Whenever I experience a situation which affects me deeply, I sense my way through. I cling to various emotions and seek the most substantial to lead me out. Yesterday was no different, really. Dealing with the cards dealt until a text message buzzed me from my trite.
Not too uncommon. I beg my kids to utilize their hours in school for academics, still occasional affairs arise. Whatever. Parenting is a non-stop job. One I take very seriously. I opened the text.
And my worst fears became reality…
I live on Cape Cod. I reside in the Town of Barnstable, a small city composed of seven villages. A destination travelers from all over the world visit. I was born and raised here. I attained my elementary education and my diploma here. My kids were born and are also being bred here. I work in the community. I’m surrounded by friends and family. Its beauty is breathtaking and its atmosphere amazing. Although I’ve held addresses in other locations on this peninsula, Barnstable has been where I call home the majority. For as much as I may sometimes dislike it, I also love my homeland.
A few weeks ago a school shooting in Parkland, Florida swept visions everywhere. Gut-wrenching and tear-jerking, I watched images and listened to audio. Those poor children. How is this happening? What is going on in our world?
The text I opened was from my oldest child, a Junior at our district’s high school. He told me of increased police presence due to “an anonymous call” regarding a student, possible ammunition, and a firearm. The school wasn’t currently on lockdown. He just wanted me to know.
Are you fucking kidding me?!?
Immediately I tapped my Facebook icon, surely more information would be there! Scrolling and scrolling, and nothing. No posts to breathe truth to my child’s text. No blatant causes for concern. I cautiously exhaled. Perhaps it was a Snap Chat story gone awry? I hadn’t received a call from the school nor an email. It couldn’t be fact.
Until it was…
My ex-husband phoned, then my mother, relaying a Robo Call detailing specifics and assuring parents all students were safe. Next an email forwarded stating no threat deemed and school would continue normally for the remainder of the day. Suddenly Facebook posts appeared with people asking what was going on at Barnstable High School? Inquiries about the surplus of police cruisers on campus. Last, my youngest sent a text saying they were alright but scared and wanted to be picked up. And me sitting at home thinking, “God, please no.”
How am I supposed to behave in a situation of such nature? If you’re a parent, you know what I mean; the protection instinct kicks in, and yet you don’t wish to overreact. I sat perched on the edge of my sofa in shock. What am I supposed to do? Speed to the school and release my kids? “No imminent threat”…instead do I explain today’s world and how mastering the indicated scenario is fundamental? And where the hell is the phone app for this endeavor?
Nowadays, school systems have the unfortunate duty to prepare students and staff for the unknown. Teachers fasten doors and classmates cluster and Principals plan and emergency response departments deploy. They “lockdown”. Even when carried out in practice, it does little to reduce uneasiness. However, the individuals within the buildings develop a system. It’s executed several times a year. In rooms and on busses. This is not something I considered during my own scholastic years. I am not proficient.
My reaction was fear and stress and confusion and frustration and helplessness. I quickly read social media replies and gained insight. The setting was in fact controlled. Friends in different districts shared similar recent occurrences and reflections. Some parents retrieved their kids, others declined. Once I recognized my kids weren’t in danger, I prayed for guidance. I didn’t hanker a negative move. I distressed over getting in the way, over making it more difficult for the patrolling uniforms. I worried whatever I concluded, I may fail at this crucial teachable moment.
I based my final choices on the tender sentiments of my flesh and blood. My oldest is strong, both in mind and in heart. He’s a thinker and a protector. Despite these traits, he confided hiding in a bathroom and my heart broke. My youngest has severe emotional impairments which make attending school a challenge to begin with. Amidst words of sheer anxiety and desperation, I acknowledged my littlest may not reach dismissal.
Thirty minutes we went back and forth. I calmed them as best I could through script. They began to function, albeit shaken. I believed they had undeniably cultivated a lesson in being a pupil in the year 2018. Initially, my verdict was to preserve their typical day. Until my oldest asked what to do during dismissal: Should they depart in the herd toward the busses or wait briefly?
I picked them up early. Half hating myself and half liking myself.
You see, I have never experienced anything of this magnitude. At first I was prepared to jump in the car and rescue my kids. My immediate desire was to bring them home to security and coddle them, not a usual piece in my parenting. I longed to see them, have them near, where at least I had a fighting chance to myself protect them. Most of all, I desperately wished this wasn’t something any parent or child had to face. Ever.
Alas my kids were, in fact, slightly upset with me when we arrived home. Due to the stress of their days, I lamented they weren’t capable of logical thought. My retort wasn’t well-received. I understood. A meeting of the minds was had. Because kids want to know their parents care about them more than anything else. They crave the awareness of our love. Schools have a tough job. Ours is more tough, though.
My kids could only live in the confronted moment. At that juncture, scared, they needed me. Trust me, I also needed them. Nonetheless, I had a further obligation to entertain every possible outcome in order to reach the best resolution. Schools fail to teach this aspect because their plates overflow. Therefore, as guardians we must.
I permitted my kids to collect an absence today. I’m not running for Mother of the Year. Neither of them possessed the competence to recover from yesterday as promptly as their school expected. I’m sure I’ll be in trouble for this action. Notwithstanding, I’ve grown accustomed. As an adult I’m capable to stand my ground.
It wasn’t a contrived election. It contained purpose. They completed assignments from home. And we further discussed yesterday. I perceived a need to expand the [big] picture for their young minds. When I mentioned their initial disdain, it was the result of their inaptitude. I sought to shed light so they wouldn’t conclude I didn’t care.
As parents we play many roles to the lives we are raising. But those lives linger egocentrically for quite some time, at least until amassed wisdom contributes to the notion that every action does bear a reaction. Perhaps if the threat was imminent I would have proceeded hastily. Maybe my division would have lacked quality. Likely, I would have been in total shambles. Thankfully, I don’t know.
I sat between my adolescents and shared my own life experiences, stages I had maneuvered adequately. I gave definition to my receptivity. Upon notice of my son’s first text, keeping my wits was critical. I’m useless with a scattered mind. Next I had to garner information. The troubling piece for my kids to grasp was me “not jumping”. I told them running into a dangerous situation was counterproductive to preserving the safety of all involved. If I couldn’t get there, I better figure out an alternative for instruction. In the event I’m not physically present, I will be accounted in spirit. They asked why I considered leaving them at conclusion. And the authenticity of life was uttered.
Simply, this is existence at school in our society. It is absolutely impossible for me to hold their hands through every struggle they’ll face. In this case, crisis was averted with no risk in the end. I may not fancy a tenacious approach but it is necessary. The urgency for my kids to manage the good along with the bad subsists. They must be versed in emergency procedures. To obtain the courage to think through trials, even when the potential may be extreme. It is imperative their logic protect them when they are alone. I need assurance that what I have spent every second since their births instructing might bring them home to me. Safely.
Together we spoke of circumstances and strategies. Concerns were addressed. In conclusion, I added although their school isn’t equipped with metal detectors or the latest devices seen on websites, they are protected. An armed officer is present. The doors are locked from start to finish. Loopholes do loom, however, I firmly believe the staff genuinely care about the student body.
My kids shall return Monday, to start the very week for Wednesday walk-outs planned throughout states. My Junior and my Freshman are free to partake. Or not. As long as they are true to themselves. Concerning people ridiculing participants, please rethink your position. This is not only about gun laws and amendments. It doesn’t solely revolve around mass shootings and public security. If for one minute we step outside ourselves I believe we might witness history in the making. If you disagree with youngsters, hear the teachers also calling for action. The generation some look down upon are the very humans who will one day care for us. They are as important now as they will be then.
I am unsure what the upcoming week holds. I have no clue what will occur months down the line. What I do know is my naïve outlook kept me in a bubble. I never imagined anything like this could happen here. Nor did parents at other schools where it did. I resigned my area safe from this type of activity. As did those dancing inside a nightclub or attending a concert. And so I face each day with knowledge gained a day ago. I will arm myself against a world with violent tendencies through patience and positivity.
“Be the change you want to see in the world.”
“To the world you may be one person but to one person you may be the world.”