I heard a saying last week that was new to my ears but has apparently been around awhile: There is no such thing as other people’s children.
I remember feeling something along those lines when the massacre at Sandy Hook Elementary School took place 10 years ago. I was not yet a mother, and I remember discussing with a friend how you didn’t have to be a parent to feel the pain of that day.
That’s because the responsibility to protect our community’s children belongs to all of us.
With last week’s mass shooting at the Robb Elementary School in Texas that left at least 19 children and two adults dead, it’s become glaringly obvious that we have to step up our game as “civilians” because no backup is coming. If we think our government is suddenly going to spring into action with a plan to cleanse the country of this culture of violence, well, we’re just plain stupid.
I was a sophomore in high school when the Columbine High School shooting took place and 12 students and one teacher were killed. At that time, the act was an unimaginable, indescribable, unheard-of event that no one could have ever thought would be repeated.
Thirteen years later, I was a single adult when 20 young lives and six adult lives were taken in Newtown, Conn.
Now, a decade later, I am a mother, and shame on me for not waking up until I have to envision my own child being gunned down when he’s supposed to be safely learning how to write his name or how to add and subtract.
It’s been decades and generations of escalating violence of all means – not just gun violence — and throughout the years, our lawmakers have been unable to keep us safe.
Whether you believe the answer is stronger gun control or better mental health services or increased funding for school security can be debated ad nauseum, but the reality remains: We have to be our own advocates, our own security, and our own defense for our children and our community.
It’s time to sharpen our senses and pay better attention to our surroundings and our neighbors, and take care of each other. Because no one is going to do it for us.
When I was new to the after-school playground scene, I used to get annoyed by a mom who would leave her son to play on the playground with Mikey and some of the other kids while she was on a field farther away with her older child. I thought: Does she think I’m just going to watch her kid for her?
Over time, I realized I was all wrong. I am expected to make sure that her son – and any other child in sight – isn’t darting into the parking lot or walking off with someone unfamiliar. It is my responsibility as an adult among children to make sure they are safe on my watch.
In fact, I’m proud that other parents know I’m not going to let something happen to any of Mikey’s playmates while I’m there.
If I see someone unfamiliar talking to Molly, you can bet I’m going to walk right up to them and ask her if it’s a family member. If I hear Johnny being bullied by older kids, I’m going to direct him away from the situation. If Cory takes a spill on the pavement, I’m going to offer comforting words or maybe even a hug until his mom or dad makes it over.
And if I see someone who doesn’t look like he or she belongs on school grounds, or someone who looks like they are carrying something suspicious into the grocery store, you better believe I’m going to alert security – and I don’t care who it offends.
Because even though I only have one offspring, all the children at Mikey’s school might as well be mine; all the kids in town deserve my rapt attention to their surroundings and the world they live in.
Because they shouldn’t have to be on high alert of the dangers of this world. That’s our burden to bear. Not theirs.
We’ve become complacent, reliant and lazy, and we need to wake up because help is not on the way.
No one is coming to our rescue.
We need to take care of ourselves, and take care of each other.
As for this momma bird, I’m going to spread my wingspan as far as I can to protect all the kids that are in my reach – and I hope others do the same for Mikey.
We need to build a better village.
Holly Crocco is editor of the Putnam County Times/Press and mom of a 4-year-old. She can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org.