By: Amber Leventry
My three year old daughter was looking at a book, reading a story based on the pictures she saw.
“Want to play with me?” Ryan interpreted one character’s actions as a request for friendship.
Ryan turned the page and answered the question based on the scene in front of her.
“No, I’m reading,” she imagined one character say to the other.
Ryan can’t read, but she likes to pretend. I was eager to get the nap routine going with her and her twin brother, but I let her flip the pages until she was done telling the story.
“Do you want to play with me?” The character tried again with someone different.
“Yes. You are my best friend.” In Ryan’s story, the main character found a friend.
Listening to her sweet, innocent voice broke my heart. I am still trying to grasp what happened to the victims killed and injured at Pulse, but a palpable sadness has set in since the attack at the Orlando night club. My heart is heavy and I can’t shake the feeling that I am continuously walking through a fog of uncertainty, waiting for something to happen to reassure me that this will never happen again.
I ache for the parents who lost a child on Sunday, June 12, 2016. And I grieve for the lives cut too short by a man who had no right to place judgment and do harm based on his assessment of LGBTQ individuals.
When I look at my children, I am overwhelmed by emotions. When I watch them running through the yard or slurp popsicles, I feel helpless. Once again, politicians have blocked gun control. If Donald Trump hasn’t made our country a laughingstock, our country’s obsession with guns has. The NRA’s money runs as thick and heavy as the blood of innocent victims. Elected officials’ pockets are lined as parents bury their babies, and the only thing that seems to be happening is the increased frequency of these mass shootings. What needs to happen to make them stop?
When I look at my children, I feel tired. I am tired of hearing hate being spewed in the name of religion, constitutional rights, and American values. I am tired from all of the worry. I am tired from all of the waiting for things to change.
When I look at my children, I feel an incredible sadness. Not because of anything they have done wrong, but because the darkness of the world is a glaring contrast to the joy and beauty of an innocent child navigating their day as if the only thing at the end of it is light. My kids and my love for them is what’s right in the world, and it makes me so, so sad that there are people who can’t and don’t want to understand this.
Since the attack in Orlando, I have slowed down my interactions with my children. This morning, when I woke my oldest daughter up for school, I soaked in her warmth. I kissed her forehead as we lingered longer than usual. I have smiled more at my son’s mischievous behavior rather than scold or correct. His actions come from curiosity and joy, not hate or anger. I have given my youngest daughter the space to be herself. She is my observer. She is my child with the big feelings.
I have big feelings too. When I look at my children, those feelings multiply. I have no choice but to experience the emotions that come from a place of vulnerability. My heart is an open wound, being stitched closed and ripped apart time and time again. But what separates me, and maybe you too, is a lack of fear. I am not afraid of these feelings. I am not afraid of what makes me different or subject to hate. I am more aware of who I am, of my sexuality, and of how so many people view my family, but I am not afraid to live openly and honestly.
Admittedly, the attack on the people in Orlando and my LGBTQ community has placed a chip on my shoulder and the desire to walk around with my middle fingers in the air. But then I hear my child telling a story based not on words she can recognize as text, but on words she understands as kind, acceptable, and loving.
In Ryan’s story, friendship is always found. My heart breaks because I don’t want this story to ever change. My heart breaks because it will. My heart breaks because the strength to love in the face of hate is too powerful to be contained.
Photo credit: Molly O. Photography