Thursday, October 20, 2016

Hope for the Best, Prepare for the Worst...

Thanks to this self-portrait he drew a few weeks back, my husband and I learned our son wants to be a police officer when he grows up. 

When asked why, he launched excitedly into an elaborate answer involving how he wants to catch bad guys using his excellent karate moves, how he will protect those he loves, and will also blow things up (for the greater good). 
Short version: He likes the idea of making the world safer. 

Of course, he's only six, so our brave hero is also prone to dramatic tears when asked to try on new pants, move his LEGOs off the dining table, or just (for once) flush the toilet.

He's my oldest, but I presume most of this is fairly typical. 
After all, when attempting to carry on even the simplest of conversations with any young kid they will ask the most outrageous questions, develop insanely illogical reasoning, wild theories of the universe, and generally keep you on your toes or send you into the depths of madness.
But hey, I'm no newbie at this parenthood gig. So often as a moment of humor or sudden thoughtfulness might surprise me, I thought nothing could really catch me off guard anymore. 
Then, as our children so often do, my sweet boy proved me wrong. With one simple question, in fact, he knocked the wind right out me.

"Mama? Do you know what a lockdown is?" 

If life were a movie, this would be the moment when I realize there is no background noise. In a vacuum of sound, every breath painfully loud, I would see these words, drop casually, almost playfully from my son's lips into the bath's bubbles.    

"I sure do, bud. Do you?"   

"Yeah. It's when the teachers have us all pile up in the back of our class. Not where the kitchen is, though. Back behind their desk."   

"Oh, yeah? And when do you do this?"  

"When they shut the lights and call out Lockdown,” his is eyes wide to mimic the importance of the command.  

Whispering now, he squeezes his shoulder up to his ears, and continues, "then we are supposed to be really really super quiet. So no one would guess we are still hiding in the room."   

"So, did you practice a lockdown today? Is that why you're asking about it?" 

Yep. They said we did a good job. But we need to work on being even quieter, and not moving at all." 

"Ok, um... Well, I bet you'll practice again..." 

Those last words are still stuck in my throat. I have no idea what I'm supposed to say to my 6 year old about having lockdown drills at school. I'm in no way prepared for this disturbingly innocent conversation.

Perhaps because there was such lightness to it, I'm still struggling to wrap my brain around this. 

My children are still so young, and we try to shield them from much of the ugliness and hatred in the world. I wouldn't think to begin a conversation about school shootings. 

So when my kid busted out the word lockdown it exposed my naiveté. When it comes to their safety, age is not a shield. Just as it would not protect them from a fire, their lack of years won't protect our children should someone decide to attack their school. 

Unlike the days when our parents learned to "duck and cover" (that wholly illogical method to protect yourself nuclear fallout), the sad truth is lockdown drills are teaching our children strategies that actually could save their lives if the unthinkable happens.

I hope they never have a reason to use this knowledge, and yet... How insane is it that I find myself relieved? Grateful, even. 

Maybe I should be feeling something different: Anger, sadness, I don't know. Instead, I find myself oddly reassured knowing the administrators and teachers at my kids' school are doing just what my mother always told me growing up: 

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When you don't know what to expect, hope for the best, then prepare for the worst.