There’s this thing that happens over the course of being a parent, at least it did to me. Suddenly, you realize that you’re doing all the things.
A few years ago, I remember having that realization as I talked to my grandmother on the phone about weekend plans with our then 5-year-old son that included a trip to the zoo (fun) and swimming lessons (much less fun).
After listening to my overly ambitious list of activities, she said, “You all are such good moms nowadays, much better than we were.” She went on to note how much parenting has changed since her five kids were born during the Baby Boom. She laughed as she recalled how mothers, years ago, would wheel their kids in strollers to the grocery store and then leave them in the strollers outside the store while the moms shopped.
That change, that “being better parents,” didn’t happen overnight. It happened over years.
I’ve come back to that conversation a few times since the mass shootings this month in El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio. I also come back to these questions: “When will we get better? When will we do better?”
The volume of vitriol in this country has weighed on me quite a bit this summer, which is why I wrote about it in this space last month. I wrote: “It’s going to blow! That’s kind of how the summer of 2019 has felt so far and we’re not even all the way through July.”
Well, it did blow. Shootings El Paso, Texas, and Dayton, Ohio, took the lives of at least 31, injuring dozens more and affecting the lives of countless others.
So what are we going to do? When are we going to get better?
They’re questions I’ve thought about time and again since 2012 when 20 children (CHILDREN!) were killed at Sandy Hook Elementary School. That shooting is especially hard for me to think about because my son is just a little bit younger than the kids who were killed at that school.
When it comes to these mass shootings, and the debate that follows, it has felt a little like “If a tree falls in the woods and no one hears it … ” kind of moment, but for human life. Axios reported this week, “Mass shootings have become more common, but fading public interest relieves pressure on lawmakers to address the underlying issues.”
And if nothing happens and we expect nothing to happen, should we bother speaking up? I have come back to that question after Orlando, after Parkland, after Las Vegas, after Gilroy, California, and now after El Paso, Texas and Dayton, Ohio.
And I don’t have an answer. Well, actually … my answer would be to ban assault weapons, but if our lawmakers can’t even agree on a background check to get a gun, I don’t think a ban on high-powered weaponry, like the AR-15, is going to happen.
But there is something I know will happen, eventually. The people who are keeping us from being better? They won’t be around forever. And coming down the pike? That would be Generation Alpha, the most senior among them was born in 2010. They’re into diversity, inclusion, equality, and education.
That gives me hope. They’ll be our better.
The topics of being better and having hope are not new to me. In 2017, I wrote: “…. just maybe ‘better’ is on the horizon. It feels like I’ve been served a big helping of ‘better’ when I hear ‘Dear Theodosia’ from ‘Hamilton.’” Among the song’s moving lyrics:
If we lay a strong enough foundation
We’ll pass it on to you, we’ll give the world to you
And you’ll blow us all away
Yeah, you’ll blow us all away
The first dozen times I heard that song? Downright teary. I continue to believe, “This is as bad as it gets. My son and Generation Alpha? They’re going to blow us all away.”
Amy Bailey was a member of the Michigan Capitol Press Corps from 2000-2006. She lives and works in Green Bay, Wisconsin, with her husband, son and an easily excitable Australian Shepherd. Amy's guest column, Something to Say, will publish the first and fourth Wednesday of every month. You can follow her on Twitter and Instagram.