I never once thought this would be a part of my experience as a parent. I've grappled with future conversations, thought about how I'll help my multi-racial son through the world that will surely be complex in how it views him, and yes, brace myself for those conversations - you know the ones. Those conversations that my parents had with me, a child of color, in disarming my presence in specific spaces.
Never did I expect to find myself grappling with the reality of the new topic for that awkward sit down to make the first imprint on life memories - son, here is what you need to do if there is a mass school shooting...
I have made no secret here on this site - my upbringing was not pure, was not clean. Not me per se, but I was certainly exposed to my fair share of violence, drugs, and various matters that desensitized and jaded how exposed my experiences really were. My academic environment - specifically high school - was a challenge. Underfunded, overcrowded, excessive violence - just to name a few. It took me a long time to realize that this was not normal.
Also not normal? Having students learn how to "run, hide, fight" before Pre-K. I once worried about things such as, "did, I accidentally wear any gang-affiliated colors today?" or being super aware of my surroundings, certain corners, and specific lunchroom tables. I now find myself seeing those problems as somewhat low-hanging fruit. I've been there, and well, it's certainly avoidable. And it's me...I have some control over the avoidance and safety within the situation - in some capacity.
Even as my mind races with the wild imagination of these necessary discussions for survival (gosh that hurts to type) happening, I project what they will be like, and I constantly replay the scenarios and options of rhetoric in my moments of peace. I even foreshadow how he will react in these scenarios. The sheer parental anxiety in me builds as I try to determine when exactly is the right time to talk about...gulp, you know.
My son turns four - four! - very soon. And as absurd as it is to think about, that is exactly where our society is in the introduction of this discussion. His school recently sent home a notice in regards to "improving safety due to recent events" with the acknowledgment of added cameras around the building and various access points and coded entries for security measures.
The notice and its updates felt as commonplace and as casual as his upcoming lunchtime menus for the week or the themed days to be aware of.
As every parent does, I want the very best for my son. Better than I had. Much better. But following the last couple of weeks of digesting the horrific-ness that was (and is) Uvalde, the shouting noise that followed in gun control discussion, and where we are now as society settles into this mode of "survival" in accepting it, normalizing it, and preparing for it, I often do wonder - is this better? Is the generation to come in a position to surpass my own?
Right now, I want to say yes. I really, really do. Maybe someday it'll become clearer.
Nonetheless, I'm truly at a loss for words, conviction, and honestly, scared to put together an approach to discuss "safety" with him right now. In an odd way, I feel as in doing so, I accept it. Of accepting this state, whatever this is, that we find ourselves attempting to normalize in our "solutions". All you have to do is read, look, and listen of the proposed "solutions" that sound like plans of militarization from your favorite action film. What we need is an armed person here, snipers on the roof, and making sure the children enter and exit out of one door!
I can't stop thinking about that email from his school. That's where we are. That's what we find "normal" in the developmental process of our children, as well as the length (or lack thereof) we will go to protect their safety at school - the place in which they spend more hours than any other every day. As organic as knowing the alphabet, the months of the year, counting to 100, and more, hiding behind your tipped-over desk upon hearing the "special word" is now a qualifier for a "Step up".
My mom told me the other day, "I don't know if I could be a parent with a young child these days. I pray for you." She doesn't even know half of what I experienced in school. Of what I was exposed to. The sometimes dangers I was in as well. Or, what was possible! Even with the knowledge of my own experiences, I somewhat felt the truth of her statement in my gut. She's right, even despite what I lived.
Parenting in 2022 is hard. So extremely hard. After you get over the hangover effects of a pandemic on your child, feel free to reach out to your boy to share school shooting discussion tips.
Obviously, I need it.