When Kristin and I recorded this week’s podcast–probably one of the most difficult shows we’ve ever done–I was under the impression my kids were blissfully unaware of the tragic news that had consumed me. I had pretty much kept them from TV and computer since Friday. I hid the newspaper from view. I did most of my news consumption via my laptop and I imagine they probably thought it odd that mommy seemed to be wiping away tears every time her head was in her computer.

We went to two holiday parties this weekend. I commented to Krisitin I found it odd no one mentioned the shooting. Even when children were not around. It was is if we all wanted to pretend it never happened. As if those parents, who were probably a lot like us, were not home mourning the loss of their innocent children while we sipped chardonnay and noshed on mini egg rolls.

When we recorded the show yesterday, I was held up in Mike’s office. Door closed. Keeping the kids out of earshot as I spoke honestly about how I personally feel about guns. Why do we live in a country that allows people to have access to weapons designed for the military? I asked Kristin. Does one really need a semiautomatic rifle to go hunting or target shooting?

I think not.

So imagine my shock when my 10-year-old son, carrying his Nerf gun out of the basement–sans spongy orange bullets–made a comment about the shooter who “went to that school.” I don’t even know what he said, exactly. But I stopped what I was doing and asked, “You knew about that? How did you know? Why didn’t you ask Mom any questions about it?”

“{Insert Name} told me. Last night at the holiday party. All the kids were talking about it in the basement,” he replied.

Of course they were. While the parents avoided the conversation, the kids, most between the ages of 8-11, were discussing it. Over video games.

“So this guy just went in to the school?” He asked. “For no reason?”

“We don’t really know why he did it honey,” I explained. Then I asked if he felt safe at school.

“Yeah, I know how to shelter in place, Mom. We had to do it that time we had lockdown. We go behind the bookcase away from the door and stay very quiet.”

And with that he was gone. Off to the garage and hopping in the car to go swimming with his dad and brother at the YMCA.

I wanted to talk to him more about it later. But he didn’t bring it up so neither did I. My younger son has not mentioned it. I’m sure he overheard the other kids talking at the party. He was there in the basement, too, Wii remote in hand.

Last night my younger son came in to my room in the middle of the night. “I had a bad dream,” he said. He often does this. But instead of walking him back to his room I tore back the comforter and whispered, “Get in.”

Then I snuggled him close, believing somehow, Mom could just make it all go away.

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

28 Responses to He already knew but asked few questions

  1. Kristin says:

    So well said, Erin. We had our kid generated conversations about it. And in doing so, I wonder if the kids themselves are better because their innocence protects them. We worry more, because we know the ugliness that is out there. Nerf guns…don’t even know where to start.

    Love to you and yours, Becks

  2. Cj says:

    I’m still wondering if I should feel out my kids to see if they know. They haven’t mentioned anything.

  3. Jessica says:

    The same happened with my 9 yo. I pulled him aside Sunday to tell him about a terrible thing that happened on Friday and he said he knew because he saw it in the newspaper. He didn’t have much to say (as boys usually do), but I pressed on to talk about how unacceptable this is, to think of the kids and their families and so on. I think we (usually) don’t talk enough with our kids about empathy and right and wrong. Did someone ever flat out say this to any of these shooters? This epidemic is a complicated issue ( mental health, gun control, family values, etc.). And now I’m thinking about the nerf guns that are already wrapped under the tree….

  4. Lisa says:

    Oh my, I’m laughing, because I’m listening to your podcast now, I jumped ahead a week and a 1/2 ahead (which I rarely do) to today. Then I saw your post here through fb.-which is how I heard about this fri am.

    We went to a holiday party friday, no one mentioned it that I heard. I didn’t tell my son, the day was too hectic, there was a police officer outside his school when I picked him up. I avoided watching the news with him at bedtime sat, and by sun figured I’l better say something because he would hear about it at school.

    The conversation actually went ok. I was able to say what I wanted to about it, basically share the general facts and the upsetness and horror about it all and the need for gun control, and how the boy was disturbed. I did have to throw in violent automatic weapon video games don’t help (we allow the video games). My 9 year old said he would never do that for real, I said I know. And also mentioned how the boy shot his mother, which I think shocked my son the most.

    Anyway, I laugh, because we try to protect our children, wondering what best to tell them, and find out they are at the age where they talk amongst themselves now anyway. I don’t think my son new, but he was basically at the same party (another state) fri night and he could as well have heard there too. We think we have control over what our kids know, and we don’t. I also didn’t know what the school was going to do.

    Anyway, thanks again for spending the time on your podcast and your blog (and your pages, etc etc). I always enjoy your take on everything.
    Haven’t listened to the whole podcast yet, but after hearing about this disaster, besides the horror of it unfolding, the age of the kids (close to my son’s age), the school, the teachers and the physical closeness of it all, the thing that blew me away, was that it began with matricide. Chilling and horrible.

    The plot sickens, her legal guns, the ridiculous allowing of automatic weapons(like you said, pot illegal, automatic weapons ok)…we’re not dealing with muskets anymore people who want to bear arms…

    Anyway, looking forward to the comfort of listening to the rest of your podcast, there is no comfort in this situation.

  5. @Jessica, I know what you mean about those wrapped nerf guns.

  6. Kathy S says:

    Yes, I figured my 9 yr old daughter would hear something at school so i brought it up casually on Friday. She hadn’t heard yet so we discussed it briefly and away she went. But she knows she can come talk if she needs too.

  7. Cindy says:

    I talked with my 10 year old about this last night because I knew it would come up on the playground at school today. My oldest was in kindergarten on 9/11 and we thought he was too young to even discuss it. Imagine my surprise and I’ll admit it…. anger, when he came home from school the next day with stories from his classmates about airplanes flying into buildings. I guess some parents don’t feel like sheltering even their youngest from these issues is necessary.

    With that said, as much as you and I want to shelter our kids from the horror of this situation, we can’t keep it away from them. And they do tend to take it in stride a little easier because they are so literal. For example, my daughter’s reaction was “Is the shooter dead? Okay, then, we are safe.” Then about an hour later she asked “why would someone shoot people? Did he want money?” I don’t think (for the most part) they extrapolate the scenario to ever be something that would happen in their lives, and at their school. That is certainly a worry that I think most of us adults have however.

    Which is why I waited for several days to talk to her about it, so I could convey the message without my fear and anxiety spilling out. Because as you know, kids often react to things based on how they see us reacting.

  8. Kathleen E. says:

    “Do you need a semiautomatic rifle to go hunting or target shooting? I think not.”

    :::sigh::: My husband hunts, both as a hobby (for lack of a better term), and as part of his job-ever since the Miracle on the Hudson (caused by a birdstrike, just to remind you), he has been given the task of clearing Teterboro Airport of birds and other wildlife around the runways. So, we have guns in the house. Locked up in a gun safe, unloaded, trigger guarded, and ammunition kept separately. Fully automatic rifles are banned in NJ, so the rifles he has are semi only. He also collects guns. Does he *need* them for what he does? In some cases for him, yes, but for most people, no. For that matter, does anyone who collects anything really truly *need* what they collect? No. The only difference is is that, in the wrong hands, this collection could hurt or kill someone.

    I liken his wanting to add XYZ rifle to his collection to his wanting to buy a classic car, or my wanting to add the latest iPad to my gadget collection. Do we really need them? No. But we want them just the same. People die in car accidents all the time. Do we ban cars? No. If I hit somebody hard enough in the right place with an iPad, I could kill him. Do we ban iPads? Of course not. (Think about it-*anything* can be used to hurt or kill. Some things make it easier than others…but we can’t ban everything.)

    In my humble opinion, more gun control is not the *whole* answer. Look at Prohibition-all it did was drive alcohol production and consumption underground. Tell me how the government will eliminate the black market for anything-guns, drugs, chemicals, etc. If somebody wants to get something, there will be a way to get it.

    If it is true that Adam had a mental disorder, then we need to reform mental health treatment and increase research into mental health and treatments. These days, if an adult with a mental disorder goes off his medicine, or needs it adjusted, no one can make that person go to the doctor, or commit him without his permission, unless he is proven to be a danger to himself or others…which usually means criminal charges, which means action is taken *after* the unfortunate event. There is no way to prevent such an incident, unless you make the judgement call and have the ability to commit someone involuntarily. The guy who shot up the movie theater in Colorado WAS under care, and he still wasn’t caught till after the shooting happened. He never stated his plans to do so to his therapist (as far as I know). Had he done so, she might have been able to prevent it by committing him. There is an article on Huffington Post titled, “I am Adam Lanza’s Mother”, which explains this powerfully. For everything else, we are told to trust our instincts when it comes to our children-that you know your kid best-except for this. You know your kid needs help, but you can’t get it until he hurts someone? That is just wrong.

  9. Dominique says:

    I chickened out last night. My 5th-grader’s teacher will almost certainly talk to her class about it today (considering she explained to them last week that Santa Claus is nothing more than a marketing gimmick…). I though she should hear about it from me first, but I simply couldn’t be the one to put those images into her innocent head. I just hope my twins’ 2nd grade teacher has sense enough to shield them from this horror. I am nervous about the school day ahead for all of my kids.

  10. Cari says:

    We talked to our 3rd grade daughter Friday night about it. I know it will be a topic at school today as well. She wasn’t scared to go to school, just sad for the kids who can’t.

    We live in Aurora, CO….this has been a year of trying to explain why people who are “Not right in the head” feel the need to go hurt innocent people. Between the shooting at the theater, Jessica’s kidnapping and murder, and now the school shooting,she has had to grow up too fast. It’s just sad.

  11. Sethe Saenz says:

    Kathleen I understand your point of view yet respectfully disagree with some of your reasoning. Saying an Ipad can be used to kill someone as an example as to why banning certain guns is not the answer is sadly a unacceptable and unrealistic analogy.

    An Ipad is made for electronic consumption, a car for transport. Yes they can be weapons I agree but that is not their purpose. Lets not pretend anything here. Your husband’s job is to kill for a legitimate purpose and as you said he is responsable about it and I praise him for it as the tools he uses are there specifically to kill and harm.

    Semi automatic weapons allow the killing and harming to be done in an efficient and quick manner. I do not need to belabor that fact. I will not break my heart again when I think of how Adam used those tools to mow down children who were the same age as my little girl.

    The solution to the mass murders that America has seen more than three of in one year, does need to be comprehensive to be a great one, including mental aid but one will always have to be questioning how and why certain weapons are available. Those mentally unstable men needed help yet planned and executed heinous crimes, and the tools they used enabled them to have the maximum impact. If the Mental Health education and care is improved then that is one step. The availability of those tool is the other step.

  12. Jill says:

    The same day the shooting happened here, kids at a school in China were attacked as well. In that case the man had a knife. Sadly, that was not the first time an attack like that has happened there. The sad truth is that people who want to hurt others badly enough will find a way. Gun control won’t stop those who are determined to inflict hurt upon others. Finding the root of those feelings through research and understanding is what our focus should be. Only then can we really address the issue and possibly prevent it.

  13. Crystal says:

    @Kathleen

    I totally agree with you.

    The answer is not gun control. And honestly I don’t know what the answer is but I can tell you all that if you outlaw guns only outlaws will have them. Are people really niave enough to believe that if guns are illegal that that will somehow stop criminals from getting guns.

    If you outlaw MY guns you are taking away my ability to protect myself, my family…my children. And yes….I do carry a hand gun with me everywhere I go. Especially when my children are with me.

  14. Kathleen E. says:

    @Sethe: I’m not saying don’t ban them. I’m just saying that I can’t see how to do that *here*. Australia did ban automatic weapons after a mass shooting there, and they haven’t had one since, so yes, it can be done. But, if we can’t inspect every shipping container that comes in every port for contraband (as was proposed after 9/11, I think; it was claimed that it cost too much to do), if we can’t totally seal the borders against anything (illegal immigrants, drugs, etc.)….then how do you enforce the ban?

  15. HawaiiMom says:

    Wonderfull Reflection Erin – here in Hawaii we are so many hours behind the East Coast that we heard about it on the way to work/school, I work in the school as an advocate and had many meetings on Friday where we (adults) were in disblief and shock trying to figure out what really happened. We too had to had conversations with my boys (11 & 7) we talked about their shelter in place drills (I use to teach so I know the deal) and then we talked about what to do if someone opens fire in an open space, and my husband literally had them practice dropping to the ground. It took a lot of will power to not start crying when my little guy said “like this daddy?” with his voice muffled by the living room carpet… There is no magic answer..there are a lot of different answers – background checks for weapons, proper mental health services, proper support/training for families, and communities being prepared, As more information come out it is clear…the adults in that school saved lives and kids saved their own by being perpared and listening to what they had been trainined. I end this with a thank you to the manic mommies for a community to share and a prayer for the families who are grieving. Aloha…

  16. CaMom says:

    I’ve kept my feelings about this pretty close as it is not my way to get into political discussion. I don’t own a gun and I don’t really like them. However I don’t think gun control is the answer. I don’t think our government has the resources or ability to enforce such laws. Drugs are illegal, yet I guarantee that I could walk a 2 mile radius from my home (and I live in a “nice” area) and be able to purchase whatever illegal substance I want. Human trafficking, child pornography are happening around us too. It breaks my heart. I think as a society we need to look at our lives and how our children are raised and educated. Mental illness seems so much more common now. I’m not sure if it is because it is discussed more, there are more labels available or if it is because of how our lives our lived. Extended family and support has diminished; manners, values, ethics are expected to be taught in school.

    I started I write more but it just turned, maudlin and morbid :( The article written by a mother of a mentally ill child that is now going around struck a chord with me. I hope that focus on that aspect leads to positive change.

    My heart just breaks for those families, and for the fact that when I heard the news, my first thought was “Oh no, not again.”

  17. Laura says:

    You are very brave to be tackling this topic on the show. Thanks so much for giving a voice to some feelings that have been very hard for me to articulate.

  18. Kristen says:

    Such a tough topic. I love that your boys know they can talk to you about this. I also love that though there are different opinions on this page, all of the ladies are so respectful of others. I haven’t listened to the podcast yet, I am still catching up. My thoughts and prayers remain with those affected.

  19. Shana says:

    This is also a painful and amazing article related to the terrible event:
    http://anarchistsoccermom.blogspot.com/2012/12/thinking-unthinkable.html

  20. shannon says:

    Several years ago my brother in law, a diagnosed schizophrenic undergoing sporadic treatment (choosing when /if to take meds, go to appts., etc) walked into a gun shop and purchased a hand gun. No background check, no controls of any kind. Shortly therafter he shot himself to death. So maybe a ban on all guns ( gun control the way some of you see it) is not the answer but surely a modified plan of purchase rights could be? No sales to those with a history of mental illness or those who are living in a home with such person. Think of it like medical marijuana…legal use for some but not all? Such tragedies of our failure to adequately manage (not just identify) mental health issues and failure to control availability of weapons created for injury to others is quite literally a sad and deathly mix that brings all of us to tears.

  21. karen says:

    I was surprised when you said your kids didn’t know about it. I spoke to mine on Friday right when I picked them up. Kids talk just like grownups. At the kids Hebrew school tonight the 4th-7th graders went to the sanctuary and the Rabbi read a poem, the grown ups recited the prayer for the dead and everyone sang a Saturday morning prayer/song about peace. I’m glad they did. At the public school it was don’t mention it unless the children bring it up.

  22. Susan P. says:

    I just heard that the NRA will be making a statement and wants to e part of a solution so this never happens again.”. I hope this is a good and encouraging thing.

  23. Heather Jack says:

    Hi everyone! Of course, all kids (and families) deal with this information in a very personal way, but I have been getting questions from all over the country from parents whose kids want to help. I am helping my friends put together a Coping and Caring bus this weekend that is going to Connecticut. Kids can send in cards which will be hand delivered to the families. If you are interested in sending one, please go here for more information.

    http://www.bigheartedfamilies.org/create-cards-and-snowflakes-to-support-students-at-sandy-hook-elementary-school/

    Hope you all have a very happy holiday!

  24. Julie says:

    Ya know, Erin, I’ve had such mixed feelings about sharing this info with my kids. We ended up unemotionally sharing a few facts with my kids to hear their reactions. Sadly, this is the world in which they live & we felt that they need some info & have a brief discussion. I learned that they do intruder drills at their schools (akin to the tornado drills I did growing up in Iowa), thankfully. The idea of an intruder seems less scary to my kids than to me.

    I asked my 9 yr old where she would hide if an intruder entered her school. She replied, assuming the intruder would be a boy that she would go to a girl’s bathroom stall, lock the door & stand on the toilet seat. Such an innocent answer, it broke my heart to gently tell her that intruder’s don’t follow gender rules in bathrooms. Ugh!

    I am conflicted between preparing them for the world in which they live & keeping them completely innocent and unencumbered from stresses associated with the truth.

  25. Christie W. says:

    Thank you, Erin & Kristin, for this episode. I also appreciate the above discussions, no one is attacking anyone else for their opinions. It is important for us all to hear the argument of the opposing side. We all can learn that way.

    Is banning all firearms the answer? No. Should we ban weapons designed to kill large amounts of people, um yes. It sounds obvious, doesn’t it?

    Here’s something no one has addressed. WHY is it ok to let our kids stare at a computer screen pretending to repeatedly kill? WHY do parents think violent video games are a good idea?

    Our kids develop an acceptance for these images when they watch them over and over again. When we first have our babies, we carefully choose what they are exposed to, right? Think: Baby Einstein, fairy tale books, etc. We would NEVER think, “Hey, let’s show our child this game where we kill other people, it’s so bloody and realistic! They’ll see it anyway at some point.” Can you imagine?

    We are conditioning our children, who so quickly become teens and young adults, to be used to violence. Erin & Kristin mentioned the statistic that these killings are being carried out by young suburban white males. Not gang bangers, not even males living in crowded urban or low income areas, or those just getting out of prison or with a long rap sheet. These are OUR kids.

    Much of the rest of the world is rolling their eyes at us. They think we are so ignorant, self obsessed, and obstinate. We legalize the right to obtain large amounts of fire power, military assault weapons designed for mass killings, available without background checks, believing they are just for “collecting” or “target shooting”. We allow and encourage our children to watch hours of tv and video games, which condition them to believe life is of little value.
    . . . Then when something as unthinkable as this happens, we are surprised? R E A L L Y?

    Something’s gotta change.

    Thanks again, Erin & Kristin, a much needed discussion.

  26. Danaaz says:

    I have been listening to the Manic mommies since the first podast. With that said. I am disapponted. The school shooting is devestating. and as a parent it is unthinkable someone in their right mind would do something like this. But this gunman was not “in their right mind”
    I agree with Kathleen on her views. (The IPAD part was to show a point).Watch that show “Snapped” about women killers. I am sure someone has hurt someone with an ipad.
    Do we need cars that go 100 mph (my Kia mini Van does 100mph)? Do we need drugs that help us sleep or eat (benedryl helps with both)? Do I need a way to protect myself and my kids (yes, I would risk my life for them)? Do we need Working dog Breeds(Greman shepherds,Dobermans)All dogs with teeth)? In the wrong hands a Dog is very dangerous(poodles bite more people than any bred).
    Google people getting killed by dogs.
    And the same is said for the guns. My kids are taught about guns. How to handle them and respect them. That guns are not toys. But having kids in dark about how life really is. Is dangerous. Google how many kids were killed by gun accidents.
    As a society, we live in our own little boxes. Do you know your nieghbors? I have lived at my home for 12 yrs. I know two neighbors in my nieghborhood of about 50 homes.Look at all of the tragic things that have happened to the U.S. If someone had said i think my neighbor is up to something. Maybe we could have stop it from happening.

  27. Christie W. says:

    To Danaaz:
    Yes! I agree. It really isn’t an issue about guns. Remove guns from this scenario & you still have someone who has the desire in them to kill people. Letting our little kids immerse themselves in Black Ops is probably not helping things. We have to start somewhere to change things. Being involved in your kids’ lives & paying more attention to their environments is essential.

  28. Remi says:

    Guns are very much the issue here. A person with the desire to kill is very much empowered with access to a semi automatic weapon. He may have done some damage with an iPad but I can assure you that he would have been stopped well before getting to killing 26 people. Limiting access to certain guns may not have immediate effect today because there are still so many in circulation but with the right action we can ensure that our children’s children do not have to witness this horror.