Before Matty started Kindergarten his elementary school hosted an open house. The school building was brand new and it was beautiful. It smelled like fresh paint, sawdust and window cleaner. I couldn’t have been more impressed. As we walked out of the school, all of our minds buzzing with anticipation and excitement, I couldn’t help but notice Matty’s classroom was the only classroom with windows in the front of the building.
“I don’t like that. That’s the only thing I don’t like.” I told Seth quietly as we walked down the sidewalk after the event. As clear as day I could see into the classroom we had just located Matty’s chair, tucked away his supplies, signed up to bring snack the week of September 30th and nervously bickered about what exactly we should be doing. The glass wall so clean it almost seemed as though we could step into the colorful reading nook Matty’s preschool director had swooned over just a half an hour earlier. And all I could think was, why?
But, you know, I’m not an architect. I’m just a mom. And if it wasn’t Matty’s classroom, it’d be another child’s classroom. And while it would have afforded me some relief, I know I still would have noticed. I would have thought about those parents and those kids and then I would have thought about mine. This is just the way my mind works now.
After the two mass shootings that happened within a 24-hours time span in both Dayton and El Paso, I ordered Matty an Avenger’s-themed bulletproof insert for his back pack. Six weeks later when it arrived, school was already well under way. We gave very vague instructions. “It’s kind of like a shield, so if anyone is ever being mean or if you ever feel unsafe, you can use your backpack because this will always be tucked inside”. He has no idea what it actually is but he’s excited to have his very own “super hero shield” nonetheless. It’s good enough for him and while nothing is going to be good enough for me, something is better than nothing. At least that’s what they say.
Yesterday, as I hung Matty’s backpack on the hook at home, I noticed a three-inch tear. The tear runs along the zipper at the top of the bag, just under where it hangs from the hook. The tear is a silent a statement on the weight of the bulletproof insert and the types of things a child’s backpack is designed for. It’s not a compatible match but here we are. Going through multiple backpacks in one school year and risking future lower back problems is better than the possible alternative. What’s a parent to do anyway?
Monday, Matty participated in his first “indoor emergency drill” as the school called it in an email sent that afternoon. It wasn’t until I was looking for reasons as to why he was so upset to see me go to work Tuesday morning that I remembered the email from the principal. “This morning, we conducted an Inside Emergency Drill with our School Resource Officer from the Police Department. Teachers reviewed the procedures for the drill with their classrooms. This drill, along with fire and tornado drills, occur periodically and randomly throughout the year.”
Tuesday evening on the way home from the park, I asked Matty about the drill.
“Hey, did you have a drill yesterday in school?”
“Like an indoor emergency drill?”
“Oh, is that what they call it?”
We shared a long pause.
“Do you have any questions about it or anything?”
“A lot of questions.”
“Like what kind of questions? I can answer them?”
“I asked if the bad guy was going to break in the window with a gun and shoot us.”
“You asked your teacher that?”
“What did she say?”
“She said, ‘bad guys are not exactly like that.’ That’s what she said.”
We shared another long pause.
“What did you have to do for the drill?”
“First, we had to be very, VERY quiet. Then when it’s time Mrs. **** will tell us it’s time to go in the closet. Then we have to be VERY quiet and stay in there a long time.”
“Wow. Was it scary?”
“It’s scary for mama. I can’t imagine how scary it is for you.”
“But the bad guy didn’t get us.”
“Well, honey, there wasn’t really a bad guy. It was a drill.”
“What’s a drill?”
“A drill just helps you learn what to do in case of something, so in case there was a bad guy in the school you’d know what to do. Just like a fire drill; there’s no real fire but you know what to do if there is one.”
“But there won’t be a bad guy in your school.”
“Because your school is safe and Mrs. **** will protect you.”
“Yeah. She is going to throw a chair at them!”
“She said that?”
“She said she’d open the door and throw a chair at them. And that she’d do anything to keep us safe.”
When our teachers are literally risking their lives for our children’s safety day in and day out, working second jobs to cover their bills and living expenses and striking for fair pay; when we’re sending our Kindergartners to school with bulletproof inserts in their backpacks that are so heavy it’s causing their bags to tear at the seams after only two months of use; when as parents, we are attending open houses of brand new school buildings hoping our kids’ classrooms don’t have a window facing the front of the building; when we live in a nation where people are choosing to fight harder to keep their hobbies than they are to ban assault weapons and advocate for gun control, honestly, at what point do we really begin to ask ourselves “what are we doing here?”
Latest milestone: Baby’s first Lockdown Drill – October 7, 2019