I was just about to head to a meeting, and as I reached up to close my laptop’s screen, I saw the Bing News app flash the headline. I almost didn’t give it a second thought; maybe I’m becoming desensitized, or maybe I was just in a rush. But two details of the headline made me pause for a second – the number “26″ and the state “Connecticut.” I remember thinking, “that’s a lot” and also “that’s close to home.” I made a mental note to read more about it after my meeting.
My meeting was with Dana, one of my favorite colleagues who’s as efficient as she is cheerful. We mowed through the business of the day, and before I knew it we were wrapping up. “Plans for the holidays?” she asked, and I told her about our families’ tradition of renting an Inn together in New Hampshire. “That sounds amazing,” she said, “I grew up in New England too.” Where abouts? “In Connecticut.”
I almost asked where, I almost asked if she’d heard. I probably should of, but I wasn’t ready to talk about it, and we went our separate ways. “See you tonight at the Holiday Party?” See you there.
No one in our division has their own offices, so I went into a focus room, which are these little rooms in which you can take conference calls or have private meetings. I closed the door behind me, sat down, and I clicked on the headline. I read the first couple of paragraphs and I stared into space. I saw the images of children being lead in a line through the school parking lot, I saw first responders taking charge, I saw parents holding each other. I read everything I could, which at the time wasn’t much. I cried, and, after about 30 minutes, I left.
And then I didn’t think about it. I don’t remember suppressing an urge to think about it; I just didn’t think about it. I didn’t talk to anyone about it that afternoon, and the first time I saw Katie that night we were rushing to get ready for our Holiday Party. She met my coworkers, we had a lovely evening with friends and wine and music in a beautiful setting at the Chihuly Glass Garden by the Space Needle. It’s as if the world were no different than it had been when I woke up that morning.
I’ve gone back and forth ever since – vacillating between pushing it out of my mind completely and being totally consumed by thinking of those families. I think there are some pretty obvious things we can learn, or should have already learned, from a public policy perspective. But that’s not the purpose of this post. Rather, I’ve been thinking more about what I’ve learned as a person from this, if anything.
Katie and I like to joke about the merits of being a DINK (dual income no kids) household. Over the last couple of years, some of our best friends have had children and we’ve loved becoming vicarious parents. It’s been great sharing in the joys of child-rearing without any of the responsibility or sacrifice. And when we think about starting a family of our own, it’ll certainly be an adjustment when our dining-out budget goes to diapers, our vacation time becomes pediatrician visits, and 8 hours of sleep becomes something to dream about.
But when I think what this tragedy has taught me, it’s that the hardest part of becoming a father someday isn’t going to be losing control of my wallet or my calendar. It isn’t going to be redirecting all of my energy and love into some new being. The hardest part is going to be letting that being take all that and just walk out the door into this world, all brave and curious and fragile. And that sounds terrifying.
So my thoughts go out to all moms and dads, and how stark a reminder this must be that we have a far-from-perfect world to offer your children. And, of course, especially to those parents in Newtown whose worst possible fears have been realized. Let’s see what we can do to make this world a little bit safer; let’s see what we can do to make it worthy of the love our parents put into us.