Parenthood: Wearing your heart on the outside of your body

babys-heart1

Often when I deliver a newborn, I joke with the parents that labor is the easy part of the upcoming lifelong journey; the teenage years can sometimes present much more difficult challenges. Having parented 5 children, three of whom are now young adults, I feel that I have some expertise in these matters. And then two occurrences this week put all of my parenting “knowledge” to shame.

The body of Jacob Wetterling, sexually molested and then killed 27 years ago at the age of 11, was found when his killer confessed. In the ensuing years after his abduction his parents have been influential in speaking out against child exploitation and worked to pass laws that would make children safer in their communities. I don’t know if I could be that brave and outward focused in the first weeks and months after my child has been abducted.  I worry that I may crawl inside a deep, dark place and not be available to my own family, much less the outside world. It takes an incredible amount of grace to use the death of your own child to advocate for other children. Each time I spoke out, I would need to relive that life-changing experience again and again.

27 years after Jacob was abducted, parents have a new worry. Our children are at risk of gun violence both at school and in public. Moms Demand Action is an advocacy group that is working to pass common sense gun laws. In honor of Jacob and his parents, I signed up to knock on doors this weekend to increase awareness of the need for background checks on all gun sales. We were paired up to role play before heading out on our assignments. My partner was a parent whose daughter had been killed 2 years previous when she answered a Craig’s list ad. He, like the Wetterling family, was trying to advocate for improved laws so that this awful deed may not happen to another family. And each time he voluntarily shared his story, he needed to relive the pain of that awful event.

Door knocking is completely outside my comfort zone, but it became easier after the first few encounters. Although some didn’t care to listen, they were polite in refusing. Others agreed with our positions and pledged to support gun sense candidates in the upcoming election. The statistics are stark – in those 18 states in the US that have passed mandatory background checks for all gun sales, gun related violence has decreased by 50%.

5 kids means that there is a lot of my heart being carried around outside my body. I will continue to knock doors, speak out and donate money to a cause that I hope will prevent both my children and yours from ever having to experience what those two families have had to live through and will continue to haunt them for eternity.

 

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