I can't.

I've spent the better part of the day consumed by the television reports of the senseless violence that happened in one of the last places in our world we had considered–up until this morning–sacred and safe.

I've spent the better part of the day alternating between tears and nausea, thinking of the parents who will go home to empty bedrooms, empty chairs at the dinner table and gaping holes in their hearts. I cried when I thought of how they probably have school pictures of those innocent little faces on the walls of their staircases and living rooms, and how unbearable that dull ache must feel as they search those images for something–anything–but know they'll never kiss those cheeks or nuzzle those necks or tickle those bellies again.

I thought of the mother who was murdered by the man the media calls 'the shooter'. The man she called her son. Her son.  I'm guessing–hoping–that she loved him. Kissed his cheeks, nuzzled his neck, tickled his belly far too many times to count over the years. I think of how I can't imagine her reality, the horror of whatever it was she was dealing with behind closed doors. I wonder when it went wrong for her, for her son, for their family.

And even though I'm furious that my kids are living in a world in which we talk about school shootings and mall shootings and theater shootings, I can't bring myself to judge this family.

I want to. I want to know who and what to blame, to have a little bit of assurance that if I adopt a different path or parent in a different way that I can ensure that this won't happen in my corner of the world. I want to know how to recognize darkness while it masquerades as normal and shun it, run from it, condemn it.

I can't.

I can't because I haven't walked in their shoes, I haven't lived their fears.  I haven't stared into the eyes of my son and seen anything other than love and wonder and awe and gratitude to God for trusting me enough to be his mother.

Today was so much different than yesterday, when I spent the day giggling with fourth graders who were ridiculously happy to be out of school for a few hours to sing in the choir. Their faces beamed with gigantic smiles, their eyes danced with excitement and wonder and awe and they were bursting with that combination of emotions that I can only describe as happy but deserve a word so much more grand than that.

Yesterday I couldn't remember that pure joy that I am sure I must have felt, too, as a kid. Today I can't wrap my head around the darkness that causes an adult to take away lives they have no right to touch.

As a mother I can't help but wish someone could have reached him. I wish that whatever it was that made him do so many terrible things could have been treated or eliminated. I wish that he, too, would have felt light instead of dark.

I think of my role as a mother, and how –in theory and in hope–I believe that I can protect my children.  I can move to a safe neighborhood, I can drop them at school and leave them with adults that I trust, I can never let them sleep over at a friends' unless they've been properly vetted, I can follow them to the mall and read their emails and monitor their Facebook accounts and I can do a million other things to protect them.

Still, I can't.

Today I have to acknowledge that I am not as big and bad as I'd like to be as a mother.  I can't protect them from everything. I can't guarantee that they will always be safe, that the world will be kind or that their lives will always be bright. I can't predict what the future holds.

I can pray. Hug. Listen. I can advocate, cheer, discipline, remind, encourage,  discourage, tough-love, tender-love, wipe tears, kiss boo boos, bandage skinned knees, feed the, bathe them, adore them and invest my time, my devotion, my love in them. I can be a mother in every single sense of that word, shamelessly and proudly and unflinching in the face of helicopter mom accusations and whispers from others when the news of today has faded and we all forget for a moment that darkness creeps in when we least expect it to take hold.

I can. And I will.

I'm thankful today for #reverb12 prompts. I'm thankful for the opportunity to reflect, to try to make sense of things that make absolutely no sense whatsoever and for a reason to write instead of get lost in the sadness of today. Today's all too appropriate question from Kat was My question is: what was the most important thing you learned in 2012? And how does this learning shape the path going forward? I also thought about Daily Angst's prompt from today: Family:  Did you role in the family shift or change over the past year?  How?  Why? Sadly, regardless of how much I think or how often I write, I doubt I'll ever understand the why.