I spent last weekend like a lot of parents - getting my kids ready to go back to school.
While school supplies were bought online and shipped directly to my kids’ school, we spent Saturday shopping, picking out first-day outfits, getting haircuts and new shoes. My 10-year-old daughter was easy enough to shop for; she has her own sense of style and luckily, it’s pretty age-appropriate.
My 8-year-old son, however, was more difficult. He’s always been the easy child, the one who is willing to wear whatever I buy, with no fuss. But this year, instead of a closet full of Ralph Lauren polos and khaki shorts, he has decided he only wants to wear camo. I spent at least an hour debating with him that he could wear a blue camo-print shirt or gray camo-print shorts, but not the two together on the first day of school.
Eventually, he conceded, although that didn’t stop him from wanting to stuff some newly inherited deer antlers and a turkey feather in his backpack to show off to his teacher on the first day.
Back-to-school shopping is a bit of a ritual, passed down from one generation to the next. It is something that reminds me of the giddiness that I felt as a kid, getting ready to go back to school.
But things aren’t the way they used to be. The massacre at an El Paso, Texas, Walmart and the senseless shooting in Dayton, Ohio, made that very apparent.
As countless numbers of parents took their kids back-to-school shopping last weekend, at least 31 people were killed in two separate attacks. In El Paso, 22 people were gunned down while shopping. In Dayton, nine others were killed in a popular nightlife district. In total, 112 people have been killed in the U.S. in mass shooting so far in 2019, according to analysis from USA Today, The Associated Press and Northeastern University.
As I packed my kids’ lunchboxes a few evenings later, I couldn’t help but think of the man who had been injured during a random shooting at a different Walmart in Baton Rouge, Louisiana, only the day before. I’m sure he, like many of those killed earlier in the week, never thought he’d get shot while shopping for school supplies.
When I ushered my kids out the door in a hurry the next morning on our way to school, I stopped to take a couple of quick “first-day-of-school” photos before dropping the kids off in the carpool line. It was the first time that I hadn’t walked my kids into school on the first day, at the request of my kids. I had also forgotten to hug and kiss them that morning.
As I drove away from the school, I couldn’t help but think of the parents who lost their children during the slaughter at Sandy Hook Elementary in 2012. Did those parents remember to hug their kids as they sent them off to school that morning?
Sometimes, I think about the surviving victims of the Columbine High School shooting in 1999 - high school kids who are now my age and probably parents themselves. Do they worry that another tragedy could happen when they send their kids off to school?
And it’s not just in schools. We now have to worry about shootings in movie theaters, at festivals, at concerts or at church.
Our children deserve better. Our country deserves better. Things shouldn’t be the way they are. But the sad thing is, I’m skeptical that anything will change, because the laws remain the same.
Lydia Seabol Avant writes The Mom Stop for The Tuscaloosa News in Tuscaloosa, Alabama. Reach her at email@example.com.