When it’s time to write my column, I never know what it’s about until I sit down at the computer, usually at the last minute (thanks, ADHD). I am constantly taking notes on various parenting topics and sifting through them until inspiration strikes. But this time, for the June column, I racked my brains for days thinking about what to write for you because I have a heavy heart.
In fact, I’m late getting it to my publisher, so it probably won’t be published in time. The deadly shooting in Uvalde weighs heavily on my heart and mind. I have three adult children and 11 grandchildren, so not a day goes by that I don’t think about this tragedy.
I’m tearing up writing these words, stopping and starting again rather than a continuous stream of thoughts. I don’t know what to say, how to say it, or if it’s the right time to say it. There are so many grieving mothers, fathers, grandparents and other families that everything I have to say seems irrelevant. I am in mourning, you are in mourning, our state and our country are in mourning. Even the world mourns Uvalde.
I can’t imagine the horror of sending my child to school and never seeing him again. I can’t imagine getting a call from one of my children saying a grandchild is gone. I don’t want to face the reality of this unimaginable violence. I’m sure you can understand.
And through it all, there’s a constant thought I’ve had since the tragedy unfolded. I can’t help but wonder if each of these children went to school that morning knowing they were loved. Or were they rushed out the door by a harassed and stressed parent trying to get them on the bus or to school on time and never heard, “I love you?” Were their last interactions with their parent or caregiver positive and loving or the opposite?
When you lose someone so suddenly, you ask yourself these questions. At least when I tragically lost my father nine years ago, I did. You replay your last interaction over and over and hope that the person who was taken from you knew you loved them.
Unfortunately, we are not always so lucky, especially if you have been separated from your parent or child. Honestly, I can’t remember if I told my dad I loved him, which haunts me. I know he knew I loved him, but it still bothers me that I can’t remember telling him the last time we spoke.
Unfortunately, it is too late for this last conversation for these poor families of Uvalde. But it’s not too late for us. Whether it’s weird, silly or uncomfortable, I say the words I love you as often as possible to the people in my life, even my dear friends. And I encourage you to do the same, especially for your young children and teenagers.
They need to hear it, now more than ever. Our young people live in a world that none of the older generations can even imagine or sometimes identify with. Many children and adolescents already feel unworthy, unloved and stressed by so many factors at home and at school.
Each of us deserves a safe space, especially with our family. Yet many children have no experience of safety and comfort. If you feel helpless in the face of this tragic shooting, I understand. Me too. But there is at least one way for you and me to help you. We can resolve to treat every interaction with our children as if it were the last.
When you’re rushing them to get ready for school and you’re frustrated, stop, breathe, and tell them you love them. Before you fall asleep at night, tell them you love them. When you’re at work and your teen is sleeping over summer vacation, text them that you love them. Yes, you might be ignored or receive a terse “k” text, but I assure you they want and need to hear that they are loved.
Remember we are never guaranteed tomorrow. Only this moment is given to us. So, be sure to always separate yourself from love.
Dawn-Renée Rice is a Conscious Connection parenting coach, writer, speaker, and columnist from the Northeast Texas region. She and her husband have been married for 23 years, share three children, 11 grandchildren and a furbaby. To follow Dawn-Renée, sign up for email updates or tune in to social media, visit her online at linktr.ee/dawnreneerice.