72.  My kids managed to say “mom” 72 times from the time they woke up this morning until I dropped them off at school.  I counted, because I needed to know if my somewhat visceral reaction to hearing “mom” was justified.  72 times in less than two hours.  That’s an average of 18 times per kid per hour.  “Mom, can I have cereal?”  “Mom, I need water.”  “Mom, is today show & tell?” “Mom, what’s your favorite dinosaur?” “Mom, mom, mom, mom!”

I’m getting us dressed, packing lunches, getting myself ready for work, and it makes my head spin.  I tried to make them hear it by calling their own names multiple times, and yet I couldn’t in good conscience say their names more than 3-4x per hour because it was backfiring and compounding my headache.

But while there’s so much of me that wants to complain and vent about the ongoing, never-ending, list of demands, requests, questions, and legitimate name calling I deal with before 8am,  I can’t help but pause.  I can’t help but almost immediately fill up with tears.  Today, there are three moms of three innocent, adorable 9-year-olds, who would give anything to hear their kids say “mom,” even just once more.

I don’t know how or when we became so desensitized to school shootings, but this morning it was like a gut punch.  Because the tail end of the 72 “mom!” calls was my 4 year old saying, “Mom, did you know we had a lockdown drill yesterday?”  “Mom, do you know that when there’s a lockdown you have to be extra extra quiet so the bad man can’t find you?”  “Mom, our class was the quietest, because we can hide in a closet.”  And it only got worse when my 7 year old said, “Mom you know he means a shooter drill, right?”  She didn’t even stop for a minute before moving on to, “Mom, what are we having for dinner tonight?”

She thinks this is normal.

I put on my brave face while they told me about their lockdown practice.  I told them I was proud of them for listening to their teachers and that doing so would keep them safe.  But that is a promise I simply cannot keep.  I let them walk into school with their minds already onto something else, while I nearly collapsed with sadness.  Grief.  Anger.  Disappointment. Fear.  Overwhelming and enveloping fear.

My heart aches for the parents. And the survivors.  And the brave teachers and administrators.  I have found it so difficult to write amid the climate of the world we live in.  How can I write  about the ongoing balancing act and the everyday struggles of being a working parent without acknowledging that we now take for granted just having our children home safe.  How can the mental load compare with the absolute gut wrenching grief these families will carry?  I can’t.  Not today.

But in their honor, I will hold my kids tighter.  I will find patience even when I’m at the end of my rope. I will answer all of their questions, even if I don’t have another ounce of energy in me.  I will wake with them in the middle of the night and stay by their bedside until they fall asleep if that makes them feel safe.  I will assure them that they are loved, so that they never forget it.  I will shake my knee jerk reaction and instead be thankful every time I hear “Mom!”.  Every single time.