17 is my favorite number. It is also the number of people that were murdered on Wednesday.
14 is my daughter’s favorite number. February 14 was the day 17 people were murdered at their school. A day that our country celebrates love became the day 17 people were gunned down at school. A place that is designed to be a safe haven for learning became a massacre site.
That same day Hannah had a lock-down drill at her school. I received a notification from her school by e-mail, phone, and text. That day I was forced to face the reality of the potential for a school shooting at her school.
How do you talk to your daughter about that? My instinct was to just not talk to her about it. I would not mention the children that died at their school in Florida — I did not want her to worry about it. As I often find with parenting though, I am not in control of the things my daughter does and doesn’t learn about. We went to church for Ash Wednesday. With a heavy heart my pastor told us about the 17 people that were murdered. Hannah’s widened as she heard what he said and she cuddled into me as close as she could get. My arms will always feel like a safe place for her, even when the world is not. Oh how I envy that aspect of her childhood.
When we got home she told me about the lock-down drill and asked why they had to do it. She asked about the 17 people that were killed at their school and why it happened. My daughter is nine now, I can’t protect her from the reality and harshness of this world, we have to talk about these things.
“Oh sweet baby girl, we live in a broken world and bad things happen. Just like it is good for us to practice what we would do if there is a fire, it is good for us to practice what we would do if there is a shooter. The chances of a fire or a shooting happening at your school are small but you should still be prepared.”
“But mamma, why did we have to stay away from the windows?”
“That was just so people wouldn’t be able to look through the windows and see you honey.”
“But mamma, there are curtains in front of the windows.”
My heart sank as the lump in my chest grew larger. “Well honey, sometimes when people get into a school and want to hurt other people, they have guns. Bullets go through glass more easily than they go through walls. You stay away from the windows so you will be safe.”
And then silence as I sat there and held my daughter in my arms before bed. “I’m scared mommy.”
Me too sweet baby girl. Me too. Our country is scared right now. We want answers. We want change. We want to know that when we send our children to school they will be safe. We don’t want armed guards at the doors of our children’s schools, we want to live in a world where children are free to be children and to play and to be curious and to learn and to be wonderfully naïve about the harsh realities of our fractured country.
We are all scared.