“Why are you here at school to pick me up early?” my little one asked.
“Well, I just am.. I just thought that….” and my response trailed off.
How do you tell your second grader that there are nine schools in San Diego on lockdown due to school shootings and bomb threats called into nine schools this morning?
How do you tell someone who plays with My Little Pony, and wants to be a superhero when she grows up that there are a lot of really, really awful human beings in this world that are capable of absolute catastrophe?
Where do you even start with something like that?
“Mom, I don’t get it. I am not done with school. Why are you taking me with you?” she questioned as we walked to the car.
“Well, there are just some scary things happening right now in our city and my heart told me it was best to come and get you.”
“Bad people, Mom?” she asked.
“Yes, Sweets. Bad people.” I responded.
My inquisitive second grader wasn’t going to let this one go, so I had to think quick, and I decided to lead with honesty, in a very subtle way.
“There are some threats on schools in our area, some bad people are making threats and it made Mom nervous, so I decided it would be best to just come and get you from school today. We can work on your homework packet and you’ll be all done before school is even over!” as I attempted (horribly) to make the situation seem “not scary.”
“Ohhhh, like the bad kind of people that we have to practice hiding from in the bathroom at school, while being really, really quiet?” she asked.
And then it hit me- she’s already prepared for this.
My daughter, my sweet, innocent 7-year-old is trained to handle the horrific potential of a school shooting, or threat to her school.
Her school has prepared her for this situation…for these situations. They have practiced drills, hidden under desks, hidden in bathrooms, and “practiced being really, really quiet” each year she’s been in school.
“Mom, did you know that we have a huge storage closet of food just in case something like that happens, so that way if we get hungry or thirsty when something bad happens, we have snacks to eat?” my daughter told me without the slightest inclination of fear or disruption in her tone.
My heart sunk. I tried my best to not allow the horror my heart felt to show on my face as my seven year old told me, apathetically, about her practicing school shooting drills, hiding in bathrooms, and all the non-perishable snacks they had to eat “just in case” something like that were to ever happen.
The fact that my seven year old was so insouciant about this rattled me to my core. To her, this was no different than the thousands of fire-drills our generation practiced during our elementary years.
I grew up in a time where the biggest threats in school was the power going out due to a thunderstorm, and here my child, at the ripe age of seven, was telling me how she knew how to handle the disastrous threats of school shootings, bomb threats, or a school lockdown.
Sadly, she is prepared for this.
“Hey, can we stop by Wendy’s on the way home for a frosty!?” she asked as we pulled out of the school campus.
“Sure..that sounds.. great…” I murmured back.
This is where we are today. Our children are prepared for this; they are prepared for devastation, and as thrilled as I am to know that our children are equipped with this knowledge, it makes my heart weep that they must know this at all.
The fact that my daughter and her classmates are educated on the matter, taught where to hide, know that they cannot speak during these drills, and that they all know their places in these potential, and horrific instances is heartbreaking.
The fact that this scares me more than it does her, and she’s the one whose practiced drills with fake “bad guys,” is horrifying.
The fact that I must send her off to school each day with the fear of not knowing, ever, what will truly unfold that day leaves my hands trembling even as I write this.
This is every parent’s worst nightmare, and because we’ve all seen these tragic events unfold time and time again, we are shaken to our core when they hit even remotely close to home.
The thought that there is nothing we can do to control these tragic events from unfolding leave many people, myself included, weak-kneed, sweaty-palmed, and holding our little ones tightly-wishing and praying to never let them go.
I wish I had a positive way to end this, I wish I had an answer, or a way to solve this. I wish I knew why this has become such an epidemic.
What I can say, however, is that these scares have an excellent way of making your family’s life flash before your eyes; I want to say that I am grateful that our children’s schools prepare them so well for these catastrophic events, because I am happy and grateful that they take these measures, but in all honesty, it doesn’t make me feel any better. It makes me feel worse that these tiny people, the ones who believe in the Easter Bunny and Santa Claus, have to know such horror exists in the first place.
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