When tragedies occur in our nation or our world, our tendency is to filter that event through the lens of our own experience. I know that since becoming a mom, it is the stories of mothers and children that reach in and grab my heart, no matter what the event. I have cried tears of joy and tears of pain over the experiences of mothers and children around the world.
This morning was my first opportunity to see the news footage from the devastation in Oklahoma, and my tears this morning are tears of sadness. Seeing men sort through the wreckage of an elementary school was almost more than my heart could take. At least 20 mothers went to bed without their babies last night. And the death toll will most likely rise. All of the devastation is awful; all of it. But the mothers and the children – that’s what gets me.
That’s what breaks my heart the most.
I think about those children inside the school as the tornado passed through, and how terrified they must have been. I think about the teachers and how helpless they must have felt. It must be horrible to feel that you can do nothing to protect the children in your care. I think about those moms and dads, at home or at work, worried for their own safety and the safety of their children. Knowing that their children were in danger, but powerless to stop it. Finding out the worst had happened. Or worse, not knowing the fate of their child; praying for the best but fearing the worst. I can hardly handle thinking about it; I can’t imagine living it.
This tragedy illustrates the great risk of parenting, and our greatest fear as parents – that we will outlive our children. That we will send them out into the world, and we won’t get them back. That they might be in danger and we will be powerless to protect them.
And to me, this is the hardest part of being a parent.
Dirty diapers, temper tantrums, and defiance – those are all rough. But for me, the hardest moments in my parenting career are when I am faced with the reality that I can do everything “right” and my kids may still face tragedy, or be taken from me without even a chance to say goodbye. When things like the tornado in Oklahoma, the tragedy in Sandy Hook, or the Boston Marathon happen, I am confronted by my greatest fear in life – that I may lose my children.
The storms continue to rage today, and I continue to pray for the state of Oklahoma. For the mothers, the children, the families, the friends. And I hug my children a little tighter this morning, because I know tomorrow isn’t promised.