The One Where Brandi Purged Her Mind

I need to say a few things. Some of it probably won't go over well with everyone. Hell, some piece of it will probably piss off everyone at one moment or another. I don't care. I just don't care. I am broken. This world is broken. It's broken and we need to get serious about fixing it. All weekend long, Kate and I talked about the innocent lives that were lost at Sandy Hook Elementary on Friday. She asked questions. I answered them as honestly and as candidly as I could. We discussed mental illness. We talked about violence and guns. She asked her Daddy to hug those children that were lost and now rest in heaven beside him. I fielded questions that no parent ever wants to address. I know I was not alone in that. So many other parents just like me were doing it all over the nation. On Friday evening after learning of the days horrific events I found myself in my bathroom. Staring at myself in the mirror. I thought about all the hardships that have made up my past. Events that people often say "that would never happen to me". My parents house fire, that left 85 percent of their house a charred ruined mess. A fire that hurts more to remember this time of year because it destroyed all of our childhood Christmas treasures. I remembered the months at Rush. The emergency transports in ambulances and helicopters. The years of sleepless nights. Losing what I perceive as my battle with VEDS when I let it take my husband. Being a 33 year old widow. The 3 rounds of invitro, where we challenged every ounce of medical knowledge to create a healthy child that was part Scott and part me genetically. All things that most of society simply can't imagine. Each one of these moments puts me in a group. A group of unique people that can relate to a specific event because they have lived through it. I am not the only person that has been through IVF. I am not the only person who lost their treasures in a accidental fire. I am not the only person who lost their spouse at 33. There are others. We huddle together in cliques. Nodding, smiling and hugging each other. Several new groups of people were made on Friday. Survivor; those that made it out of Sandy Hook Elementary alive. Victims; those that have gone to rest in heaven. Grieving parents; those that will never hear the voice of their child again because of a senseless act of violence. I will never be a part of one of those groups. It was not my child that was lost that day. But as I stood in the bathroom staring at the mirror, I ached. Just as so many others do. I have walked my path but I have not walked theirs. I cannot imagine. Just as others cannot imagine mine. Without thinking, I opened my jewelry drawer. I pulled out the mother and child pendant that Scott got me the Christmas I was pregnant with Katherine. I put it on. I put it on, not only to remind me of my own child but to hold each one of those children that were lost that day. I held it and whispered each child's name. I closed my eyes and mentally wrote their names on the back of my eyelids in big scrawly cursive letters. For that moment I gave each child my undivided attention. I held them in my heart. I wore that necklace all weekend. Frequently touching it and remember one of those innocent babies. This morning as I struggled to get Kate ready for school, she asked if she could wear it. She wanted my necklace. Honestly, I didn't want to share it. I wanted to keep her and all those babies with me as I sent her off on the school bus, to a place that felt so safe just a few short days ago. I asked Kate if she wanted to wear her daddy necklace. I just didn't want to give it up. "I always have Daddy with me. I want you with me today too Mommy." I'm not wearing my necklace now. I put it around her little neck. And as I started to cry, I said to myself "she'll be home soon. Stop it. It would never happen to you." But here's the problem. I'm not naive enough to believe that. It could happen to me. It could happen to all of us. Every parent could find themselves like the parents left grieving the lives lost at Sandy Hook. This is just unacceptable. Flat out unacceptable. We have to accept illness, accidents, random acts of terror from Mother Nature. We do NOT have to accept these random acts of violence. DO NOT! This problem is so multi-layered you simply can't place blame in one spot. The burden and the blame for what happened at Sandy Hook, Virginia Tech, Columbine and others like them lays in many, many places. I've heard people barking about gun control. I've heard the opposing side bark back "if a teacher had a gun this wouldn't have happened". Here's the reality folks. Nobody needs an assault riffle. Hunters don't need them. People "protecting" their homes don't need them. A handgun, a 22 (for hunting), something larger for extreme hunting maybe. But oozies, and semi-automatic machine guns like the AR-15 used on Friday... there is no place for them. This doesn't mean I want all guns taken away. I believe that people have rights but I also believe that people need to stop being so wrapped up in their "right to bare arms" and start being realistic about what's actually necessary to do the job right. If I've got to put a nail in the wall to hang a picture, I do not need to get out my high-power compressor and pneumatic nailer. A regular hammer and nail will do just fine. Think about what you're trying to accomplish and get the right tool for the job. If your job "requires" (and I use that term loosely because each person feels differently on what is needed) a hand gun. Then there needs to be proper channels, regulations and classes to teach you how to properly use the tool. Your "right" does not, and should not ever, compromise my right to a peaceful existence. You shouldn't be able to whip out your handgun at the mall where I'm window shopping with my 5 year old just because you saw a kid steal a sweater. What kind of harm would there be in limiting serious heavy duty weapons to military and police? What couldn't you do as a regular person with a more typical (arguably less deadly) gun? Beyond that why would any law biding, mentally stable, person resist stronger laws for obtaining proper permits? Why would anyone not intent on doing wrong things object to stricter penalties for those that have guns illegally? I just don't get it. The problem just isn't the guns though. The problem is much, much deeper than that. Mental illness and it's "stigma" are part of the problem too. Why is it so difficult to get someone help? I know first hand the over the top hoops one must go through to get a loved one the mental health they need. I know the fight with insurance companies. I know the out of pocket expenses you're burdened with. I know the whispers, glances, and shock from people when they hear that somebody is struggling with mental illness. Mental illness is an illness just the same as any other. When Kate asked me why someone would commit such atrocious acts, I answered her as honestly as I could "because there was something wrong with his brain that made him so mad or sad that he couldn't see another way to say what he needed to say." Those with mental illness should not hide in the dark. We should acknowledge them, speak openly about ways to help them. Most certainly, we need to make sure that the very, very few of them that are so mentally ill they could commit this type of grievous act, get the attention they deserve and are put some place where they cannot harm others. I'm sure this mother, a victim herself, tried. As we learn more about what type of life this young man had, I'm sure there will be things that show us that she knew something was wrong with her child. Talks to the pediatrician that perhaps got fluffed off. Numerous trips to hospitals, on-line research, reaching out to family and friends... who knows what all this mother did to help her child. I can say positively, and this may anger some, she should have NEVER taken the child she knew to be mentally ill to a gun range. NEVER. That to me is like an alcoholic working at the liquor store. You're just asking for trouble. Here is where I go back to intelligent, gun ownership. No mentally unstable person, even the most docile of them, should be allowed access to weapons. It's so unsafe for everyone, including the person with the illness. This mother and her "right to bear arms" belief taught her very sick son how to load, re-load, aim and nail a target that is shaped like a body. When Kate asked how many kids were in the hospital, the reply of "none" made me queasy. If this young man wasn't as versed in guns and target practice maybe a few more of these innocent babies would be victims recovering in hospital. These shots were obviously direct on target and quick. It sickens me. Where did this mother, who I believe like all mothers was probably trying her best, think this was a good idea? Where did we as a society go wrong, that this mother couldn't tell that this could be a bad idea? We as a society, need to get real about being a good parent. Every parent fails, myself included. We try something and it backfires and we're left going "well that was a bad idea". That's ok. We need to gather our resources and figure out how to correct the problem in a better manner. In a lot of ways, the internet has helped with this. It's so easy to jump on line now and ask other parents what their thoughts are. To find out how others handle it. While one thing may work for one parent and child and not another, we have access to resources that is unparalleled in our history. Every parent is so busy being the "perfect" parent that they don't dare ask. Stop acting perfect. Stop acting like you don't need help. Stop being naive. Stop being proud. Ask for some help. I do not solely blame his parents. Just as I do not solely blame the guns he had access to. It's all of it. Right down to this notion that I'm seeing going around now (Mike Hucakabee being it's chief sponsor) that it's because of the lack of God in schools. That these children need to fear God. I'm sorry Mr. Huckabee, but WHAT? Now more than ever, with all our very diverse religions and beliefs, we need to teach our children love and acceptance of everyone. Not fear. My child does not fear the wrath of God. She does not fear her mothers hands. She did not fear her fathers belt. She does not and will not know what it's like to feel fear from those that are here to love, nurture and care for her. We are here to guide her in her life. Teach her right from wrong. Allow her to make mistakes that won't result in serious harm for her or others. So she can see what happens when. Kate knows right from wrong. She learns something about it every day. It's not because she afraid, repressed or brow beat to learn it. She learns it everyday by watching her actions and seeing the consequences. I'm not a "natural consequences only" parent. Sometimes the consequence of her action comes from my reaction and not just what "may" happen as a result. It's called being a parent. 24 hours a day from the moment she was born until the moment I die, I will be her parent. Sure, I can wear my friend hat and play a game but the second she tries to cheat, I'm correcting her. If she wants to keep up the behavior, the friend cap get ripped off my head and it's all mama. It's endless, tireless, and thankless (most of the time) but that's the job I took. Believe me, correcting my child the night of her fathers death when she did something small, was absolutely brutal for me. I was exhausted, numb, empty and completely drained. Correcting her actions made me feel like the hardest, worst parent ever. But in reality, that was one of my finest moments as a parent. A no jumping on the couch rule exists in my house for a very specific reason. Kate's known it her entire life. Her then 3 year old mind was reeling from the days events and she needed to know where she stood. And guess what, she knew that her mama loved her enough to stick to the rules and make her get down. She knew that even though absolutely everything else was in a spinning vortex of hell, her mother would not let her down. I didn't give her a reason to fear me, I gave her boundaries and consequences. The same unmoving boundaries she's had her entire life. Not just when I feel like it. Some rich, entitled, white mans version of God and how we should fear (or love him, for that matter) does NOT belong in my child's public school. Just the same as an Islamic radical, and their version of God and how we should show our devotion does NOT belong in my child's public school. There are specific schools that teach specific things. If your families believes are as such than please, by all means, send your child to one of those schools. But the public school system (and all it's inefficiencies) is not the place for this. Care, respect for all, tolerance for opposing views, are what the schools need to be teaching and demonstrating. Intensely personal beliefs are best taught, at home, by the teachers that each child should hold in the highest regard, their parents. Teach them at home and they shall carry it with them forever. More God in the schools is not the answer. A police officer in every school... Now that I can get behind. We've got school superintendents making $750,000 a year but schools "can't afford" a $50,000 a year trained police officer? I call bullshit. I live in Illinois, the land of bankrupt, corrupt, school systems, but come on people. The money exists for this if we make it happen. We have to make it happen. We need to stop over paying for supplies and inefficiencies in our school districts and start using the money to protect these kids. Armed guards in banks and jewelry stores no problem. But in schools, no way. Are our children not worth as much as our money and sparkly baubles? Our society needs to wake up. We need to get real and start dealing with all of these issues (and so many others). We need honest debates that are not just "let me shove my personal belief down your throat" conversations. We need to listen. We need to compromise and find middle ground. We need to realize that what might work for me and my personal beliefs may not be the best thing for everyone. These kids deserve so much more from us. I walked into Kate's room tonight to put her to bed and found her searching her book shelf for her nightly story. I suggested we finish another Frog and Toad chapter. She became almost belligerent searching for a specific book. In the end, The Next Place by Warren Hanson, was what she needed. A beautiful book about what we, in this house, call heaven. Mid way through the book, she broke into the most awful sobs I've ever heard from her little body. She misses her daddy. She doesn't understand why twenty little kids her age would be taken into heaven. She doesn't know why she can't go to heaven and be with her daddy too. I held my daughter and wiped away her tears. Rocking her gently and doing my best to ease her troubled mind, knowing I can't answer her questions and I can't keep her safe from the evil in the world. Then it hit me. I get to try. I get the opportunity to do my personal best. There are 40 parents tonight in Connecticut that aren't holding their crying babies. This is unacceptable. Not from this.... We need to do better. We are not collectively doing our personal best. Brandi.out.

Anonymous –   – (December 28, 2012 at 10:59 AM)  

You have said it better than anyone that I have heard from. You are right on track. Happy New year to you both!! Cindi

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