Surrendering to Helplessness

Parenting requires surrendering to helplessness. There are so many things, big and little, that we cannot control. From the bodily bumps and scrapes, to the emotional and social bruises my son have suffered, I have often felt helpless. Do I understand that these injuries are all part of growing up? Of course. But would I prevent those hurts from ever occurring if I could? Probably.

My instinct is to protect, to shelter, and, above all, to keep them safe.

In this regard I have never felt more helpless than the day of the Sandy Hook Elementary tragedy. As I watched the news come in, and realized the horror of what had occurred in a grammar school, I could only think of those families’ pain. I am positive all of those parents in Connecticut share my instinct to protect, and yet, they were helpless in the face of one young man with guns.

I know I hugged my sons tighter that evening. I didn’t want to scare them with details, but I wanted them to understand and be able to talk about the images and news flashes that surrounded us. So, I decided to tell them in the simplest terms possible.

“There was a tragedy in Connecticut.”  “A very sick man went into a school and killed children.”  “We need to keep all of those families in our prayers.”

I watched their faces and reactions carefully. My oldest just kind of gulped and looked away. It turns out he already knew about it from classmates and wasn’t sure if I knew. He didn’t want me to feel bad. My youngest two cried, especially when they asked about how old and how many kids. Of course, my youngest (8) wanted me to promise it could never happen to him.

What could I say? I was helpless in the face of his direct question, “Mom, will I always be safe at school?” Of course I said that I believe his teachers and principal do everything they can to make his school safe. I reminded him about the security doors, and asked about their emergency plans. I was grateful for our faith, which provides the solace of both Heaven and prayer.

And yet,

When it came time to drop them off at school, I was helpless to stop my own tears. I was terribly afraid to leave them there. Afraid of my own fear that a wave in the doorway could be the last time I saw my beautiful boys; afraid that I could be rendered utterly helpless against random violence, mental illness and too many guns.

Less than a month later, drop off has gotten easier. My sons know I love them. I refuse to raise them in a climate of fear. It’s no way to live. I determine to believe the best and trust that they will come home to me each day.

That trust, too, is a surrender to helplessness.

I thank Daily Prompt for inspiring this particular post.


8 thoughts on “Surrendering to Helplessness

  1. When I was raising my kids in the 70’s and 80’s I also experienced fear. It seemed to be more vague though, less easily defined than “young man with a gun”. If I remember correctly it was more about kidnapping. It’s all “helplessness”, but the whole gun violence thing, that we are seeing more and more lately, puts it in a more specific place. A cold, hard, terrifying place. Mass media infects our children too, with the reality – the fear, and ultimately the word “helpless” must figure into their consciousness. Hopefully there will be mass movement to better control guns, and to recognize and treat mental illness, and thus reduce our helplessness, even if just a bit.


  2. Thank you for writing this. You put into words my exact feelings about the horrible event and the feeling that we, as moms, are left with. My youngest son, who is also 8, asked me a similar question about being safe at school. It broke my heart.


  3. Pingback: TRAPPED INSIDE « hastywords

  4. Pingback: My Own Personal Grave Digger (Daily Prompt) « Dibbler Dabbler

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