I think of my childhood, and my children at that age.
I think of the hundreds of six year olds I've had the honor of working with, and knowing, and loving over the past seven years.
I think of endearing speech impediments and chubby cheeks and missing teeth.
I think of furrowed little brows as they learn to master the scissors.
I think of their little shoes...the light up sneakers, the patent Mary Janes with scuffed toes, the tiny cowboy boots.
I think of their conversations I've overheard, wherein they discuss the mysteries of the universe.
I think of the squeals of joy when they discover, once again, that it's Monday and that means they get chocolate milk.
I think of knock knock jokes.
I think of fat crayons and drawings of houses and suns and clouds and trucks.
I think of them walking down the hall towards the playground, the "clomp clomp" of their winter boots and the "swish swish" of their snow pants. I think of them charging out into the fresh snow and their runny noses and bright pink cheeks.
I think of how the scariest thing in the world is the boogie man under the bed or the memory of being lost that time at Target and how mommy cried when she finally found you.
I think of pink and blue and green backpacks strapped onto impossibly small shoulders on the first day of school.
I think of warm little hands reaching for mine as we walk together, of hugs and bright shining eyes and most of all...I think of their innocence.
I don't want to think of a six year old being hurt. I don't want to think of one of them being terrified, not even for a second. I don't want to think of being the parent of a six year old and waiting outside of a fire station, watching other kids run into the arms of their parents and thinking, "Where is my baby?". I don't want to think of what happens to a little six year old boy who has something so broken in his head that he grows into a delusional, angry and murderous twenty year old.
I don't want to think of those things. None of us do. But today, we're thinking all of these things. We are thinking of them, and crying, and praying and looking at our own children with a new set of eyes. We are thinking of parents who have abruptly lost what is most precious to them, and how they are coping. We are thinking of teachers who became super heroes in the blink of an eye. We are thinking about guns and mental illness and what should be done about both of them.
I'm going to think about the good things now. I can't think of the bad ones anymore. I think, in order to honor those sweet babies, we need to carry on and face the world with a new kindness. An awareness, too. This is the time to love those six year olds, and the seven year olds and the little babies and the awkward tweens. It's time to love, and watch, and be aware of the older kids, the ones who are no longer so adorable and innocent and who now wear giant basketball shoes and Ugg boots and more often than not, a scowl or a disinterested face. It's time to walk down the halls of our schools and say Thank You to the teachers who love our kids for seven hours a day, who will be walking into their classrooms tomorrow morning and imagining what they'd do in the face of a horrifying lockdown. It's time to reach out to the moms and the dads who seem to be struggling with their kid, who may need some help or maybe just a shoulder to cry on.
I'm going to go to my school this week, and at the risk of being creepy I'm going to love each kid I see, whether it's with a hug, a pat on the back, a high five or just an exchange of smiles. It's something I do on a daily basis...I truly love the kids I work with and can't imagine doing anything else but love them. But this week, and the weeks after that...I'm going to love them even more. I want them to feel safe. I want them to feel secure.
I want them to feel like kids.