Every day we make sure they eat breakfast, put on clean clothes, get all their school stuff together, wear a coat (maybe), and then we send them off, sometimes by bus, sometimes in our cars, sometimes they drive themselves, and we hope and pray they return to us in one piece, with no extra bumps or bruises, no unnecessary heartaches, minimal disappointments, and a whole lot of joy. And thank God, for most of us, that’s exactly what happens day in and day out.
Since the Sandy Hook shooting, my perspective has changed and my fear level has been higher when sending them off. The idea of a terror attack or a school shooting has entered our collective reality and every day I send them off knowing that these fears are not my own mommy paranoia rearing its head, but actual possibilities, however small.
Today I had breakfast with my youngest. She is pretty great. Every morning she wakes me up to have breakfast with her; not to make her breakfast, which I sometimes do, but to sit with her and eat together. Today while we ate we talked about the kids from Florida who are rising up and demanding action. She said, “Yes, people will listen to kids (aside: how thankful am I that her life experiences have led her to that conclusion?!)”. We both think this time things might be different, that something might get done to create real change. I told her when I was a kid we didn’t worry about school shootings. (I do have vague memories of a kid bringing a rifle to the high school on the other side of town once, but he was older than me and that didn’t really hit my world, I just heard about it.) She thought that it must’ve been a lot more relaxing not to have to think about things like lockdown drills. I asked her about the drills, what they do, what the drills are like, and it was like I was asking her about what she was eating. Her answers were so nonchalant because lockdown drills are just a normal part of life for a school child in 2018. She said when they have a drill they have to shut the blinds and then all the kids hide in one corner of the room out of view of the doors and windows so that no one can see them to shoot at them.
That’s right, my child at breakfast today, told me what she and her classmates do to avoid getting shot at school. What the hell is wrong with this country? Why is this an acceptable reality?
After breakfast, I drove her to school. We stopped for a hot cocoa/coffee at the gas station. We drove to school and she hopped out of the car. I watched her closely, with her shiny braces smile and light brown ponytail. She said “I love you,” and headed off and I watched. I said a little prayer that God would protect her today, as always. And I watched. I couldn’t help but think of the moms and dads in Parkland who dropped off their children a week ago, with I love yous and prayers and plans for the afternoon, never to see their babies again. I watched as she headed in, ponytail bouncing behind her and tried to take a snapshot in my mind of my bouncy, cheerful girl, heading into school where her friends and adventures await, where she has to do the occasional, but very normal lockdown drill. I wanted to remember her just like that, just in case. And then she was gone, into the doors and out of my view and my reach.
My baby came home to me this afternoon. She burst in through the front door excited to tell me a story about school, rushing around so we could head to dance, practicing her steps as she figured out what to bring for snack tonight. And I was thankful to have her back with me to tell me more stories, unlike all the moms and dads who unknowingly said goodbye for the last time one morning when they sent their treasures to school in Parkland, in Sandy Hook, in Columbine, in America where kids are supposed to be safe. I thought of the unbearable silence in so many American homes where lives have been ended by gun violence, all the dreams unrealized, all the stories left untold.
I don’t know the answer, but I know we all deserve better. And I know that enough is enough. Enough is enough. This cannot go on. We cannot sacrifice another child on the altar of the second amendment. We must find a way to a new and better normal.