This week, I was one of many parents who probably hugged their children just a little bit tighter, told them I loved them just a few more times, as the news broke of the mass killing at Robb Elementary school in Uvalde, Texas.
I suspect I was one of the millions of mothers and fathers who, on hearing the news of the senseless deaths of 19 children aged between 9 and 11, thought of our own 9, 10 and 11-year-olds, and cried for these little children and their families.
As more details emerged, and the spotlight once again shone on America's seemingly complex relationship with guns, my thoughts also went to another child aged between 9 and 11.
It was on Boxing Day in 2019 that I saw him, this young boy, who looked to be around 9 or 10 years old. We were enjoying a family holiday at Legoland in California, staying in the Legoland hotel and basically overloading on all the fun those brightly coloured plastic bricks bring millions of people each year.
We were dining in the hotel's restaurant, which was loud, noisy, fun and involved plenty of those aforementioned building bricks. With a play area piled full of bricks, children were encouraged to go over and build whatever their imagination came up with while they waited for their pizzas and burgers to arrive.
There was also live entertainment, which on this particular night took the shape of a quartet of singers, positioned near the play area. As they started to sing, I channelled my inner tourist and began videoing them on my phone. A few seconds into my recording, this young boy moved into the left-hand side of my video. Like all the children there, he had been using the Lego to build something, and it was in his hand as he moved into shot.
Actually, he moved in to shoot.
This small boy, no more than 11 years old at the most, had built a toy rifle out of the Lego and was aiming it at the singers as he moved across the area. He carried on into the dining area, pointing his "rifle" at various diners.
He loudly, and happily shouted "bang" as he took aim with his toy, and the adults around him matched his enthusiasm.
"You got me," they called out and pretended to die.
Re-watching that video now, in the light of the tragedy at Robb Elementary, I watch this young boy happily walking across the area. I see him free of fear, able to make noise and stand in the light. Then I think of that class of his peers, hiding under tables, silent and in the dark, some of whom, the majority of the class in fact, who will never again pick up a Lego piece and build anything.
Were you expecting this column to end with an appeal to ban toy guns, to stop children playing shooting style games?
That boy and his toy gun are not the problem. The problem is the silence. Because we might loudly play a game with a child, but too many adults go quiet when it comes to talking about the actual issues.
Or maybe you are thinking well, this is an American problem, not a Kiwi one. Actually it is our problem. Students in Aotearoa New Zealand have increasingly experienced lockdowns in response to potential violent threats over recent years. Shootings and firearms incidents appear to be on the rise in New Zealand right now, so it would be foolish to think our children are not at risk.
We need to confront the issues, not hide from them or imagine them only to be a problem for other countries and nations. Because until we truly engage in open and honest conversations about gun control, violence and mental health, we are condemning our children to a life of silently hiding in the dark.