It’s funny. We always complain about not having enough time to rest and relax yet, when we get a day off, we feel like we have to do something.
That was me on the Fourth of July. I usually would be more than happy to just hang around the house and do nothing. However, since I’d been traveling the previous two weekends, I felt I owed it to the kids to make this holiday extra special.
I thought a trip to the zoo would be a fun, family outing. So after I convinced my wife, I let my son know about the plans for our “adventure.” As excited as he was to go see the animals, I was just as excited to have this experience with them.
This was the first type of outing like this for us as a family of four. And while I tried to make sure I planned accordingly, what I didn’t factor in was the logistics of transporting two kids through the streets of Washington, D.C., and ultimately through the zoo. In 90-degree heat, I might add. Only packing one stroller was a major dad fail. Thankfully, the Smithsonian’s National Zoo provided extra strollers, cooling stations and plenty of food options.
As with any trip, the reaction from the kids, particularly my 3-year-old boy, was hit-and-miss. He loved some of the animals, was scared of the others and, in between, was pretty much indifferent. The highlights of the day, for my son at least, were the frogs and riding in the cool, blue rental stroller. Our baby girl just napped or watched people.
Father put on alert for family’s safety
About midway through our adventure, I received a text alert about the shooting in Highland Park, Illinois. Seven killed, dozens injured, by a lone shooter taking aim at people lined up to watch a Fourth of July parade.
These types of alerts have, unfortunately, become pretty common, almost to a point of being expected. But this one hit a little differently. With it being a holiday, I’m sure the folks up there were just trying to get out of the house and enjoy a fun-filled day with their families. Just like we were at the zoo.
And that’s why it was different.
In the middle of trying to enjoy a family outing, my mind shifted into a defensive mode. I scanned my surroundings. I wondered what would happen if a shooting took place in this open area filled with hundreds of people.
How would I protect my family? Would we be able to take cover? How would I explain to the kids what had taken place?
That’s where we are now. It’s our reality, not based on any political leanings, just factual data. It’s yet another thing we have to worry about as parents. This is the world our children are growing up in.
Fortunately, my kids are at the age where they’re oblivious to the evils of the world. We have a few more years until we won’t be able to keep them in their little bubbles any longer. And then, I’ll have to be prepared to talk, to have some tough conversations.
For now, I have to deal with my own emotions. The concerns I have as a dad. Concerns about the world my kids will grow up in and how I can protect them for as long as possible. It’s a never-ending worry, and one that’s magnified whenever ever those breaking news alerts pop up on my phone. I hope I will never have to experience a tragedy of that magnitude. And, hopefully, the day will come when we can go out with our families and not have to worry whether we’ll make it home safely.