I’m not ashamed to admit that this is the adjective I would use to best describe how I feel right now. Logically, I know that there are many things that I can (and should) be doing. But emotionally? Well, emotionally I’m just a mama bear, wanting to crawl up in a dark cave with all of my cubs and hide from the world. If you, too, are feeling helpless, holding your little ones tighter and tighter, or considering homeschooling, we are here to validate those feelings. But we are also here to ask you to do something with those feelings.
Thoughts And Prayers MATTER.
Before we talk about taking any action, I’d like to address the elephant in the room. Or should I say two elephants? Thoughts and prayers. Before you roll your eyes or click out of this blog post, please take a moment to think of the most tragic thing that has happened in your own life. During that time, imagine if no one called you to say they were thinking of you, or texted to say that they were lifting you up in prayer, or sent a card that read “you are in our thoughts”. Try to imagine that. Those thoughts and prayers–those little reminders that you matter, that your loved one mattered and will be remembered–are essential to the grieving and the healing process.
As humans, we have an innate desire to be cared for, to be loved, and to matter to someone. In fact, consider the irony that many of these school shooters are described as lonely, outcast individuals suffering from various forms of mental illness and/or depression. Thoughts and prayers matter.
So if you are thinking of those families tonight, or the countless other families that have lost their precious children in the 20 years since Columbine rocked our nation, do not be afraid to say so. Do not be afraid to admit that you’re holding your little ones tighter, or that you were afraid to send them to school this morning. If you are a religious person, go to your place of worship and say a prayer for those mothers, those families that are walking into their homes tonight with one less family member. Say their names out loud, light a candle, do whatever your family or your community does to grieve and mourn for others who are suffering.
Talk, Talk, and Talk Some More.
While thoughts and prayers are important, talking is an area in which I’m assuming many of us could use some improvement. So many times, when we lose a loved one or a relationship ends, the culprit is miscommunication or lack of communication altogether. We are full of feelings and emotions, and yet we just can’t seem to let them out properly.
Talking about school violence will look different for every mother reading this post. Perhaps your child is too young for school still, and therefore you consider him/her too young to hear about this just yet. Perhaps your child has started school, but you still think they are too young to divulge too much information about what is happening in the news. We all have to do what is right (or what we feel is right) for our own children, and no one else can make those decisions for us. If your kids are in upper elementary, middle school, or high school, it is almost guaranteed that they have at least some knowledge of gun violence in schools and the stories that have been running across our TV screens for years now.
Again, the level to which we decide to discuss this with them is completely our choice, but let’s all agree that (even as hard as it is) we have to talk about it. We have to. We owe it to them, they’re already wondering, and we may even save their lives by talking about what could happen and what they should try to do if it does.
See something, say something.
The kids aren’t the only ones who need education on the issue, either. Not only do we need to be informed about what has happened in the past, and what we could do if it were to happen to us, but we also need to talk about the signs. So many of these shooters gave multiple signs leading up to their actions, and we have listened so many times as victims and peers have told how the shooter “made them feel weird,” “said really dark things,” “warned people that he would do something like this,” and so on and so forth. I am by no means blaming a single victim of violence for what happened to them. However, if we can teach our children to “see something, say something,” and also incorporate that into our own lives, you just never know what you could help prevent in the future.
If your kids are uncomfortable telling a teacher or other school official, encourage them to come home and tell you. If it’s anything suspicious or scary, alert local law enforcement immediately. I guarantee you that they would rather have 100 “false alarms” than one tragedy that could perhaps have been avoided. If you see something, say something. This is not just in reference to school violence; many workplace shooters, or even suicide victims, give very bold signs that something is wrong before they take action. As adults in the workplace or even out in our community, just as students in a school, if we see something that looks or feels off, we need to say something.
So let’s talk. Talk to our kids (at whatever level you find appropriate in your family). Talk to each other. If and when it’s necessary, talk to local law enforcement. And talk to the legislators, politicians, and other local and national leaders who can aid our efforts to produce change.
We all know where this is going. “Actions speak louder than words.” But in all honesty, some of us may need a moment to process first. We may need to talk a bit before taking action; we may need to be more informed before we can take steps to promote change. That’s ok. Take a moment to ask yourself some reflective questions:
How do I feel about all that’s going on?
What other details do I need to research/ask questions about before taking any action on the matter?
How does it affect me, my family, and others in my own community?
What skills do I have that could potentially help in the efforts to promote change, to keep our children safer, and to prevent these tragedies from happening?
I’m going to stop you right there for a moment. If you read those questions and thought any of the following: “I feel scared/angry/sad, but I don’t know how I could help change the situation…I’m just a mom…I don’t know where to begin…”, you are not alone. But let me remind you of something: moms get stuff done. Get a group of passionate, motivated moms together, and everyone else better just part the waters and watch out, because we are unstoppable.
Bring the safety of our children into the mix? Game over.
Judy Shepard founded The Matthew Shepard Foundation after her son’s tragic death. Candy Lightner founded MADD (Mothers Against Drunk Driving). Shannon Watts founded Moms Demand Action. I guarantee you that each of these women had a moment of “I feel scared/angry/sad, but I don’t know how I could help change the situation…I’m just a mom…I don’t know where to begin…”. I guarantee it. The only difference? They all decided that a) none of that matters and b) we can accept this NO MORE. Because that’s what moms do. To steal a quote from a friend of mine, “I know of no more capable or actionable group than moms when it comes to getting something done.”
Moms, Let’s Unite
First and foremost, ICMB is meant to be a resource in this community. We hope to be the place that you can all come to find not only information, but also connection, community, and support. With that being said, if we are only a resource for Egg Hunts and where to send your kids to summer camp, then we are not living in reality. In reality, life is hard, and most days are not filled with big celebrations and perfect moments. Life is full of hard (sometimes sickeningly hard) days, and it’s on those days that we need each other the most.
And so on those days, even more so than the days that you’re searching for a fun sensory activity or where to find the best Christmas lights, we want to meet you here. Or on our Facebook page. Or in our neighborhood groups and support groups. And if our groups are not sufficient in helping you process or resolve the hard you are facing, then our job is to refer you to those who can be enough, who are trained to be enough, and who are just waiting for your call. And so today we are sharing a list of organizations, resources, and groups that are working hard to help lessen/resolve the tragedy of gun violence in our schools.
If you have further questions or concerns, or if you know of an organization that would be a helpful addition to this list, please contact us directly at [email protected]. Thank you so much for being a part of the Iowa City Moms Blog community, and for all that you are doing, or will do in the future, to keep our children safe.
*You can also text ACT to 64433 and get connected to Everytown and local events/opportunities to get involved.*
As always, we want to remind you that we work hard to maintain an atmosphere of support, understanding, and inclusivity here at the ICMB. There is room for a difference of opinions, and even a healthy, respectful debate here and there. However, we will not tolerate any personal attacks, political agendas, or bullying of any form on our blog or on any of our social media outlets/channels. Thank you for respecting this space and for treating it as one of encouragement and solidarity.