I was completely out of sorts. It was the day after yet another massacre, this one in a church. I was overwhelmed with gloom, and felt down, depressed, and angry that this has not been properly addressed; if it had been, it would not keep happening over and over and over again. I could not get the question out of my mind: “What are we doing to each other?” How many more will die? What are we missing?
When I feel stressed, I often retreat to my kitchen. I didn’t enjoy cooking when I was younger; I preferred to bake. When my kids were little, cooking was a chore; I had other, more immediate concerns: bath time, homework, soccer practice, cleaning up cat barf.
Now, however, my kids are grown, and I have time to mix, measure, and hope for the best. Let the flours fly.
My favorite place, especially on warm days, is our front porch. Every meal that can be eaten here, is. From this vantage, we can see nearby hills, open fields, our magnificent mountain. On quiet evenings, we hear the buzz from the nearby mill, the lull of a tractor finishing a day’s work. It is peaceful; it fills me up. An early coffee infusion, while anticipating the sunrise above, is worth the insomnia.
We haven’t been alone, however.
Lately, we’ve had a visitor. He’s green, small, and very polite. He rarely makes a sound, appears considerate of others. Mr. Snuggles was discovered clutching the bottom of a napkin my daughter pulled from its holder. Their first meeting surprised them both.
The Frog Hotel–the ceramic napkin holder–is now Mr. Snuggles’ home. He is the perfect tenant so we’ve decided to let him stay (more accurately, after repeated attempts to gently remove him, he repeatedly comes back. We gave up). He is quiet, tidy, and the rent is paid on time.
We’ve discovered one little problem, however. He is a tad frisky. If the napkins have been removed, he gets agitated, jumpy, even. At first we thought the napkins may impede his escape once snuggled down beneath his new-found, packed in bedding. We left them out.
He moved on. Every day or so come June, the tables are newly adorned with a pervasive green film, otherwise known as wheat grass pollen. To minimize and remove the nasty irritant, I leave a roll of paper towels nearby. Mr. Snuggles was overjoyed: a new hiding place.
Our feisty friend frolicked inside, furious I’d fussed with his fibrous fort. I gently tried to remove him, he clung tenaciously with sticky little feet. He was going no where. It started to feel a little tense.
He was thrilled, but we didn’t see eye to eye, however.
Notice the napkins are still gone. He was royally ticked off.
He decided to retaliate.
He hid under the chair cushion, decided to wait on the table where we set our plates. Mr. Snuggles isn’t stupid. To ward off nasty, nocturnal creatures, we lean the chairs against the table at the end of our evening meal. He knew. He’d been watching.
When his bedding was still not returned, he went for the kill.
He knew to hide just enough for protection yet visible enough to make us squirm, take a step back. He craftily placed himself just where we grab onto the chair.
I thought of the shooter, about his childhood, what may have happened, or not.
I wondered: could there be the slightest parallel between not giving children what is needed and adverse behavior? I tried to find a connection between mental health and mass shootings, a profile of some sort. Apparently this is difficult; many people with mental disorders never resort to this type of horrendous behavior. I don’t have the answer; I am not the expert. I truly wish that those who are will find answers, like yesterday.
Then I remembered something else.
I recall my years as a parent helper when my children were in school. It is crystal clear which children don’t get what they need at home; they often misbehave in class. Many factors feed into behavior, and I am no expert, but patterns begin to emerge. If you are paying attention, you see things.
Reread that last sentence.
Uh, huh. I believe if we are paying attention, if we give them what they need, children learn to grow into giving, loving, peaceful adults. They learn to live peaceably among their neighbors. They respect their neighbors.
Children whose parents read to them, play with them, learn to listen to them, are children who grow into caring, loving adults.
Children who are taught manners are those who grow into respected adults. Please and thank you goes a very, very long way.
Children who are taught to respect our differences are those who grow into adults who practice tolerance.
Babies are not born with racism or hate in their hearts. That is learned.
Somewhere, somehow, parents may have stopped paying attention. This is a horrendous disservice to our youth, our future.
We need to pay attention.
Someone put the paper towels inside The Frog Hotel last night. Maybe Mr. Snuggles would not think to climb up, inside and down into his snuggy little home?
This where he wants to be. He wants to be snuggled underneath what we call napkins, something far more important to him. It is safe, snug, and comfy. It’s home.
Who are we to question?
The rolls are ready and I’m heading for the porch. If I need a napkin, I’ll grab a paper towel.