Categories
Parenting School

Safe

I sent my first grader to school the day after Sandy Hook. My six year old, my oldest son, my child who was the same age as those in that classroom whose parents couldn’t have fathomed such an atrocity taking place in their kid’s school.

School.

Oh, did I love school as a child. I couldn’t sleep on that night before the first day, butterflies dancing in my stomach. I’m sure some of those butterflies were caused by nerves; I’ve been anxious my whole life. But mostly those butterflies fluttered around with thoughts of new teachers, the smell of books, friends, recess, and so much more.

My sons feel similarly. Oh, they have some grumpy mornings. There have been a few issues with other children not being nice. However, these two boys love school. Moreover, they love their school. They love their teachers and the staff. They love their experiences and their friends. I love that they love school.

When I put my son on the bus the very next morning after the murder of innocent children and their teachers in Newtown, I felt sick to my stomach.

On Valentine’s Day, we were out shopping when my watch dinged.

“Oh no,” escaped from my lips.
“What?”
“Another school shooting.”

Another.

They didn’t even ask where. They didn’t ask anything. This is their reality. This is the reality for our children. Children go to school and are murdered by other children. Our kids know this, and yet they go to school every single day.

It makes my whole being hurt.

I graduated months after Columbine. I thought I had left the fear that penetrated our souls that April afternoon in 1999 in the last century. No. It followed us. It followed Gen X and then mutated, morphed into something we couldn’t have conjured up in our wildest nightmares—and we watched Stephen King movies at sleepovers that haunted us for nights and weeks afterward.

No, the slaughtering of our children in their classrooms even supersedes the scariest workings of one of the best horror authors of our time.

My watch dinged again as we drove home in the dark. 17. 17 dead. I told them. They nodded. Their reality. We’ve allowed this to become their reality. I hate that for them. I hate that, for us as parents who send them off on buses, watch them walk in the doors after we drop them off, just hoping we see them again at the end of the day.

I want my boys to keep loving their school experience. I hope they continue to find teachers they click with, who challenge them to reach their potential. They’ve already been so lucky in this regard. I want them to be involved in their school experience, whether via sports or the band or other extra-curricular activities. I want them to look back at the entirety of their schooling experience with a fondness, not a gut-sucking fear.

I asked each boy if anyone mentioned Parkland at school the next day. Our older son stated that no teachers mentioned it, but a friend talked about it during an open period. Our younger son explained that his teacher brought it up and then went on to say that she made him feel safe by the things she said.

Listen, there’s a lot of work ahead for us as a country. We can’t keep letting our kids be murdered in schools. We can’t. It will require a multi-faceted approach that overhauls just about every aspect of the issue; it’s the only way we’re gonna get through this one. Until then, I will try to take solace in the fact that somehow my children still feel safe at school. I don’t feel safe sending them, but as long as they aren’t sitting in class and panicking all day long, I will give thanks.

There’s a lot of work ahead. There’s a lot of voting and changing in America’s future. I will hold on to hope that the change will happen before my sons leave the school system, that they might truly be safe at school—that their teachers won’t have to convince them they are safe at school, that they may someday just be safe at school.

Categories
Parenting School

A New School Year

The boys now leave the house and clamber onto the bus heading for school at 6:52 in the morning. Both boys. This morning found all four of us in the kitchen at the same time as my husband tried to get out the door for work while I served two very sleepy boys their breakfast and the dogs danced in between our feet and around our legs, hair everywhere.

This particular scenario only happens every third day. Tomorrow I will rise and send them off to school before my husband even arrives back from his 24 hour shift at the fire department. I’m hopeful that come Friday, I might get to sleep past six o’clock in the morning, but I doubt it.

This is our new normal.

Today is the first school day of quiet as well. Quiet being relative as the dogs keep finding things to bark at: a neighbor walking by, the township department working on mowing near the road, the newspaper delivery man, the breeze, nothing. For the past two days, I’ve talked to my husband. Today, it’s just me talking to the dogs.

“Stop barking. Who’s a good dog? You don’t pet me; I pet you.”

I went to yoga today, in part because I’m working hard to keep my body moving right now and because, well, I don’t much like being all alone right now. Except for that part when I got to shower after yoga and lunch and no one bothered me, meaning I shaved my legs—slowly. And by no one, I mean that the dogs only barked eight times at who knows what but not one single person or dog came in the bathroom.

It’s the small things.

Our yoga instructor talked about pausing during the hectic day-in-and-day-out minutae to listen for the little things, to take note of the beauty. I’m so frequently in go-go-go mode that I do forget to pause, to breathe. I get lost in thoughts and don’t take note of what’a really happening all around me.

Last night during our walk, I heard a sound. A whooshing, if you will; steady and somehow passing me by. I looked around. Nothing. I looked up.

A New School Year

The birds are moving, flying in larger and larger flocks. Soon they’ll be gone. The air felt crisp against my cheeks during my walk this morning; I wore a soft new sweatshirt which I needed to remove on my way back up the hill. When do the crickets stop chirping? Maybe I’ll notice this year. The leaves are still green except for those few, those ones who have already given up, turned yellow and brown and let go of their branches. More will follow.

I wish away the seasons with complaints of “it’s too hot” and “it’s too cold.” I don’t take enough time to pause in the current and witness the transition of time, that in-between of summer and fall. When did my daughter get taller than me? When did my oldest son’s feet surpass mine? Where did my baby go and who is this near ten-year-old?

Fourth and sixth grade for my boys this school year. One is now a full-blown tween in middle school and the other will get glasses the same year I got glasses. I don’t know what this school year holds for them, but I hope I can help them pause every now and then; pause and look around and feel the air changing, see the birds leaving, witness the moment for what it is.

At the very least, I hope they learn something this year. I hope I do, too.

A New School Year