I took my children to school today at “regular time”–no Before School Program for them. I wanted to see them in their classrooms. I dropped Noah off out front (a perk of being in 1st grade–mom and dad don’t have to bring him to class) and then parked and walked Zoë to her class and signed her in.
I watched her giggle with her friends the way 4 and 5-year old girls do and smiled. Fearful that she just might find out what happened. That her innocence might be chipped away and that school might all of a sudden not feel safe.
I walked down to Noah’s classroom and watched his class gather in a circle and do the haircut and new shoes dance for Noah. I hoped he wouldn’t learn of the tragedy that struck a first grade class similar to his own. I know he has a greater chance of hearing what happened as he eats lunch with the 2nd and 3rd graders and their exposure to the tragedy might not have been blocked out by their parents.
I sit at work writing my hands at moments and wish I could pick them up at the regular end of the day instead of having to send them to the After School Program (although, they would be so mad if I picked them up early–school is their favorite place. It’s their happy place).
On Friday as I reeled from the news and cried for those families who lost the little lights of their lives, my heart broke for our future. On Friday, our society that lost what seemed like the last vestige of safety for our children–their grade school. In 1999, we lost the idea that high schools were safe.
When I was driving to pick the kids up from school, my phone rang. I looked at the number and my heart stopped beating for just a moment. It was the kids school. I was scared to pick up.
But I did. It was Zoë’s teacher calling to tell me that Zoë had fallen down the steps and hit her head. I sighed with relief. It also became clear from the phone call that my kids had decided they should go to ASP–have I mentioned how much they love their school? I could have just gone home. But I physically and emotionally couldn’t. I had to see them and hug them. I needed to feel their warm little bodies against mine. I had to tell them I loved them.
Leaving them at school was nearly impossible. But, I couldn’t rip them away from their happy place just for my own sense of security. I let them stay and it hurt.
I just received an email from my kids school outlining how they helped each grade group cope/discuss/process the tragedy. I was happy to hear there were no discussion in preschool through 3rd grade. If a student brought it up, the teacher had a private conversation with them. I haven’t watched the news since Friday and I fully understand that I will have to shield my kids from the news for weeks–you know how the media loves to relive tragedy over and over and over.
I know that I cannot protect them from the world. But they are too little to fully understand what happened and old enough to understand that it is horrible. Old enough to understand it happened in a place that should be safe. I will protect them from this news as long as I can. I am so sorry for the the families who lost their children–no one should have to ever bury their child. I am so sorry for the families whose children will no longer look to school as a safe and happy place.
As I hug my children today, I will think of those families whose world has been broken. Their tragedy is everyone’s.