How to grapple with another school shooting
Updated: May 30, 2022
We talked to the kids this morning about the tragic school shooting in Texas. They all had different reactions, and it was hard to talk about. We wanted to have an open chat with them in case they heard other kids talking about it. We wanted to see if they had questions or feelings.
Parker had a lot of questions. She thought a little while about it and then came to me. She didn't understand why someone would do that. Why couldn't the kids get out? She wondered what the kids did wrong. Why did he choose them, she wondered? Did they not follow their teacher's directions and did they not hide correctly, was that why they died? She talked in almost a whisper, choosing her words carefully. Her tiny voice sounded delicate and scared. How did he get the gun? How did he get inside?
Parker is a rule follower, and I believe that in that moment she was no doubt envisioning herself in school as one of those children. She explained to me how her teacher has told them before to run outside if there is ever anyone bad in her school. My seven year old looked up at me with as much confidence as she could muster, attempting to reassure me and said, "Don't worry, mama, I think I know what to do in a lockdown." She should find a good hiding space. We shouldn’t push others though, she reminded me. She mentioned that those little kids must not have found a good enough hiding place and that made her sad for them. This broke my heart. But, after all of this talk, I did not cry this morning. I was stoic and strong. I felt almost numb, knowing such a tragedy has unfolded yet again, and here I am needing to explain it to me children, yet again.
Brayden and Chase were more straightforward and spoke a bit less about it. They seemed to understand the enormity of the situation. They asked fewer questions but perhaps internalized their feelings a bit more. Chase mentioned that this year they learned something new in their active shooter drills at school - this year they were told by their teacher to throw heavy objects at the intruder if trapped in a classroom. They were instructed to throw metal water bottles and staplers at the person with the gun, if they were cornered and unable to escape. He said that his teacher wants them to fight back. "Yeah, my teacher said the same thing!" Brayden said excitedly. This was obviously upsetting to me. I told them they should always just run. A moving target is harder to hit, never fight back. This was heart wrenching to say out loud and have to explain. I hated that we were having to talk like that, but again, this conversation did not make me cry. It only fueled that anger in my belly.
I feel helpless. I will do the best to teach my children what is right and what is good. But I don't know how to protect them from something that is far larger than them and so beyond my control. I will continue to feel my anger and try to create a safe space for my children to land, but it is all so challenging.
A little while later this morning, at the bus stop, my two boys got in a fight over something meaningless and trite. Brayden teased Chase, Chase hit him, then Brayden kicked him back. I tried to intervene, but the bus arrived. They walked onto the bus arguing and mad at one another. The bus rolled away, and I watched them throwing punches in the back seat. I stormed back to my house, exasperated that they were misbehaving in such a way and that I couldn't get through to them. Why were they acting like this? It occurred to me that perhaps just as I was working through my emotions of this tragic event - perhaps this was their way of dealing with their feelings of this tragedy. I’m not sure. We all process these things differently. But I was angry at my boys. Then I was angry at myself for being angry at my kids, when there are parents in Texas that are waking up today mourning the loss of their children and will never see their babies again. I wanted to cry, but I still could not.
As the morning went on, I tried to understand why I wasn't crying. Maybe it was because I had yet to see the pictures of the victims, and I did not allow myself to peek at the news ... It was only just anger. I couldn't believe I was actually having these conversation with my 7, 9 and 11 year olds. I was instructing them on how to run away from gunmen in their elementary school. I needed to help my 7 year old daughter understand that these children did not die because they didn't follow their teacher's instructions. And that made me so mad.
But when they walked in the door off the bus this afternoon at 3:30pm, I felt a massive sense of relief. I didn't even realize I needed to but I hugged them each for an extra moment longer. I sat with them and chatted about their days and just seeing their happy little faces made me crack.
Afterwards, I went to my bedroom and cried.