Parenting in the Age of School Shootings
This post originally was published on October 3, 2016. Since the Sandy Hook shooting, there have been 2,206 mass shooting incidents in the United States. My fears as a parent are no worse than they were before this weekend's shootings in Texas. Are mass shootings just a way of life in the US today? Click here to learn more about what Buffalo schools are doing to be prepared in case of an active shooter situation.
“It starts with an ‘L’ and ends with a ‘down,’ my 7-year old said to me this morning. I’d asked him what he did in school the previous day.
Kiddo likes to make me play guessing games. This is not always amusing for me, as it’s usually pretty hard to get him to tell me how school was.
My little boy spends more hours a day with his teachers and classmates than he does with me. School is an enormous part of his life, one that I often feel disconnected from.
“Lock-down drill, Mommy,” he finally said.
“Was it scary?” I inquired.
“No, it’s just what you do when there’s a bad guy in school,” he very matter-of-factly said as he skipped away to play Plants vs. Zombies on his Kindle as I finished getting ready for work.
He had just started pre-school in 2012, the year when the Sandy Hook shooting happened in Newtown, CT. I remember that day so clearly -- it was the last day of the fall semester at the college where I’m a professor. The last day before everyone goes home to enjoy the holidays, is usually a day full of laughter and high energy, from both students and faculty.
That day was much darker.
The news of that shooting took me to a very dark place. My heart crumbled thinking about the parents of all those innocent victims.
That was the last day I ever took for granted that when I dropped my son off at school, that he would always be there when I picked him up. I know lots of parents felt that loss of innocence, loss of security, and creeping fear that maybe we’d all been so naive.
I immediately thought about the details of how I said goodbye to my son that morning when I took him to pre-school – what he was wearing, how his hair smelled, how many times I said ‘I love you,’ before I walked out to go on with my day.
The following year when he began Kindergarten, was the first time I’d ever heard of a lock-down drill. At first I was scared, but then relieved that his school had a plan in place should the unthinkable happen.
I was grateful they recognized that something “unthinkable,” wasn’t impossible.
I was worried about Kiddo being anxious about “bad guys,” as the school had explained to its youngest students what a lock-down drill was for. He took it in stride, as young children often do.
And that made me sad. I realize at 36-years old, how fortunate I was to attend school in a time where we would never think to be prepared with a plan, should a “bad guy” pose a threat.
The recent shooting of two students and a teacher at a Townville, SC elementary school brings back all of my fear and anxiety about sending my kids off for the day.
I am, however, so thankful to all the teachers and school officials who have undergone training, developed plans, and implemented lock-down drills.
All that said, I’ve never taken any goodbye for granted since 2012. Every day, I smell their hair, try to memorize how they look and what they’re wearing, soak in their smiles and the feel of their hands intertwined with mine.
And I always say ‘I love you,’ before I leave.