My Promise to My Son

Yesterday, you returned from a weekend away with your dad and on your way home, you saw images on the airport television that scared you. “Did you hear about the shooting?” was the first thing you asked me when you walked in the door. Your dad was right behind you, apologetic: “It was all over the TVs at the airport, there was no way I could keep it from him.” Of course there was no way to keep it from you. Pictures of the deadliest mass shooting in modern American history are going to be everywhere, for a while. And tomorrow, at your school, everyone will be talking about it.

You looked at me for answers and later on, I could see you hiding on the stairs because you knew your dad and I were discussing the shooting and you were hoping to overhear us saying something, anything, that would answer some of your questions. The problem is, I don’t have any answers. And I don’t know how to explain to you how such a horrific thing could have possibly happened, again. I have no words that will reassure you and comfort you. I feel completely helpless.

For Christmas last year, I gave you a special present—tickets to your very first concert. That was a big deal. A huge milestone. Your whole life people are going to ask you: “What was the first concert you went to?” And you will say, “21 Pilots, and I went with my mom.” I will always remember what an amazing time we had together (not just because the band was actually much better than some of the other “noise” you listen to sometimes. Wow, I sound old, don’t I?) I loved watching you dance, sing, and just being your carefree, goofy ten-year-old self—positively thrilled to see your favorite band perform.

Two days ago, in Las Vegas, hundreds of concert-goers were killed or hurt when a gunman opened fire on them from the window of his hotel room. There were kids at that concert. They were there with their parents, who, just like me, loved watching their children enjoy music, enjoy life.       

I’m so very sad that you, at eleven years old, had to see some of the pictures of this shooting. I’m sad that your dad and I couldn’t shield you from this and that we are raising you in a world where we hear about yet another guy going rogue with a gun on an almost daily basis. And now my beautiful memory of our concert is tainted. Because now I think back on that night and I can picture so clearly how easily you could have gotten hurt if there had been a shooting there, that night.

I can’t look you in the eye and promise that I can keep you safe. One day, if and when you have your own children, you will understand that that is the worst feeling in the world. But I can promise you this: Your mother will try to work towards a better, safer world for you. I will not (only) feel sad and scared, but I will try to do my part, however insignificant or useless my contribution may seem at the time. I hope that one day when you’re older and you look back, you won’t have to ask, “What did my mother do to help?” I hope you will remember how much I tried to stand up for what I think is right.

Time heals all wounds, they say. And soon the memories of this awful, tragic shooting will begin to fade. And soon you will ask to see another concert. 21 Pilots are so passé, I know, but there will be another band you will love and you will ask me to take you to see them live. And I will hesitate. I’ll be terrified, actually. But I will take you anyway, just like I still send you to school, even though I can’t be sure anymore that you will be safe there, either. Because we can’t hide and live in fear. But what we can do is our part, every single one of us, to make a better world. I will. And this is my promise to you, my son.

Rhiannon Navin