Something very disturbing happened today. My daughter, who is 11 and in 6th grade, participated in a lockdown drill at her school. I got an automated call from the school this morning to let me know that the drill would take place. I appreciated that call because it is the kind of thing that I would like to know. Kids sometimes worry about things. Especially things that they don't understand - or maybe they do understand, but cannot accept.
I remember distinctly being horrified and disgusted as a child by the awful murder of a woman in the middle of the street while a variety of people looked on yet did nothing. This was the first time in my life that I was confronted with the facts that there was evil in the world; the world is not in fact fair; and sometimes people can be disgusting and repulsive (and I don't mean the killer). I had nightmares for days. I am sure that my mother could add a lot more detail here, but the bottom line is some of my innocence was destroyed by the crime. I was simply not able to reconcile my understanding of the world so beautiful, filled with Santa Claus, the Tooth Fairy, Strawberry Shortcake dolls, people who loved and cared for me, and this true horror.
Worrying how she would internalize the drill, I made a note to discuss it with my daughter tonight. And, I did just that. The perfect opportunity presented itself: my son was at baseball practice, and I had time with my daughter after karate.
"Tell me about your day, honey," I prompted. We played our usual high-medium-low game (which allows me to learn at least 3 things that happened in my children's days) and she added, "We had a lockdown drill today."
"Yes, I know. How did it go?" She explained that the alarm went off, the teacher locked the door, turned out the lights, and all of the children got down on the floor. They were to be quiet. My daughter commented that if it was real, they would have all been in trouble because no one was quiet.
I asked her if they explained the reason for the drill. She said it would happen when someone they don't know walks onto campus. As we began the discussion of what would cause someone to come onto a campus full of children to hurt them, I started to feel sick to my stomach. And ill-prepared.
My son came home during the conversation, and though he is much younger, I couldn't exclude him. We broadened the discussion to include him. "What is a lockdown, Mom?"
"Why would anyone want to hurt a bunch of kids?"
"What would make someone do that?"
I said something about how I had no idea. About how the people who do such things are hurting terribly and they want the world to hurt with them. About how people who are unstable can be thrown over the edge by the death of someone they love, the loss of their own children, etc. I struggled for explanations.
We talked about why they aren't supposed to just run. We talked about the fact that the law enforcement experts have decided our best chance is to lock ourselves in and wait - and pray if that's your thing. We talked about the guidance my daughter got today that if you can't get inside and you see the killer, you should run as fast as you can. That the killer is trying to hurt as many people as quickly as possible and might not care to chase you.
What? Why is this a conversation that I must have with my kids? How do I balance this with the philosophy that I have that the world is a beautiful place? That people are inherently good? That you will receive from the world what you put into it, but that you must keep giving even on bad and unfair days? That though the world might not operate fairly, you still should?
We talked about the fact that this happens sometimes in schools, post offices, work places. Evil walks among us - though I didn't say that.
"It won't happen to us, right Mom?"
Right, baby. It won't. I think we'd have a better chance of winning the lottery, or dying by shark attack. But, we practice a little just so that you are ready. Like we are ready for earthquakes and how we have a disaster plan, and a backpack.
I explained that we can put as much love into the world as possible. People who do these kinds of things seem to be loners, people who are made fun of. We talked about how many criminals were miserable kids, teased by kids or beaten by parents. I reiterated that the two of them should never be kids who tease others. They are the kids who are kind to all - especially the kids sitting alone. You never know when your kindness to someone might help.
The conversation morphed into a discussion of being teased - which I will talk about later. I moved us on to funny things, and positive life stuff. Like Santa and the Tooth Fairy. I hugged my daughter very tightly, and tickled my son so hard that he farted. Massive giggling ensued. Peace was restored. At least, I hope so. For their sakes.
After they were sound asleep, I slumped into my chair. What the hell? Why is this our conversation? How is it fair that a 7 and 11 year old have to practice what to do if a gunman comes onto their campus to shoot as many children as possible? Why are we having these conversations? Why, in America, are we standing for one second longer the free-for-all access to guns designed for massive-instantaneous killing?
I've not been very political as far as guns - besides a few tweets about how people keep misreading the Second Amendment - but tonight's dialogue about massacres of children has left me sick and repulsed. After Sandy Hook there was a public outcry - a hope that we might capitalize on the public outrage and do something to curb the reprehensible availability of automatic weapons. But, nothing has happened.
There have been more killings. According to ABC recently, more than 50 attacks or plots since Columbine. And still, nothing has happened. It's time. No more parents should have these conversations. No more children should have to introduce mass shootings into their Santa-Barbie-Minecraft-Lego filled worlds.
It's Butch to stand up for what's right, even when it is controversial. Be Butch.