My son broke my heart today. I have kids, four of them to be exact. They range in age from four to nine and I have to say that they are some of the greatest kids I’ve ever met, but we all know I’m biased.
My four year old son came home from school today from his first ever pyjama party and movie day at school. He’s been in school for just over six weeks by now and loves going to school so much that it was a chore trying to keep him in the house until it was the correct time to leave this morning.
He walked in the door and immediately starting telling me the goings on of his day. The first thing he said was that they had a “breakdown” at school, I naturally thought nothing of it because, well, he’s four and doesn’t always get his thoughts out clearly so we moved on. He went through the rest of his amazing day but still kept coming back around to the “breakdown”. Finally I asked him what this “breakdown” was.
He started telling me that they had to turn of all the lights in his classroom, and that they played a game where they all had to be completely quiet and they had to go and sit behind their backpack lined up along the wall where they keep their shoes and coats along the wall just inside his classroom door. Then realization hit me like a fucking Mack truck right through my chest. This “breakdown” he kept talking about was a lockdown drill.
Now, don’t get me wrong here, I have older kids who have all done these drills in the past and I know that they do them throughout the year just as they do with fire drills; we are a fire department family so I’m a big fan of being prepared. I can clearly see the benefits to these drills, but looking at my little four-year-old son with his wispy blonde hair, chubby cheeks, and eyes so blue they would put Sinatra to shame as he told me about what should have been a great day for him broke my damn heart.
I asked my older kids if they had done the drill as well, they all barely looked up as they all said that they had. My five year old son, who is in his second year of kindergarten added that he was so proud of himself for staying so quiet, but that was all that was mentioned. They have become so accustomed to these drills that it doesn’t even register with them, this is normal stuff to them now. The broken shards my heart was already in were ground right up to dust at that moment.
They don’t even fully realize what they are drilling for, and for that I can never be more grateful, you see I do realize how lucky I am that we have only had to have drills. They think it’s a game, the teachers are incredible, and they try to keep the kids calm while teaching them what they need to do. The principal of the school even bangs on each and every classroom door and tries to get inside in an attempt to teach the kids to stay calm and quiet no matter what they hear in the hallways. They make it real and sound a little scary so the kids won’t react when it happens for real.
We are the lucky ones. They all came home, I tell myself this every time I see these horrible scenarios play out on my TV screen, but on days like this it is hard to feel like the lucky ones, but we are.
How is it possible that having your children pretend they’re having a lockdown makes us lucky? My kids all came home today, I am blessed beyond blessed for that to be my reality, but I also can’t help but think that this is the wrong reality for kids to grow up in. The reality that they have to prepare for what to do if someone decides to do them harm, or just to make a statement, or just because they fucking felt like it that day. We have to desensitize them to the motions of it all so they won’t panic when it actually happens. This can’t possibly be the best we can do, can it?
I am fortunate to live in Canada, a country with stricter gun laws than some. We live in a small town where I grew up and it is for the most part, a fairly safe place to live, so the chances of an actual lockdown at this school are relatively low, but is “relatively low” low enough? A 1% chance is too high. I have never personally been touched by a violent crime, but this reality feels somewhat like a violation. A violation of the innocence that kids have been stripped of, and a violation of the security a parent should feel when dropping their kids off at school.
I dread the day I have to explain to my oldest son the horrendous things that happen in other places, to other kids just like him. He has asked, I’ve selfishly tried to shield him from the ugly in the world, but those days are fading fast. He has seen the tears on my cheeks as I’ve read articles about other mothers losing their children this way, he’s felt the shake in my chest when hugging him before bed on a night when other parents are waiting at a designated location to hear of their kid’s fate. My heart breaks for these parents in so many ways that it is impossible to express.
I am the luck one. They all came home.
Take away the guns, don’t take away the guns, focus on mental health or not, blame this group or that party, I really don’t care, but this has to stop, none of that matters. The fighting and blaming has clearly not done a damn thing, nothing has changed, it keeps happening. Someone has to fix this. We can’t keep letting kids grow up in a world where they have to be taught how to keep themselves alive throughout the school day. The only way to fox this is to just literally decide to do it, whatever it takes to do it and just get it done. It’s that simple, we put a man on the Moon because we decided to, how is it possible that we can’t keep kids safe at school?
I know he will have another lockdown drill at school this year and for the rest of his school years, and from a rational perspective, I welcome them. I’m glad he will know what to do, but my heart breaks for him that he has to know it. And it terrifies me that one day it may not just be a drill.
Again today, I remind myself that I am one of the lucky ones. They all came home.
A broken-hearted Mother.
Stephanie Massicotte is a married, mother of four young children who has rediscovered her love for writing about wide topics that happen to run through her brain usually at four a.m. She has written pieces for Online Literary Journals and has contributed guest blog posts. She loves coffee and all things pink, and currently resides in Canada with her husband and heather army of children and pets.