Like everyone else, I’m devastated by Friday’s news. I’ve hugged my children extra. I’ve savored in the sweetness of our peaceful lives (busy, but peaceful).

True confession: I haven’t read through accounts of what’s happened. I’m not going to. I get it; the most awful thing happened and it shouldn’t have. I also get it; without stringent gun control, it’s going to happen again and again and again (it already has, this story, it’s played out too many times to recount, as Gail Collins stated clearly this weekend). While you’re at it, read Nic Kristof, too.

The conversations I engaged in more than gory details or gun control were about why parents of young children do not have to bring this up in order to be responsible parents, but how we can instead listen for cues that they’ve heard and meet them where they are. I also get it that every family is different, and there are variables, such as the age spread between your kids that might render one six year-old much more in the know than another. And for what it’s worth, I imagine that our elementary school kids—the upper grades of elementary school, that is—will hear. We can meet them where they’re at, too, which is to listen and to reassure and to help them engage if they are so moved. Two of my kids have become occasional letter to the editor writers. They’ve attended vigils. They’ve got out the vote. As a parent—and as a person—you do not have to solely be scared. You can engage. Not that engagement makes what happened different, obviously; all you can do is going forward be part of the solution, even in a teeny-tiny way.

This is a tender parenting moment and a very tender moment for all parents. Losing your child in such a horrific way at a place you consider safe is like writing the worst script and letting it play out. We can’t help but be shaken to the core. Ours is to sit with that fear and soften it, and use it well.

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Author: Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser

Sarah Werthan Buttenwieser's work has appeared on the New York Times, Salon, and the Manifest Station amongst other places. Find her on Twitter @standshadows

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