Ever since Sandy Hook, I’ve heard so many parents share some version of this sentiment: When they drop off their kid at school every day, they wonder silently if they’ll ever see them again. They wonder if their child will survive the day. They pray their kid’s school will be spared the rage of the latest gun-toting mass murderer.
I wonder and pray these things too, but with a big difference: I don’t get to drop my kid off at school.
Five-and-a-half years ago, just a few weeks after emerging from my body, my son went home with the couple I’d chosen for him from a book of families at the adoption agency to which Planned Parenthood had referred me. I was — and am — lucky in a lot of ways: My son’s daddies want the same level of openness that I do, and so I’ve seen them regularly. I was lucky to have complete control over the adoption process — something that often isn’t true for birth mothers. And I’m lucky to have a pretty close relationship with my son. He knows that I’m his birth mother, that he grew in my tummy, that I have a cat named Sophie (whom he’s obsessed with) and that we both love fart jokes.
But that luck could run out at any moment because so many politicians (most of them Republican) have decided National Rifle Association money is more important than children’s rights to live through their school days.
When my son and I both lived in Queens, we saw each other an average of once a month. A few months ago, he and his adoptive parents moved to Los Angeles, which means I’m going to see him a lot less often now. And every time we say goodbye, somewhere inside me, there’s the knowledge that I’m not guaranteed to see him again.
Do you have any idea how much that fucks with me?
I don’t just have to worry about regular birth mother shit like fearing my son will grow up to hate me. I also have to worry someone is going to show up at his school and shoot him. And I can’t pretend there’s anything I can do about it because I’m not even in the same state as he is.
Less than a month after my kid went home with his adoptive family, Hurricane Sandy hit New York. I was safe and sound, slowly making my way through a Domino’s pizza and a bottle of wine in my apartment building that still had power. But I was also freaking out and crying because I kept imagining that a tree was going to fall on my child’s new home, even when his daddies emailed me to let me know they were all safe. The one thing that kept me from losing it completely was continuing to see the green dot next to my son’s papa’s name on Gchat.
Guess what: The state of gun control (or lack thereof) in this country is like being under a constant hurricane warning. Except unlike a hurricane, we get no semblance of advanced notice of when exactly a mass shooting is going to happen; we all simply have to live our lives on endless alert.
And while no parent can protect their child perfectly, most at least have control of how they respond to the constant threat. Parents can ask their kid’s teacher(s) about shooter drills or assess the security of a given environment where their child might be. I don’t get to do any of that. Yes, I trust my son’s daddies implicitly, but that’s not the same thing as having any control over my son’s safety. There’s not a whole lot I can do.
But I can march.
On Saturday, March 24, I’ll be at the New York City March for Our Lives. I’m marching because it’s one small action I can take to stand up for my son’s right to stay alive. I’m marching because if today’s teenagers are this brilliant and aware, then I can’t wait to see the teenagers that my son and his peers turn into.
I never in a million years thought I’d say I’m excited for my son to be a teenager, but I’m absolutely stoked about it. But first, he needs to live that long.
I’m marching because no one should live in fear that a souped-up cyclone of toxic masculinity with a semiautomatic is going to take out their kid — whether they’re raising that kid or not.
I’m marching because my son is an amazing kid, and he deserves a chance to grow up into an amazing adult.
I’m marching because, really, what else can I do? I’m not even on the same coast as my son anymore. All I can do is fight for a better world for him to live in.
My son’s name is Leo. I want him to stay alive. And for Leo’s sake, I hope you’ll join me in marching.