The Aftermath

It’s Friday and I am fortunate to have another guest blogger. My guest today is Penney whose blog centers on her life as a working mom. She is a divorcee and raising her son Jake on her own.

Journey on her blog for a little while and you will discover her inner weirdness. I have enjoyed a number of journeys on Penney’s blog. I especially like those posts that focus on her sports obsessed son. I have found that he and my son have much in common (sports obsession is not one of them.

For those interested in learning more about Penney’s professional services, check out her website – site

It seems that enough time has passed since the tragedy of the Sandy Hook Elementary School shootings that the feelings wouldn’t still be so raw. However my emotions remain frayed. I can’t seem to get past this tragic event. I continue to feel the aftermath of what happened in that tiny town.

Before the shootings occurred, there were some days when I felt like Bill Bixby from the old TV show The Hulk. When my 9 year-old son wouldn’t listen, I would repeat myself to the point where I would end up screaming to get his attention. There were many days when I would say under my breath, “Don’t make me mad. You wouldn’t like me when I’m mad.” The situation would escalate from there.

I never laid a hand on my son but boy could I yell. After the yellingfest ended, the guilt would set in. I promised myself that I would work on my behavior. But within days, something would set me off again, and I would yell. I felt terrible for reacting that way towards my son. “What are you teaching him? What is he learning from this behavior?” I wondered.

I tell you what he learned. He learned how to yell back at me.

So, while in the end, I always got what I asked for, I paid a cost. Was it worth it to feel this guilt to make sure he stopped messing around in the shower or finished his homework?

But then came the Sandy Hook Tragedy

I cried for days after it happened and was shaken to my core. I felt pain for the loss of children I didn’t know. I had to stop listening to the news. I couldn’t look at the pictures of those sweet innocent children who were just 3 years younger than my own son. And when I looked at my son, I could feel the tears starting to swell up in my eyes. My nose would start to twitch with that familiar feeling of a big cry coming on.

About two weeks after the incident, something inside of me snapped. I took a good look at my behavior and how I was reacting towards my son.

We were spending a Saturday together at a busy park, and my son was trying to get my attention. I can’t remember what I was trying to do, but my son was trying to grab my arm to hold my hand. I kept swatting him away while I was doing whatever it was that was so important at the time.

And then came the aftermath. I thought about those Sandy Hook parents. How many of those parents acted like this before they dropped their kids off to school that day? How many of those parents wish they had their kids trying to get their attention?

I could feel my nose twitch and the tears coming up. I stopped whatever it was I was doing, and I reached for his hand.

That was the day things changed in our house.

No, that moment has not turned me into a perfect parent. I still get mad and feel like The Hulk. However, now I remove myself from the room to cool myself down before I say something I’ll regret later. And if I do find myself yelling at my son, I do my best to apologize to him immediately for my behavior.

I have come to understand the effects the Sandy Hook tragedy had on me. It’s like the father from the Expedia travel commercial said “… and in that moment I realized … that’s my boy … this is my life and I’ve only got one of each.”


Lump in My Throat

There’s a lump lodged in my throat.

The gymnasium was packed on Friday morning at my son’s elementary school in Fair Lawn, NJ. The large crowd had gathered for the annual holiday show. The show, which began at 9:00 a.m., featured each grade from K-5 performing a song to celebrate Christmas and Channukah. There was dancing and speeches as well.

Children beamed with pride as they performed the numbers that they clearly had spent time preparing. Teachers nodded with satisfaction. Family members smiled, waved, and photographed.

My 6-year-old son’s kindergarten class took the stage last. He sang, did the hand motions, and bopped with the music. He blew a kiss to my wife from the stage and had her heart.

Joy, innocence, cheer. These words summarize the Holiday Performance. Everyone left happy.

The scene, the numbers, the insanity of it all makes the events at Sandy Hook Elementary School seem earth-shattering. Six- and seven-year-olds, shot multiple times. They probably loved cotton candy, Lego, and Spongebob. What did they dream? What did they wish for? What did they hope?

These mass shooting tragedies are getting too high to count. We shake our head and pity those involved. Then, the incidents meld into each other. And the number of victims and families torn asunder add up. What do we as a nation do to deal with our collective survivor’s guilt? Surely every parent has embraced their child a little tighter thankful for the opportunity to do so while wondering about the horror of those parents who no longer have that blessing.

Maybe, we can’t send our children to school anymore. Or the mall. Or the movie theatre. Maybe, we should all lock our doors and go on Facebook. A virtual connection is at least a safe connection.

Of course, living a completely isolated life is practically impossible and undesirable. So, instead, there will be talk.

We’ll get advice and details over the next few days. Pundits will pontificate, police will report, and politicians will bloviate. What can they tell us? This is why it happened, we have it covered, keep living, it’s okay to be scared, etc. Does that make anyone feel better? Does anyone feel safe now?

A mass tragedy can happen anywhere, anytime, and to anyone. That is the lesson learned from this horror. Period.

On Monday morning, I will enter the classroom where I serve as a teacher. Certainly, I will teach a lesson, hope the students learn, encourage them to participate, remind them of homework, and push them to try their best. However, the mark of a successful class will be everyone walking out safely together when the bell rings.

The world has changed.

I have a lump in my throat, and it is not going away.

This Should Not Be Happening

I owned recess time. I was a star. In elementary school, recess meant sports. Depending upon the season and mood, my friends and I played football, basketball, baseball, or wall ball. I was captain, quarterback, etc. It felt good. I was not shy on the field/court.  My upbringing as the youngest of four boys in a sports-crazed family served me well.

Then, things changed.

As third and fourth grade came around, girls came into the picture. And things got confusing. And awkward. By the time of the graduation trip in sixth grade, one of my best friends had a girlfriend. Did they kiss? I dunno know.  Couldn’t we just focus on sports? Why talk or consider something other than sports?  I understood it, reveled in it, etc. There were girls I liked and those who liked me. I guess. I had no idea how to express such an interest. I was not ready.

By the time I got to high school, some things had changed. Unfortunately, some things had not. I was still awkward and shy. I had a crush on a girl – Shannon – who was in 10th grade when I was in 9th. An older woman. Anyway, we had algebra together, and I sat right behind her.  I used to space out and dream of her. My dreams did not get much beyond holding her. Sometimes, I would find myself wandering behind her in the hallways. No, I was not creepy. Anyway, I never did have much conversation with her, though I did enjoy a friendly relationship with the girl next to her.

I lost out because I was unable to overcome my shyness.

This past week I returned to the high school where I work. The inner city high school is located in East New York Brooklyn. It was nice to see some of my colleagues and catch up on families, summer activities, and gossip. However, the talk was much more than I expected. One of my colleagues informed me about the passing of a student who would have been in the 10th grade.

While I did not know the student, I was terribly saddened. I was informed that he was shot, gang style. Someone knocked on his door and shot him in the head. He lingered in a coma for a month before succumbing to death.

Why? Why did this terrible thing happen? Why are kids killing each other? Someone said it was over a girl. Are you kidding me? At 14, kids kill each other over a girl?  What kind of relationship can a 14-year-old have? This is not Romeo and Juliet (who did not have much of a relationship either, by the way). Did he make a pass at a girl who was “taken”?  Does it matter?

I’m sure there’s a middle ground here somewhere, between me – too shy to have a real conversation with a girl – and those who would shoot someone because he got in the way of a ‘relationship’.

A dead boy, a grieving mother – this should not be happening.