my son and I were seated on our couch this morning, watching cartoons. he was wearing his football “uniform” (really just a Cowboys jersey and football leg pads his grandma got for him, along with football pants from an old Halloween costume of my brother’s). he is five years old and off from school for a long weekend due to parent-teacher conferences and the upcoming holiday on Monday.
“do you know what to do during a fire drill?” i asked him.
“yes, we practiced at my kindergarten,” he replied. “we just go outside to the playground and wait for the firefighters to come.”
I nod, and ask my next question, tentatively, my heart pounding like the bouncing music of the cartoon on television.
“what do you do if there’s a tornado while you’re at school?”
“oh, that’s a lockdown drill, Mama,” said my kindergartner, like it’s as normal as practicing spelling “like” and “you” and counting to 100 by tens.
“what’s a lockdown drill, honey?”
“it’s what we do if a stranger comes in our school and tries to take us. we just go hide in the bathroom and turn off the lights and stay really, really quiet. i was scared when we practiced; i don’t like being in the dark. so i just stood by my teacher.”
“and all of your friends and teachers fit in the bathroom with you?”
“yup. we have to stand. i wanted to lay down, because i was scared of the dark, and i wanted to be safe.”
he’s scared of the dark.
kids are supposed to be scared of the dark.
he doesn’t give a second thought to what the stranger who came to his school that day might be doing or might have with him (sadly, it’s almost always a “him”).
and i don’t want to tell him.
i want school to be a place where he goes to learn how to read (he’s reading!), to count (his class is up to 100, but he can count much higher), to use his manners, to make friends.
school should not be a place where i worry about my child hiding and trying his hardest to remain quiet, in the hopes that a stranger will skip his classroom, will change his mind, will, please God, just take it all back.
praying is something i do, and do often. but it is time for action. i pray that we as a nation, as mamas and daddies, as kids, don’t have to endure another tragedy before someone deems it necessary to pass common-sense gun laws.
so this morning, i kissed my child’s forehead, told him thanks for talking with me, and excused myself from our cartoon-filled-morning to take eleventy billion deep breaths, amidst my tears, and pray grateful prayers that at least i didn’t have to send him to school today.