My first thought upon seeing my son’s classroom at his new school wasn’t marveling at how far portable classrooms have come, now complete with their own heating and cooling systems. It wasn’t joy at him being close to the playground, or awe over the view of Pikes Peak from right outside his door.
On the way to school.
Instead, I thought “There’s nowhere to hide in here. No large closets. I wonder if the walls are bullet-proof. Probably not.” And then, “Maybe the portables are better, further from the front door. The kids will have more time to run.”
While I remember drills where we hid under desks in case Russia bombed us back in the 80’s, we didn’t have any on hiding in classroom closets and staying quiet. I don’t remember “lockdown drills” being part of our curriculum, or running through a back field zig-zagging. I never asked my parents “Why do bad guys want to hurt kids in school?” My parents didn’t get notifications about increased security due to a shooter being in close proximity.
Wake Up, America. Parents Are Afraid, And It’s Bullshit.
This week marks the 20th anniversary of the Columbine massacre. It happened less than 20 minutes from my high school, and we were collectively shocked. Two high school boys shot a bunch of classmates and teachers? Unheard of! Yet now, it’s so common to hear about mass shootings we don’t even hear about some of them.
Yesterday, my son’s school sent an email. They’d increased security because an armed 18 year old woman was near our area. She openly talked of being impressed with the Columbine massacre. She’d flown to Colorado from Florida, and bought a gun at Walmart. That somebody from out of state, who’s 18 years old, can walk into Walmart and buy a gun blows me away (bad pun, sorry).
That she so easily was able to buy a gun isn’t my main concern (although that, in itself, is so wrong). My main concern is what this constant fear is doing to us. Because this constant state of alert and fear is bullshit, and should not be our new normal. Sure, when I was a kid, my parents warned of approaching windowless white vans, but the danger was in accepting free, drug-laced candy. Still a concern, of course, but the fact that each and every day we drop our kids at school and hope it’s not the last time we say “I love you” is my concern.
Schools. Places of worship. Concerts. They’re supposed to be safe!
Instead, there’s a constant buzz in the back of our minds. “Take note of what he’s wearing today.” “Don’t forget to say ‘I love you!’ and whispers of “Please keep him safe,” are our new normal.
Tucker’s school wasn’t closed yesterday, but my old high school, along with other Denver-metro schools was. We walked to school, and almost turned around. But it was testing day, and the threat was probably an hour away. More than that, most of the time somebody’s planning on murdering a bunch of kids and teachers, we don’t know they’re near us, which means that there’s always a threat. There’s always a threat!
I kiss this boy’s cheek, take note of what he’s wearing, and pray. Every single day. It’s not even a good photo. It’s in the elevator at the dentist’s office…
This is our new normal? Wake Up, America. Parents Are Afraid, And It’s Bullshit.
I ended up kissing my not-so-little little boy, and whispering a prayer that he’d be okay. I made a mental note about what he was wearing a second time, and cried because this is what parents do now, just in case.
I was planning on writing about the numbers and statistics, but here’s the thing. If you love your guns, nothing I say here will change your mindset that you need a weapon to protect your home, your family, or your gun collection.
Nothing I say about how laws are being abused will change your fear that snowflakes like me are trying to take away your 2nd Amendment rights (by the way though, those were designed during times when a farmer, miles away from neighbors, had no cell phones, no 911 service, nor any hope of help before the duel was over).
I write here because I don’t know what else to do. I don’t know how to accept that mass shootings are so common, some of them don’t even make the news (especially when it’s not white folk being killed – another gigantic problem).
I write this because parents today are in a constant state of alert. We state our names and purpose for being at school in order to help out in our kid’s classroom. We see relief on office worker’s faces when it’s “just a mom” handing over her driver’s licence.
We take note of what our kid is wearing, in case we need to identify him later in panic. WTF. This can’t continue to be our new “normal.”
We live in panic. We share stories of near misses, school lockdowns, and armed people nearby on Facebook, saying “Hold your kids close tonight, Mamas.” And we do. We hold them close. We’d take a bullet for them. But we shouldn’t have to. Nor should their teachers.
I write this because I fear America’s psyche has changed for the worse. I am broken and betrayed. I enjoy my son’s and my car conversations when they’re “Mom, do you think anybody will love me enough to marry me?”
I enjoy his “Would you rather…” questions, and, although cringey, “Mom, I think I know how many times Daddy had sex. It’s three, because he has three kids.” While uncomfortable and a little hilarious, I can deal with those.
I don’t enjoy when our car conversations are about lockdown drills and him wondering why people want to hurt kids at school. He asked me tonight what he should do in case of a zombie apocalypse of if somebody came into the classroom uninvited. “I’m not sure, Sweets,” I said. “What do you think?”
“I guess I could throw a chair at them,” he said. “I just hope if it’s a zombie instead of a bad guy, I don’t get infected.”
And there’s the worst thing of all. To him, they’re both real and possible. He’s nine years old. He knows how to zig-zag running through a field. He knows to be quiet in a closet, even though there is no closet large enough in his portable classroom to keep them all safe. He doesn’t know bullets go through thrown chairs, and I don’t want him to know that they do.
Worse, though, is him not knowing that they do. That we have to have these talks. It’s time to step up and wake up, America. Let’s look at Australia. Australia seems to get the toll of the fear we live with and the reality that gun laws and accessibility to them is the problem.
This has been a Finish the Sentence Friday post. This week’s topic is “Scared.” And friends, I SO am. Scared.