Friday, I received a text from my daughter that the school was on lock down. Having just joined a conference call with colleagues in our Florida office, very near that recent school shooting, I immediately shared that I was texting with my daugher due to the lock down and apologized if I seemed distracted. With all of the recent shootings, imagine where my mind went. Yes. What threw me was how “commonplace” it felt to receive the reaction of genuine concern with everyone admitting they were logging into news sites while I was getting details directly from my daughter.
This instance wasn’t a shooter at the school. With so many already this year, it was what first came to mind for myself and my colleagues. Police were in pursuit of a suspect involved in a shooting near the school. During the pursuit, the suspect stepped into the perimeter of the school property. He was apprehended and the students and faculty remained safe. Thank God! Those twenty or so minutes of texting with my daughter, knowing what was happening and having zero control over the outcome, were terrifying. Relieved, I poured an extra cup of coffee and engaged in another conversation with God about the worry and fear that still clouded my focus. I rambled to Him about the way the world seems now. At that age, my world was so innocent in comparison. My friends and I talked about music and crushes and parties. At school we had fire drills and tornado drills. Lock down? That didn’t happen. If we were locked in the school it was for an overnight retreat type activity like Project Graduation. Am I showing my age?
About an hour after the lock down, I picked my daughter up (normal time) from school and while we drove to Taco Bell to grab lunch, she talked more than I ever remember her talking on a Friday. I was completely taken back by her rambling revelations. She shared that lock down procedures have changed recently because of the school shootings. And frankly, some of the things she shared made my heart ache more than ever. Did you know that our kids are being trained by their teachers, administration, and police officers? She has been taught things to remember when a shooter is on the premises:
- Stay away from internal and external windows
- Lock and barricade doors with anything you can like desks and chairs
- If the gunman is shooting at you, throw things at him or her
- A fire extinguisher makes a great weapon: spray at them with it or use it as a weapon to hit the person
What really was surprising about all of this was that my daughter was thinking about all of this while that gunman was running around the area. She mentioned that she realized the choir room, which is the class she was in during lock down, was mostly windows and unprotected. She mentioned that she raised a concern to her teacher that the fire extinguishers are in the hallway and not in any classroom. She shared how the teachers use their classroom phones and email to stay in contact with the office and any police that may be with the administration for updates on the situation. She talked about the games they played to try to stay calm and distracted from what was going on around them even though three helicopters flew overhead. She talked about throwing things at a shooter seems smart…”but what if he (she never mentioned a female…in her mind it will be male) has an automatic weapon?” And at each new reveal, my heart went further into my throat or further into my stomache. I listened and tried my best to sound like I could reaffirm the direction provided by the school. At least I think I did. I’m not sure. Two days later, as I’m writing this, whatever I said has faded. Her words echo in my mind. Still. And two days later, I’m still sad at the innocence that seems lost. My heart aches knowing that her thoughts about friendships and crushes, school dances and plays are all sprinkled with worries I never had.
At her age, I didn’t have email, classroom phones, access to social media or mobile phones that allowed us to connect with anyone outside of school during the day. When did being 13 sound more like being 30? When did it become acceptable that our children try to learn while panicking or planning to be at the ready for a war that they don’t really understand. Heck, as a parent I don’t understand it myself. I know that my colleagues in Florida are still reeling from that shooting. And I feel like many of us are hypersensitive. In the past two weeks, I found out that my cousin in Ohio had a school shooting in a junior high right next to the high school she attends. And even my high school alma mater in Raytown had to address a threat made by a student. Sadly, it feels like every day we are seeing more incidents that adds to my fears. For everyone not just my family.
This is more than politics and policies. I don’t care if my neighbor, friend, and collegue are for or against guns. I pray that people become in love with the idea of genuine relationships: ones where we spend time together, making eye contact, touching, and truly conversing. I’m simply drawing a contrast to being 13 in the 1980s and today. As a mother I worry. I do so every day. I know my mother did too. But her worries weren’t quite the same as mine. She worried that my friends were quality just like I do. She hoped I made good choices when faced with peer pressure just like I do. She worried that my heart would be broken just like I do. She worried about me getting hurt in a car accident but I don’t think she ever worried that a person with a gun would be in a mall or a school taking aim where I might be. This mom worries and continually asks, “When did it become okay for our children to be 13 going on 30?”
Noteworthy Mention: While I was working on this post today, I made it a point to shift gears for family. I made sure to pause in my writing to spend time with my daughter and watch a movie together. I even decided to make cookies today. I have control on what happens here in my home and I certainly can encourage her to be simply 13.