A local elementary was put on lock down today due to a nearby robbery.
I was at storytime with my two little boys when a friend related this news to me.
My heart stopped. I felt physically ill. And all I could think about was my little girl.
It wasn’t her school on lockdown. There was no active shooter. But the day-to-day aknowledgement that in less time than it would take me to say her name, I could lose her forever.
Just like that.
Her school would be another statistic. Her name spread like wild fire throughout the nation for five minutes, the grief of it all forgotten by all except her parents.
I don’t know if this is a generational experience. Or just me. Me and my stupid anxiety.
I don’t remember ever being afraid to go to school.
Bored, reluctant, unimpressed, yes. But scared? Never.
I don’t remember if I heard about Columbine when it actually happened or long after. I knew it was a big deal, but it never made me scared.
Even in high school when a shooting occured only miles away in a different high school: lives lost, others injured. It seemed so far removed from my own reality that it simply could never actually happen in my world.
I was still naively invincible.
And then I had my own babies.
And I watched in horror as my sweet cherubs napped at the tragedy of Sandy Hook and suddenly I’d never felt so invincible or helpless in my entire life.
As their momma I am supposed to protect them from all the evils of the world.
But the truth is: I can’t.
That’s a terrible truth. At times, a downright unacceptable truth.
When we chose to let Miss H spread her exuberant, sparkly wings of independence and soar her way into “hippy school” as she so fondly dubs it, J and I worried about her picking up bad habits. Of her not being challenged enough, or of her being overwhelmed. We worried she’d be picked on, that others would be unkind or perhaps she would be the one to act unkindly. We knew it would be a true testament of her character: had we modeled empathy and compassion well enough for her to carry over into school with her?
Those fears were soon laid to rest because she’s blossomed. Oh, how that girl has grown all ready.
But quickly I was reminded of bigger things outside of my control. Things like Miss H being hurt. What if another child physically transgressed against her?
What if one day another person entered her school with a weapon and that was that?
It’s deplorable that this is even a fear I have. In a perfect world this would not even be a thought to cross my mind.
Of course I could keep her home. Perfectly safe. Oh, how badly I want to do that sometimes. And maybe one day I will, if it’s the right thing for Miss H.
Because that’s the problem with parenthood. It’s no longer about me. About my wants. It’s about those beautiful children and their wants and needs.
And sometimes their needs means I have to put on a brave face and leave them at school, a place they only know as a happy adventure, blissfully unaware at the possibility of something atrocious popping that lovely bubble.
I don’t know if violence in school is more prevalent today or not. Maybe it’s like kidnappings: fewer are happening but we hear much more about it to build our anxiety and fear due to so much media coverage than we did 40 years ago, so it just seems to occur on a greater scale. I haven’t done my homework to know.
What I do know is that school was not scary place for me as a child. And yet as an adult, it’s one of the scariest. And each day I have to hold my breath, pretend those fears don’t exist for the well-being of my children, and let her go. Praying it’s not our last good-bye.
What a sad world we live in sometimes.