angry and doesn't make sense. How we lash out at who's
here because we can't lash out at those that are gone.
The two-year-old has regressed, a lot. Tantrums are
plentiful and she resorts to baby words and tears
instead of communicating. She's our sponge. Since she was a baby
she was empathetic to those around her, crying when
others cry. She's soaking up all the emotions around her and
her little body doesn't know what to do with it. She has no
understanding of death or tragedy, she can't
understand why mom and dad are stressed and talk in hushed
whispered. She's not used to seeing her big brother
It should have been a cheerful Sunday with all the
school children dressed up and singing. We were
kicking off a celebration of Christian Education! But the faces are
worn, the smiles are stiff and the eyes are puffy and red. We are
here, but we are hurting.
The damage ripples out from the core, from where
the stone was thrown. I always knew that when tragedy
hits the damage is rarely contained to the family, the spot, the
place of it. I knew it spread, but I guess I didn't
realize how much, how fast and how impactful it could be. I
stopped reading the news after Sandy Hook. Too much
bad news, too much for a mother to read and not take
to heart. I'm not living in those stories and realizing that you
can't hide from evil, from violence. You can't move to
a good enough suburb, or a small enough school. Evil, pain,
bad news, however you want to call it, is
People, our children are hurting. Everyone has
ideas and answers on how to fix it (less TV, less
games, more face-to-face, more books, more art, more family
time) but you can see from the headlines that it's
widespread. It's teens and children, college students, and high
schoolers; in their homes, in malls, in schools. They are lashing
out in violent ways and we need to figure out why.
Collateral Damage from witnessing their own
traumas, from perceived injustices, from real or
imagined neglect. It goes beyond conversations of guns and
mental health which are both conversations we have to be having. It
goes deeper, into the souls of our children. Childhood used to be a
time of carefree play delighting in lack of responsibility and
exploring all that the world had to offer. Clearly our children are
hurting, becoming the collateral damage of a society that can't
figure it out.
I don't know what it is. I don't know how to fix
it. I'm just a mom who is trying to explain death, murder, grief
and loss to children who should be thinking about LEGOs and
Unicorns. I'm a suburban mom who thought we were in a
safe area, a good area, that's now grappling with the
reality that there is no safe place. I'm now just another
mom, who's trying to minimize the collateral damage of
unnecessary unexplained violence while wondering how we can change.
How we, not just as a family but also as a community, can move
forward. How we can learn to act in love and not in hate, anger or
I'm standing here shell shocked knowing that this
much is true: I will love my children fiercely and I will protect
them the best I can. I will teach them to love, to talk, to work
through their feelings and issues and to pray. We will pray as a
family. I will pray as a mother. I will pray for peace, for love,
for hope and healing. For all the children everywhere to know that
it gets better, and that there is help. They just have to reach out
so that they don't end up as collateral damage to another
Melissa is mom to 4 kids and 2 angels. She chronicles the sticky bits of motherhood at Peanut Butter in my Hair.
See more of Melissa's stories here.
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