I remember thinking at various times when I was pregnant with each of the boys that part of me wished I could just keep them in my belly forever, where I knew they were safe and nothing could harm them.
Then as they got older, I gradually (if begrudgingly) accepted that they were slowly but surely taking steps toward independence.
I let them climb the stairs without holding my hand, and I stopped hovering over them as they navigated the playground equipment; and I dropped them off at preschool, putting them in someone else's care for several anxious hours; and finally, I put them on the school bus in the morning, trusting that they would be ok out of my sight for the entire day.
It gets easier as they get older, and aside from the occasional moment of panic or irrational fear, you do trust that they're ok.
And then something like yesterday happens, and that trust is competely and irrevokably shattered, and those fears seem all too rational.
I got home from the gym yesterday morning with plans to begin my holiday baking and cross numerous items off my to-do list.
Instead, I was completely paralyzed by the news, and spent a good portion of the afternoon sitting in front of my tv sobbing. I fought the urge to immediately pick Gabe and Dante up from school and bring them home with me.
I didn't get them early, but I did pick them up rather than have them take the bus. I didn't want to have to wait that extra half hour to see their beautiful little faces.
As I waited in the pickup room and saw Dante come bouncing around the corner, I couldn't help but imagine the what ifs, and I nearly started crying.
Seeing all those kids, going about their day, laughing and fooling around and just being kids - as they should be - that's supposed to be the world we live in. One where kids are safe, and where their biggest worries are whether or not Santa's going to be able to get into their house, since they don't have a chimney.
In a way, it feels like that world doesn't exist anymore.
At first, I had no intention of discussing this with the boys in any way, shape, or form. The idea of them knowing that such horrific events happen in the world was something I just couldn't stomach.
It seems so wrong to steal their innocence from them that way. I can't stand the thought of their heads and their hearts being burdended with information like this. It's so very wrong.
But the more I thought about it, the more I thought that it is going to be nearly impossible to shield them from this.
The news is everywhere, and we will of course have a total news blackout when they are around, so that we can at least shield them from the horrifying images. But I feel it's naive to think that they won't hear it from someone else - on the bus, or at school, or at church, or even from the cover of a magazine while standing in line at the grocery store.
And the thought of them finding out that way, when I might not be there to hug them and make some attempt to set their mind at ease, makes me even more uncomfortable.
Which is why I was up at 4:09am today. Because today we will talk about it. I'll tell them as little as necessary, but I will also be honest. And I will reassure them in every way I possibly can that they are safe. And I'm certain we'll all cry.
It's difficult to know what to say to your children when you can hardly process the information yourself, and when there are so few answers to the questions that they will inevitably ask.
There are a lot of great resources online for talking to your kids about a tragedy like this - this is the one that I found most helpful.
A parent should never have to have a discussion like this with their child. A child should never go through what those kids went through yesterday.
A parent should never have to worry as they kiss their child goodbye and put them on the school bus that they may never see them again.
When I think of the horror those families in Connecticut are experiencing, I almost can't breathe.
And as awful as it's going to be, I am also thankful that I get to have this horrible discussion with my boys today. Because I can. Because they're here.