As generations go, mine lost its innocence pretty early.
At the already confusing age of 12, I was suddenly thrust into the Columbine era. The weeks following that tragic day in 1999 were absolutely game-changing. Metal detectors in schools? Children being suspended for wielding gun-shaped chicken? Bogus bomb threats called into districts around the country? These issues that are sadly so commonplace today were new and terrifying back then; and I was forced to confront them before popping my first pimple.
‘The web’ was also a fairly new place. We’re well acquainted with internet trolls and keyboard cowards now – but when a subculture of Trench Coat Mafia worshippers assembled online in the 90’s – I remember it sending shockwaves across the world.
Around that time, my science teacher assigned us an essay on chemical warfare. We were instructed to select a means of combat, go online and research it for a paper.
My parents had a conniption. They immediately scheduled a conference with my teacher to excuse me from this assignment and make a general stink about the timing of it all.
It was like they were preparing for court. My mother collected evidence: stacks and stacks of internet search returns on homemade bomb recipes for her argument. My father even took a day off of work to attend this meeting. In my world, that was pretty serious.
To say I was mortified is an understatement. I was already a pretty weird kid; and at a time when I just wanted to blend in, my parents were forcibly tearing me from the pack. Apart from that, I really liked my science teacher and knew she meant no harm. But my parents would not be dissuaded. I was NOT writing that paper and that’s all there was to it.
Countless shootings, numerous terrorist attacks and one fertilized egg later – the world once again looks very different to me. While I always experience pain after tragedies like the recent Orlando massacre, this pregnancy has magnified my heartbreak tenfold. Suddenly I’m asking questions like: how will I explain this new normal to my Bobby? How does one balance the unadulterated joy of creating life with the terror of guiding that life through humanity’s pitfalls?
This isn’t a partisan post. Most of you are familiar with my political leanings but I’m not here to propose a solution. The bodies aren’t even cold yet – I’m not participating in a rat race for the narrative. But I do find myself examining tragedy through new eyes – a parent’s eyes.
Ultimately, I know I’d like Bobby to listen to his gut but still acknowledge the inherent goodness in people. I want him to know who he is, love who he is and (most importantly) BE who he is without fear of violent retribution. I want him to walk out the door every day and breathe deeply, learn fervently and love bravely. I can’t control the world, I can only control how I interact with it; and I’m now powerfully aware of how my example will inform my son’s decisions.
As for 7th grade science, I wrote a substitute paper on cancer and got a 95. The event didn’t have much effect on my weirdness trajectory – in truth I remained somewhat bizarre until college. And in the end my parents shielded me from a side of humanity only they could know I wasn’t ready to see yet.
If Will and I are even half as brave as our parents are I think we’ll do okay.
In the meantime, let’s do what we can to help:
How to help Orlando shooting victims