This is a hard post to write. I want to start off by saying that I don’t need anyone to tell me all the bad things that could have happened, how my parenting skills are lacking, or how you would have done it so much better. I am, however, completely open to honest opinions, heartfelt thoughts, and sage advice. If you have any of those things to offer me, please, please post them. But if you only have harsh criticism, please save it. There is nothing you can say to me that I haven’t already said to myself and there is no way you can make me feel any worse than I do. Having said all of that, here is my story.
Today I took my child to her pediatrician for her two-year checkup. In each exam room, they have a window seat where the parent sits. This is a long seat so there is ample room for me to put my purse, diaper bag, coat, whatever down and have enough room to sit. I was sitting on this bench seat and Bean was sitting right next to me. In fact, she was sitting so close to me that she was almost sitting on me. You couldn’t have glided a piece of paper between the two of us if you tried. That’s how close we were. My purse was on the other side of Bean, leaning up against the window sill.
I have various things in my purse like most women do - wallet, brush, makeup, change purse, a couple of small toys, some snacks, keys, calender, all the general stuff. This morning I had decided not to take in the diaper bag so I threw in a diaper and some wipes on top of everything else.
Now I also carry something in my purse that not a lot of other women do. I carry a gun. Yes, I’m one of “those” people. I have a concealed weapon permit and I am allowed by my state to carry a gun with me. I have never taken a firearm safety class but I grew up with guns around the home so I know a thing or two about them. My father always had guns. I grew up seeing my dad target practice. I’ve even seen my dad shoot a few unwelcome snakes here and there. I was always told to never touch any of my dad’s guns and I never did. My husband also grew up around guns and knows a great deal about them and how to handle them.
Normally Bean doesn’t get anywhere near my purse. I’m very mindful of what I carry in there and make sure that it isn’t available to her at any time in case she gets curious. But this morning I was reminded just how fast something can happen and I am now reevaluating my outlook on the whole gun-carrying issue.
Like I said earlier...Bean was sitting almost on top of me. I was sitting there looking up at the doctor and answering and asking questions. Bean reached for the wipes. She loves to take one out and pretend to blow her nose or wipe her hands. I saw this out of the corner of my eye. She grabbed the wipes and the purse slumped towards us. I thought she was reaching to put the wipes back on top of my purse and the next thing I see is the butt of the handle of my gun in my child’s hand. She had not reached to put the wipes back. She had just reached and grabbed the first thing her little hand found. I’m still amazed that she was able to reach it because usually it is on the bottom of my purse buried under everything else. But nevertheless seeing the handle of a gun in your toddler’s hand is a moment that will literally stop your heart.
I believe that the doctor saw what had happened but she did not say a word to me. She could have if she wanted. It would have given me the chance to explain I’m not a horrible parent, that I take great care in keeping weapons from my child, that I’m not a bad person, that this is the first time that it had ever happened. But it only takes one time, doesn’t it? It only takes a split second for your whole life to change. I honestly do not know how this whole thing happened but it did and she could have laid into me right then and there and I would have deserved everything she could have come up with. She could have given me statistics and explained the perils of children and guns. She could have read me the riot act on gun ownership. She could have called DFACS and snatched Bean up right away. She could have but she didn’t. So now I am left dwelling on what could have happened. And trust me, that’s just what I’ve been doing.
Guns have never really interested me. Seeing my dad use them and knowing that they weren’t toys and weren’t to be touched was enough for me. I never had any inclination to take them down and try them out for myself. I have a very healthy respect for guns...and bullets. I am not a gun-hater either. I believe if you can properly care for your gun and the safety of it, then by all means, carry it with you. Guns don’t bother me.
What does bother me is curiosity. Curiosity has gotten way more than the cat killed over the years. Bean is one of the most curious kids I’ve ever seen. And she is very smart. She loves to act like Mommy and Daddy and Nano. She is a little parrot, restating the things we say and re-acting the things we do. Just because I was never curious about my father’s guns doesn’t mean that she won’t be. I can’t bank on the idea that her brain will work the way mine and my husband’s did and just automatically know not to ever play with the guns in our home. I can’t. I can't expect her to know not to pick up a gun that she sees in my purse. I can't expect that from her at an age where she doesn't understand that she can't go running free once we take her out of her carseat or that she shouldn't play with power outlets. I have to think the worst. I have to prepare for the worst. I have to put myself in the shoes of a parent that has lost a child to a senseless tragedy. Until I can guarantee myself 100% that Bean will never go near my gun, it has to go someplace that I know for sure she can’t get to.
My husband won’t be happy about this because he likes to think Bean and I are safer with my gun near us. But what if I hadn’t been as close to her as I was this morning? What if I wasn’t right there to shove it back down in my purse and take it away? I don’t want to think about it but I have to. And trust me, it’s all I have been thinking about. I cried on my way to work thinking about it. Yes, I want us to be safe but the safest I can personally make us is to not have it around her because it only takes a second. That’s a second I’d rather spend being silly with my daughter, making her laugh, holding her tight and keeping her safe...my way.