“WRTV6 is live now with the active shooter situation in a Hamilton County Middle School”…

It was this small notification on Facebook that nearly stopped my heart this morning. As a parent, we are faced with constant worry that our children will be thrust into a situation we never want them to know. All I could think of was the email my daughter’s school had sent us the night before about a threat for this very thing that they had ruled was a prank. We live in Hamilton County, and today was the last day of school before summer. This was no longer just something on the news. This was here. 

The live stream showed a middle school less than 15 minutes from our house, but not my daughter’s. She was safe, I could breath, but it was too much. I fell apart. I cried for the fear that had washed over me minutes before, I cried for my children’s loss of innocence, and I cried because I knew these families. I had sat talking with these children’s parents as both of my children took Taekwondo.

As I’m sure most of you know by now, it was heroic efforts of a teacher, who willingly tackled this child-turned-shooter that stopped what could have been a far bigger devastation. In doing so, he took three bullets. Thankfully, he is recovering after surgery and is stable. He will be able to go home to his toddler, baby, and wife. The other victim was another 13-year-old child, a girl. As of the time of my writing this, I haven’t heard about her status. They’ve not released names, and they are handling this horrible situation in a way that is best for the victims and the community in what has been a very long and very scary day. But something SO close to home brought a lot of things to my mind. 

Out of everything that has swirled in my head today, one thing has continued to nag me. The shooter and his parents.

As I was working and the situation unfolded, I saw the enormous response on social media from my community and the surrounding communities. Cries for one political argument or the next, but it was the outpouring of judgment toward the parents of the shooter that I just couldn’t shake. My own husband stated that situations like this make him furious at the parents for not keeping their weapons properly secured!

I’m not saying he or anyone else isn’t right that if you are going to own a weapon, you should be responsible enough to keep it properly stored. I won’t even say that these people are good parents, because I don’t know them, but it did make me stop to think about my constant position on acceptance and love instead of hate. On judgment, and how it impacts not only ourselves, but the world we live in. It was this knowledge of ‘what if it was my kid’ that kept me from joining in the masses with a pitch-fork.

Because what if?

As parents we do the best we can, and of course there are always people out there who should have never had a child to begin with because they don’t care enough to be a parent. There are parents out there, some of them my friends, who don’t eat dinner at a table with their children, who don’t worry about whether their children are brushing their teeth right, but where is the line between those of us doing it right and those doing it wrong? And, further, who’s to say that its enough?

I think back to my teenage years. I was in my Junior year of high school when Columbine happened. I was in my second year of college when 9/11 happened. You never forget where you were, what you were doing, how it made you feel…the innocence you lost. Our kids live with this every day, but I also think of how little my parents really knew me. I was a good kid, a pain in the ass teenager, but a rule-follower. Yet, no matter that we ate dinner at the table every night, or that my dad would always insist on helping me study for whatever test I had, they had no idea the level of pain I felt inside. They never knew that I suffered from an eating disorder since I was twelve, or that I had thought about how I would kill myself when I was being bullied. They never knew, and they were GOOD parents!

So, my point is this. As those of us in this community are dealing with the emotions both ourselves and our children are facing after today’s events, maybe we should stop and think about what that one child’s parents are going through. Rather than planning what might have been a fun holiday weekend, they are dealing with FBI searches, lawyers, and finding out that they didn’t know their son at all. As a parent there is not much else I could imagine facing that would hurt deeper than realizing that no matter what you had done right, not only had you somehow failed your child, but everyone would judge you in your grief. For whatever we think we might know about these people, our judgments are not ours to give. They might be fantastic parents, but that doesn’t mean they could have prevented what happened, and right now this is THEIR worst day ever.

When you go back and watch the interviews with so many of these child-shooters at schools across the country since Columbine, you’ll hear the same thing from parents and those closest to these broken children. They just didn’t know. They weren’t sure. They wish they had seen it, or seen that child on a deeper level.

As you tuck your own children in tonight, or Facetime with your nieces or nephews, stop and tell them you love them, but remember that as much as we want to think we can do everything right as a parent or a relative to teach and protect, we will always miss something. We all keep our secrets.

In the same way that I believe we should try to give ourselves some grace, and to believe that we’re doing the best we can, maybe we should give that child’s parents the same grace and love right now because they lost their child today too. As a parent I can’t imagine one of the boys I chaperoned on my daughter’s field trip last week doing something like this, but then maybe no one expected it of this child either, least of all his parents.

Have grace on others, and pour love into the hurting…because that is the example I want my children to see, and you should too.