I feel like it says a lot that even three years after giving birth, I still look at this sweet little human and can hardly believe that he is here, that he is mine, that I'm his mama. The fact that there is a tiny baby growing in my belly (and growing as expected) is even more surreal. I love them both so much that it hardly seems possible, and with the world spinning the way that it is, I'm left with a feeling that this happiness could be snatched up at any moment. It's not a healthy kind of fear, but it's deep, and even after years of parenthood it never seems to disappear.
The subject of school has been coming up a lot lately. Many of his friends, including his closest cousin, are reaching kindergarten age and here in Austin my parent-friends are scrambling to choose which school to send their kids and where. As for me, I've avoided thinking about the topic for pretty much his whole life, but I know that luxury won't last forever. After that day in Connecticut I wondered how I would ever be able to put my child on a school bus and wave goodbye. The truth is, I still don't know.
Every year since Sandy Hook the number of mass shootings has gone up and up. While not all of them take place in schools, way too many do. Legislation to curb the violence is beginning to feel like a pipe dream - as is any practical solution. Meanwhile, the center of my universe continues to hurtle toward the age where getting onto a school bus should be perfectly normal.
So much of me wants to swallow my fear, go the practical route, and send him to Pre-K next year, but when the time comes, I don't know that I will be able to. Home school is not a great option for a household with two full-time working parents, but I honestly doubt my ability to get past this fear. The worst part of it is knowing that while it may sound extreme, crazy even, it's entirely based on reality. No amount of therapy or self-affirmation can bring me to terms with the risk of my child being shot to death. There's just nothing worth that risk.
I don't even have to explain how infuriating and mind-boggling it is that this is even an issue. We don't live in a war-zone, so why do I have to be afraid of sending my child to school? It's thoughts like these that get me thinking about leaving this place - not just Texas, but the entire country. I think about what people go through to save their children from war, violence, or extreme poverty. I think of the risks they take trekking across continents or braving oceans in tiny rafts. I think of all that and the cost and paperwork involved in emigrating to Canada seems like a joke.
I'd like to think that I am as brave as the mothers carting their children out of Syria, but am I? Would I have the grit to do whatever it takes to keep my children safe and give them the best chance at a good life? Or am I just going to sit here and accept the rising number of school shootings every year, the unaffordable cost of health care, the seemingly never-ending attack on women's rights? What kind of future are these two kids headed for in this country?
I'm grateful to have a little more time to stall on my school decision. We don't have to do Pre-K if we don't want to, so really I could keep dragging my feet until he turns five. In the meantime I'll just keep basking in his existence. I'll keep counting his toes and sniffing his neck. I'll keep kissing his soft little cheeks and belly-laughing over his jokes. I'll try my best to notice as many of his little sister's kicks and wiggles as I can, being careful not to waste a single precious minute of what could very well be my last pregnancy.
I'll hold on tight to my kids, and I'll cry every time I open up Facebook. I'll keep hoping for and voting for legislation that could make curb the rising tide of violence, and I'll keep sending my piddly little donations to the people who are better at making those things happen than me. Sooner or later I'll have to decide what's next. But for now, I'm grateful to be able to keep them close.