When I started on my parenting journey, I didn't really know anyone in real life who parented like I wanted to. Didn't know anyone who homebirthed, wore their baby in a sling or nursed on demand (even when the demand proved to be great), co-slept, picked their baby up when they cried, didn't "sleep train" them or slap them with wooden spoons when they misbehaved ala the Pearls (if you don't know who that is, you can just be thankful, I won't post a link to their child-rearing nutcase garbage philosophy here).
So in the nascent days of the internet, I was grateful to find an online list of like-minded mamas to discuss these issues with, commiserate with, share the joys of parenting with. Many of them had children slightly older than mine and were blazing a trail that I could see myself following. We even met up in real life. I discovered that one of the list moms lived only a few miles from us and we became friends before our babes even crawled past their first year. When Mackenzie was two, a big meet-up was planned in Chicago and we packed up our toddlers and boarded a plane and got to come face to face with some of the wonderful parents and kids who had only been virtual up until that point.
In time, one of our most talented members even became semi-famous for writing a book on Attachment Parenting. This week, that same mom, Katie Allison Granju had to say goodbye to her son Henry who lay dying from complications of a drug overdose and a brutal assault that left him with a critical brain injury. In ripples traveling out from this event are waves of sadness, horror, disbelief, grief, and an astonishing sense of "how could this happen?" Because if something horrible like drug addiction could happen to a child who was so loved, so wanted, so cared for, then whose child is safe??
We'd like to think that all of the things we do for our children will somehow weave a magic web of protection around them. And the studies back up these assumptions. For instance, a recently publicized study found that every month of breastfeeding an infant improved their behavior and impulse control in their teenage years (leading me to exclaim My God, my kids ought to be angels as teens!, LOL). But the sheer fact is that there are no guarantees, no magic formula. Sometimes you can do everything right and bad things still happen.
I am, as I imagine all of my mom friends from way back, reeling right now, feeling such incredible disbelief that the young Henry of the curly mop of hair and the talent for music could be dying, could be dead. It doesn't seem possible. Praying for Katie, her husband, Henry's siblings, and their extended family as they make their way through their grief. Thinking hard about the difficult choices we have to make when we parent teens and things are not so easy as they were back when the children were small. Talking with my husband and kids about the roads that we go down in life, how things that might look fairly harmless (smoking a joint with friends) can lead to ever-increasing dangers and as we have seen, even death. And praying some more.