Mom Lesson: What Hugging Your Kids Tighter Really Means

Mother looking at her sleeping baby head to head in a hospital bed

Last Friday I woke up with my daughter, sighing because of the early hour. She wasn’t in a particularly great mood, and began dropping Cheerios over the side of her highchair like it was a sport. It was a fight to change her out of pajamas and into play clothes, with a lot more sighing from me. When we finally got settled down on the living room floor for the afternoon play time and learning-to-walk fest, I clicked on the television to listen to the news, and that’s when I saw it.

Breaking News: Several Dead in Elementary School Shooting

My heart sank and my stomach opened up to swallow it. Another shooting? In an elementary school this time? I slowly made my way over to my daughter playing with her toys on the floor and slipped her into my lap. She craned her head to look at me, and I hugged her tightly to me, so tight that she tried to wiggle away. But that wasn’t happening.

After the body count was finalized, my mind couldn’t wrap around the number. Twenty beautiful, innocent children, gone in the blink of an eye, and six brave individuals who fought to keep them safe. Twenty-six families who had a piece of their soul ripped from them without warning.

The little ones were too little, only first-graders; nowhere near old enough to have experienced many of the beautiful things life affords us. Too young to know the nervousness of entering middle school, or going to their first school dance. Too innocent to know the rush of getting their first love, or the pain of their first heartbreak.

But, for them, the scariness is over. No matter your spiritual beliefs, the innocent are always taken to a better place, and what is more innocent than a first-grader?

The families are the ones living the nightmare now, a nightmare that will never fully go away. On December 14 of every year, a cloud will descend over them as they relive those moments. On their birthdays, they will be thinking of the age they would have been, what big milestone they would have been achieving, what dream they would have been conquering.

And that is why we hug our children tighter. Because no matter how early the hour my baby wakes me up, there is a mother in Connecticut wishing her daughter was bounching on her bed at 5 a.m. asking for pancakes. Because no matter how many Cheerios my daughter throws on the floor, there is a parent in Connecticut wishing their son was tracking mud through the house to show him the caterpillar he found. No matter how big a fight it is to change my daughter’s clothes, there is a parent in Connecticut wishing she could give in to their daughter wanting to wear polka dot tights and a striped t-shirt to school this morning.

So, I will hug my child tighter today, and every day, because now there are 20 families in Connecticut with empty arms, and as our President said, it could have been any town, it could have been any school. It could have been anywhere.

My heart is with the families in Newtown, Connecticut, and my thoughts have been with them since Friday. I have seen many school shootings in my life, from Columbine to Little Rock to Virginia Tech, but nothing has affected me as deeply as this. Is it because this is the first time I’m experiencing it as a mother? Perhaps, but I think the world is taken aback by the sheer amount of innocence and potential that was ripped away from us last week.

Hug your children tighter, and send your love to Newtown.