I am uncertain what to tell my daughters about the present state of our nation and world.
I give my daughters a kiss and hug from the front seat of the car each morning. They hop out and wave, walking past the police officer, who is posted at the crosswalk, and into a school that is like a Jewish summer camp. It’s warm and fuzzy; the teachers are more like your favorite aunt or uncle than school administrators. They fiercely protect their innocence.
So, is it my responsibility as a parent to pierce that bubble? Is it my job to plant a seed of fear by briefing them on current events?
In the winter of 2012, after the tragedy at Sandyhook Elementary School, the administrators at my daughters’ previous school decided to run a full lockdown drill without informing the parents first. They locked all of the doors, covered the windows with blackout paper, and instructed the children to huddle under their desks. They explained to them that if they were in the bathroom at the time the gunmen came through, they should stand up on the toilet seat and to be as quiet as possible.
My 7-year-old daughter came home crying that day. She held in her urine the entire day for fear of going to the bathroom and being shot. It took weeks of consoling conversations for me to send her to school without being terrified to go to the restroom.
Humans crave control and predictability. We need to feel prepared for what comes next, to know what comes next.
Sure, there are preventative measures that we can put in place, just like they do at my daughters’ current school — around the clock surveillance, police presence and planned, carefully executed drills. What I admire about the plan of action the school has taken is that they’ve done what they can without disrupting the children’s sense of security, preserving their innocence.
It is our job as the adults to guard them and to allow them to live their young lives without looking over their shoulder or above anytime they are in school or in a public place.
Of course, I want my daughters to grow up and be aware of the conditions around the world. I educate them on the plight of billions of people all over the world, and we do what we can to help them. I teach them about history — we are reading The Diary of Anne Frank as our bedtime story. They are waking up to the injustices throughout history while honing their empathic abilities (putting together care packages for the homeless, donating money to disaster relief and recovery agencies and giving their toys to children in need). As their mother, I’ve created a shaded lens appropriate for their growing hearts and minds while maintaining their purity.
I will not sit my daughters in front of the news or tell them details of the massacre in Las Vegas, because, no matter how prepared anyone was in that crowd to survive a crisis, there was nothing they could have done in those minutes. Crouch down we’re taught — well, the bullets were spraying from the sky. Run like hell we’re taught, with the rounds being fired from where they were, the people in the crowd were targets regardless.
And, here’s the thing we don’t want to accept: Lunacy is unpredictable, it exists and it always will. A deranged attacker will find his way in no matter what we do – into a fairground, or a bathroom stall — you are a target even if you get up on the toilet seat.
What we can do is continue living fully. We can continue to buy tickets to our favorite concerts. We can ride the subway and get on that airplane. We can sit outside along the street at our favorite café.
The intention of terrorism (domestic and international) is to provoke fear, to remind us that we are not in control and that we can be taken in any moment no matter how well-prepared we think we are.
I’ve read quite a few personal accounts from the Las Vegas attack and I noticed they all recount something similar. They all did the same thing as they were crouching down – each victim called or texted their family members to tell them that they loved them and goodbye.
That’s how we can prepare – continue to cherish each day and express our love as though we’d never have the opportunity to do it again. That’s what I do with my daughters every day before they get out of the car. That’s how I’m teaching them to live in this unpredictable world. ~Rebecca