0 comments / Posted on by Erin Gates

I was really hoping that this Christmas I’d be giving my family the news that I was expecting a child. Up until Friday I was feeling pretty bummed that that second blue line never appeared on the numerous tests I’ve taken over the last few months.  But now, after being assaulted by the unfathomable violence at Sandy Hook Elementary School, I have to admit my desire to become a parent has been put into question somewhat.  Not because I don’t want to experience the innumerable joys that come along with parenthood (and the stresses too)- but because I am truly concerned about the future of our world.  Deep down to my core I am feeling an immense amount of dread about who we are becoming as a community, a nation… a species.  Perhaps it’s my pessimistic nature, but I feel there is very little innocent joy left in daily living at this moment.  We fear going to the mall, the movies, houses of worship… and now even kindergarten.  Add to that the terror threats, fiscal cliffs, job losses and environmental decline- it’s just not the world I grew up in, never mind that my parents grew up in.  We are spiraling downhill. Fast. Do I really want to subject a new, lovely soul to such a world? One in which, if drastic changes aren’t initiated, may just get worse?

Now, I am a rational person and I know that the world has always had it’s share of evil and that the chances of children being killed in school is still slim.  But you have to admit it’s becoming terrifying out there.   I can’t help but second guess my desire to have something so precious to me running around on this earth, threatening to destroy me should anything terrible truly befall them.  I have a hard enough time watching my dogs play with others at the dog park.  I stand waiting, watching, worrying- knowing that one bad seed could snap and gravely hurt them in a split second.  It’s a horrible feeling, and it seems that there are more bad seeds walking the earth these days.  And those bad seeds are living in world the glorifies violence and makes it easier to get a gun than get access to good, continuous care for the mentally ill.

I feel for those who struggle with their mental health. I have struggled with depression and anxiety disorders for most of my adult life.  I’ve been on and off every medication you can think of and seen numerous therapists and doctors thanks to the fact that I have always had good healthcare and parents who loved me tirelessly and watched me like a hawk.  Even when I couldn’t help myself, and seethed that they wouldn’t leave me alone, they took it upon themselves to FORCE me into getting the help I truly needed. It was their job and they did it well- even though I imagine it was both heartbreaking and scary to send your child to a mental hospital. But I got better because of it.  It saddens me that not everyone is as lucky as I am- both in having a treatable  illness (we cannot lump all mental illness together) and fiercely devoted parents.  And some parents try their very best but have children who are so darkly ill that their best just is not enough.  I was floored reading this account from a parent of a child with demons that I can only imagine are similar to those of the gunman,  We are a society that judges each others parenting styles, successes and failures so fiercely that I cannot fathom how scary and devastating it is for those who have such sick children.  You  birth them, love them and yet they are so ill that even your own undying love for them cannot help or heal.  Think of how paralyzing and isolating that must be. The stigma attached to mental health issues is a horrible one- and we cannot forget that not all people with mental illness are violent- but we need to have more compassion for those who struggle.  You cannot help what genetics have dealt your loved ones, but you SHOULD be able to get them help in an effort to prevent what happened on Friday.

And can we FOR THE LOVE OF GOD make it harder for those who are unstable to get their hands on guns?  Yes, there are plenty of responsible gun owners out there, but I cannot fathom someone arguing that it’s more important that they have a semi-automatic rifle in their possession than it is to protect the lives of innocent people at the hands of those not as responsible.     The argument I’ve heard that we need to ALL be armed instead is disgusting.  It takes mere minutes for massive damage to be done with these high-powered guns, the same amount of time it takes to get to a gun cabinet and unlock it to get a weapon for defense. Do we really want kindergarten teachers to be holstered with pistols as they are teaching our kids ABC’s? Priests to have a Glock hidden under their robes while praying with parishioners? We’d rather live in a country like that than one that bans these unnecessary high powered weapons for civilians? REALLY?

I spent most of yesterday in a quiet rage.  I am furious that our nation has gotten this way.  I am unsettled by the hopelessness I feel for us as a country right now and what upsets me most is that I am letting this change the positive energy I was feeling about life, which feels like I am letting evil win. People say we much keep the positive energy flowing or else we are doomed. This is wound that will be hard to repair for all of us, but we absolutely have to try.  We have to find a way to help these poor families heal and change the way we live and the laws we have that clearly are not working any longer. If not for us, the the children we have and those we hope to have someday. If there has ever been a louder call for change, I have not heard it.

But I digress. I am not a politician, and I certainly don’t want this to turn into a political slugfest, I just have to wonder- where are we headed?  Will we ever be able to let kids ride bikes and play outside unsupervised on warm summer nights like I used to do?  Will we be able to not wring our hands in anxiety when venturing into a public place?  Will we be able to focus more on the gentle aspects of life instead of the harsh and violent? I really don’t know.  I don’t think any of us know.  And the unknown is what scares me the most.

I want to know the joy of being a mother.  I really do. But I also want to know that my child’s joy- and life- will be a safe one. And if I am faced with the challenge of having a sick child, that I will be able to get the help I’d need.

I pray for the families and friends of those victimized in Newtown.

I pray for all of us.



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