When Tom and I were first married and still in law school, we came up with a phrase that we would say to each other whenever one of us left. We always had a hard time saying good-bye, even just for a few hours, and would repeat "I love you" and "Be careful" over and over again to each other. So we ended up shortening it to just kissing each other good-bye and saying, "5 things!" to each other. The 5 things were:
1 - I love you 2 - Be carefreel (meaning "careful" but Tom's grandmother said "carefreel" so we've always said that, too) 3 - Wear your seatbelt 4 - Drive safely 5 - I love you
Whenever we said "5 things!" to each other, we knew what it meant and it was our own special phrase that meant everything to each other and came to mean so much more than those 5 phrases. It meant that we WERE everything to each other.
And then we had our first baby. And saying good-bye was even harder with all of those tender baby moments that we now shared as well. So we doubled it - 5 things for us as a couple and 5 things for our baby and eventually the children as a group. And it became "10 things!" And it's been that way ever since. "Have a good day, honey. 10 things! I love you," as one of us walks out the door. We don't say it all the time now but often enough that the kids say it randomly, too. "I love you, Mom. 10 things!"
The photo above is a picture of my childrens' elementary school. The school that teaches them, guides them, and protects them. The school that sends my children back home to me safely every single day. And now its flag flies at half-mast for another school in Connecticut whose children were not safe and whose teachers died trying to keep them safe.
We have done a pretty good job of shielding our youngest two from knowing much about this tragedy. We told them a very, very brief version of what happened but didn't give them details and didn't talk about the children. And we don't watch the news in front of them or allow them internet access so I think they still feel safe. There hasn't been a lot of talk about it among their friends so I know my neighbors are doing the same.
But as a parent, it has changed me. How could it not? Something like this feels much the same way as 9-11 did to me. It changes your entire perception of the world and how we fit into it. And it strips you clean of almost every other thought in the world except your family. As it should.
I've struggled all week long with trying to put my feelings into words and I just can't. How can anyone? I've been doing my absolute best to stay very busy this week and completely normal around my kids but inside my head and my heart, I am completely heartbroken and aware of those parents and teachers' families in Connecticut every minute of my day. Talking to neighbors and friends about Christmas and parties just seems wrong but I do it while silently thinking of those families and knowing that I will enter into a larger discussion about the issues after the holidays.
Sending the kids to school every morning has been one of my biggest struggles but I would never let them see that. This morning on his way out the door to his school bus, Andrew kissed me good-bye and yelled out as he pushed open the door, "I love you, too. 10 things!" As I watched him walk towards the bus stop, I whispered, "10 things, baby. 10 things." And it has never meant more to me.
And so I say it to all of you in lieu of "Merry Christmas" or "Happy Holidays."