by Stefanie Badders Laufersweiler

Eight years ago on this day, while the Sandy Hook shooting was happening, I helped my daughter Amy and her third-grade classmates build gingerbread houses in the school cafeteria.

Then two years later it was my son Paul’s turn to build gingerbread houses with his fellow students, and once again I headed in to help.

It was a difficult drive to school as I recalled how the day had unfolded two years earlier — joyful memories of Amy and her friends playfully constructing with candy and icing, juxtaposed with devastating images of tearful Sandy Hook parents, clutching school portraits of their lost first graders.

I had my own first grader at the time, and after that horrible event, I often thought about how it might feel to have Paul all of a sudden ripped from our lives. I wondered if maybe I should’ve sat this one out. But as I and the other moms laid out the piles of candy and graham crackers (a fine substitute for gingerbread), and watched Paul’s class bounce into the room and begin their very important work of making the most delicious homes out of M&Ms and candy canes, I couldn’t help but smile and be amazed by their creativity.

Sad thoughts quickly gave way to Twizzlers that needed refilling, walls that needed frosting reinforcement, and toothy grins that needed photographing.

I walked out of the cafeteria still heartbroken for the Sandy Hook parents whose struggle to move on will be lifelong, but so grateful for the healing that children bring for all of us.

Not just our own children, but the children we come into contact with.

When our tendency is to get stuck in the past or become overwhelmed by thoughts of the future, children snap us back into the present. They remind us how very important “now” is.

The two weeks ahead will be busy for all of us. As we enter the holiday whirlwind, I hope we allow the kids in our lives to show us how to appreciate and cherish the moment, each moment, as it happens.

Stefanie Badders Laufersweiler lives in Loveland.

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