Sunday afternoon I wrote a post about my struggles to comprehend the devestating elementary school shooting in Newtown, CT. And about how I chose to talk, or not talk, about it with my kids.
I focused on more of a safety conversation with my kids, with the goal to educate and empower them rather than scare or hurt them with information on the shooting. As part of the discussion on lockdown drills at school and a potential “bad guy,” we thought through other things someone could do to stay safe. Such as running, hiding or playing dead. You can read more about it in the original post. And even though it happened naturally in conversation and my kids didn’t seem phased by it at all, it still was hard to swallow that I had just helped my kids think through what to do in such a dangerous situation. And that one of those options was to play dead.
I didn’t tell them about the blood and gore and little children dying at the hands of a mass murderer – but I did teach them a survival skill that could possibly help them someday.
Imagine my surprise Sunday night when I saw a story about a first grader who survived the shooting because she played dead. She played dead. She was the only child in her class who survived. Talk about chilling.
As Sunday afternoon crept along, I started hearing more and more parents struggling with the decision to tell or not tell their children about the shootings before returning to school the next day. I was second guessing my plan, too.
I was leaning towards not sharing anything else, but still felt conflicted Sunday evening as I walked into my son’s school Christmas concert. Of course, it was bittersweet. I am sure every adult in the room was thinking about the 20 children who died so horrifically two days earlier. It was impossible to look at these babies and not think about the ones who were missing from this earth, or those who survived the unthinkable
I spoke with a couple of other first-grade parents to see what they were planning to tell their children, if anything. The answer was nothing. The parents of my son’s peers were NOT telling their children. It affirmed my decision not to tell him about the shooting.
Yet, I was surprised I hadn’t received any emails from the school that night. Other friends were talking about messages they had received from superintendents, principals or teachers, assuring them of safety plans or suggestions on how to talk (or not talk) to the children.
I emailed my son’s first grade teacher. I told her my plan to not tell him anything, but that I trusted her and all the staff to deal with any questions as they come up as gracefully as possible. I asked her to give me a heads up if my son specifically learned anything today or if there was anything else I needed to know about.
On the way to school this morning, I found myself giving my kids a big, long, emphatic “I LOVE YOU” speech. I knew rationally they would be safe at school today, but it was difficult to drop them off anyway. I told them how much I loved them, how proud I was of them, how smart and fun and cool they are and how much I love being their moms. And you know what? They didn’t bat an eye. Because I tell them these things all the time. But to me it was important to say it again, right before my son got out of the car to walk into his school. I needed to say, in that moment, what I knew in my heart all those other parents would have wanted to say to their children.
Late in the afternoon, I received a reply from the teacher. She told me that it was generally mentioned at an Advent prayer service this morning as a prayer for the school because of a tragedy that took place over the weekend. She said the principal reminded the students that they have a very safe school. There were no details mentioned and from what she saw, the first graders were not talking about the incident at all. No children asked her any questions about it all day.
Relief. I felt so relieved to hear that it wasn’t discussed in detail. I know there is still a chance it can come up at a later date, but for now, while it is still so fresh and painful, I’m grateful they didn’t learn about it.
These little first graders are too young to comprehend. And many of them are too sensitive, or anxiety-prone, to be able to carry such a burden. My first grader didn’t mention anything unusual today after school, even though I prompted a bit more than usual to hear about his day. I’m grateful.
Tonight I asked friends on my Facebook page what happened with their kids today and if they had received communication from school. Most of the responses were positive – with kids doing okay and great, proactive communication from school. You can read the notes on the page here.
When a community is hurting like we are, it’s helpful to be able to share and support each other within the community.
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