It's Dark Out There

I sit on the edge of my bed in the wee hours of the morning; staring out the window. Like every morning, I’m up before everyone else, getting ready for work.
But this morning is different from all the other mornings before it. Today I move a little slower, as the weight of my thoughts slow me down – I can feel the tension in my bones, the pressure in my knees and on my spine, as if I’m a modern day Atlas.

The darkness at this hour is all-consuming; winter has firmly reclaimed its grasp on the morning sky, keeping the light at bay. The stillness is somewhat calming, but is no match for weight of darkness right now.
Everyone is awake now. I hear my wife shuffling around in the hallway, and I know it’s only a matter of moments before my son will be awake, most likely whining for me to come get him dressed. I will have to fight this weight, and shake of these heavy thoughts, and put on a happy face, no matter how false it may be at the moment, because that’s what good parents do – we lie to our kids.
I continue to stare into the darkness outside, allowing it to consume me; almost wrapping around me like a blanket. I don’t even hear my son walk into the room, going unnoticed until he crawls up into my lap, placing his head on my chest. He too stares out into the darkness.
Breaking the silence that seemed to go on forever, he says, “Daddy, it’s dark out there.” The innocence in his voice, his warm touch against my skin, plus that fact he has no idea the weight his words carry, I begin to get tears in my eyes, and all I can reply is, “Yes…it is very dark out there.”
On December 2, 2015 the country was once again thrust into the terror of another mass shooting, this time in my home state of California. This time 14 people were killed at a company holiday party by a fellow coworker. I watched as every news bulletin, or update via social media came across my screen at work. After every article or update I read, my heart broke a little more.
After I got home from work I did my normal routine of greeting my wife and son and went upstairs to change into my comfortable clothing. But there was a layer I could not strip. One I desperately wished I could shed; throw into the dirty clothes hamper and forget about it, but instead it clung to me like a shirt 3 sizes too small, showing imperfection after imperfection.
My wife noticed it too. As I joined her in the kitchen to assist with dinner prep she asked, “Hey, are you ok? You seem distant.” I didn’t respond…instead I stared out the window between the kitchen and the living room and watched as our son played on the floor. He moved from one toy to the next, creating a world of adventure and wonder; his imagination fueled by youth and innocence. I smiled as I listened to his laughter and his silly stories. I could just picture the world he was creating in his bubble. A world of joy and fun, where everything is great and no one gets hurt.
But then my smile faded as I hear my wife’s voice ringing in the background of my subconscious. The question, “Hey, are you ok” repeating over and over. The realization that the joyous world my son is living in at that very moment is temporary, and that in a few years when he is old enough to attend school, my beautiful boy’s world view will be forever changed.
I broke down and cried right there. I crumbled into my wife’s arms finally shedding the layer of funk that had remained from the day. I cried, and kept crying. I cried for those lost in the horrific events of the day. I cried because I was confused how something like this could happen time and time again. But most of all I cried because I questioned what kind of world I was raising a child in.
My son’s reality will be very different than my own at his age. Growing up in California I can remember regularly participating in earthquake drills, while kids in other regions participated in hurricane or tornado drills. I can remember as a kid talking about those supposed events with friends on the playground, wondering what it would be like if a big earthquake actually happened. But hey, at least we didn’t have to worry about tornados; now that would be really scary. We had the freedom to say things like that because we didn’t live in a region where something scary and unknown happened.
Now schools all over the country regularly practice active shooter drills. However; unlike tornadoes, earthquakes, and hurricanes, active shooters aren’t regional…they’re everywhere, at any time.
One day soon somebody will be telling my sweet boy something to the effect of where to run, or how to hide from someone with a gun. I’ll have to explain to my innocent child that there are people in this world who are bad, and want to hurt others, and I’ll have to explain what death is to someone who’s biggest concern prior was if he could watch another episode of Thomas the Train.
The sad thing is, one day he will ask me questions on why he has to do all this, and why people are dying, and I won’t have any answers for him; at least none that will make any sense, because there are no answers.
I look at the amount of people being killed in this country, at the hands of other people, and I’m afraid. I’m afraid of what kind of world I’m bringing my son up in. I’m afraid that his mother or I will be one of those people taken by someone with a gun. Even worse, I’m afraid my son will be taken from us.
My wife tells me that I take too much on, and that I can’t change the world. She also knows this kind of thinking doesn’t help me, it only makes it worse, because of course I want to change the world for him…he thinks I’m Superman, and if Superman can’t change the world, what hope do we have? But she’s right, I’m not Superman…I’m just a guy who is afraid…really afraid.
It’s this fear that creates the darkness. A darkness so thick it feels as though all light is being suffocated, and with it, all hope. So thick that it feels like the sun was forever extinguished.
I don’t even hear my son walk into the room, going unnoticed until he crawls up into my lap, placing his head on my chest. He too stares out into the darkness.
“Daddy, it’s dark out there.”
“Yes…it is very dark out there.”
All is quiet again as we both stare out the window. Then my son turns and hops down and begins to walk out of the room. As he leaves he says,
“Don’t worry daddy. The sun will be out soon. The sun always comes out.”
And just like that, I have the answer to all my questions. The reason why the fear won’t win – because the sun always comes out.


21 thoughts on “It's Dark Out There

  • December 4, 2015 at 9:55 am

    Beautifully written. Thank you for putting into words…..

  • December 4, 2015 at 10:33 am

    This was amazing, the words… Wow! I felt the same way after the Sandy Hook shooting, I just couldn’t deal with reality. I looked at my kids who were going to start school in the next year and I was afraid to send them, still am in some ways. Every morning when I drop them off, I think will this be the day? We shouldn’t have to live in a world like this and our kids shouldn’t have to go to school and have drills where they learn how to hide in closets in bathrooms because someone is trying to hurt them.

  • December 4, 2015 at 11:23 am

    So heartbreaking… we have our kids because we want to add to the joy in the world… and yet there are people out there who are taking the joy out so fast and so quick and without any thought… there seems to be no reason, no logic and yet its out there… and after sometime there really is nothing we can do about it… I mean sure we can help… there are ways but they seem so limited… and we feel so helpless… But then again for the kids, mums and dads are super people i guess… so we will fight that helplessness and at the end of the day, like your baby boy said.. the sun will come out… it always does….
    much love!

  • December 4, 2015 at 8:39 pm

    Like you, I am baffled as to why this continues to happen and no one seems interested in a resolution. Thank goodness for the sun.

  • December 5, 2015 at 4:03 pm

    I have a son in Middle School and a son in Elementary school and I remember after Sandy Hook, for a week, parents were afraid to send their kids to school. I remember seeing police cars there almost every day just to check on things and make sure every thing is okay. We now get phone calls when someone walks onto school property during school hours and the kids go through weekly drills in case someone tries to come into their schools. The world is a scary place and it’s getting worse. I don’t know if it is related to gun control, mental illness, or something else entirely but it does seem to be a thickness in the air, this looming darkness that is changing they way we live our lives and the way we treat each other. I have to believe that things will get better. We are living in a time of incredible uncertainty but we will find our way. This was a very powerful post! Thank you for writing it.

  • December 5, 2015 at 11:01 pm

    This is beautifully written – poignant. All I can do is sigh. I understand where you are coming through. Damn, it’s been a hard week – those poor families. And the rest of the us left to figure out how to move forward.

  • January 8, 2016 at 5:31 pm

    great writeup regarding this episode of growth into parenthood and fatherhood. I have an 8 year old girl. As you may imagine, my mind as a parent could wander off into all the evil or negative possibilities that “life” is capable of throwing at us. Here is a great prayer I pull out during some of those dark moments in my head. It is from Mother Teresa. (I am a practicing Buddhist)
    People are often unreasonable, illogical, and self-centered.
    Forgive them anyway.
    If you are kind,
    people may accuse you of selfish ulterior motives.
    Be kind anyway.
    If you are successful,
    you will win some false friends and some true enemies.
    Succeed anyway.
    If you are honest and frank,
    people may cheat you.
    Be honest and frank anyway.
    What you spend years building,
    someone could destroy overnight.
    Build anyway.
    If you find serenity and happiness,
    they may be jealous.
    Be happy anyway.
    The good you do today,
    people will often forget tomorrow.
    Do good anyway.
    Give the world the best you have,
    and it may never be enough.
    Give the best you’ve got anyway.
    You see,
    in the final analysis it is between you and God;
    it was never between you and them anyway.


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