My kid's school has the students practicing crazed-gunman drills now. At the sound of a particular code phrase over the intercom, all the kids are to stop, drop, and play dead.
And now I have to speak.
Folks, what happened in Connecticut on Friday is tragedy. And it's scary. So take a moment of silence for lives lost and families greiving. But please, when you've done that, take another one for yourself. Breathe in and out until you're doing it nice and steady. Don't think on your feet right now. Let's all make a conscious choice to act, not just react.
I would never suggest you shield kids from knowledge when this kind of thing happens. That's unwise and far from possible besides. Once upon a time, maybe you could just hide the newspaper. Maybe. But news travels faster than the speed of sound now. It's shared, liked, and retweeted; it filters into pockets and computer screens and tablets. And this time the president interrupted the football game, so everybody knows. Our communities are global now. And kids aren't dumb. Never have been.
Our dinner table conversation tonight began with our six-year-old explaining to us about the drill while my husband and I stared at each other over the top of his head. He told us about the kids who were killed in the other school. "And even six teachers!" he told us. Somehow the thought that bad things can happen to kids is easier for them to get their heads around than it is for us, I think.
So we talked. We talked about what happened. We talked about why guns are dangerous and why we never, ever touch them. We talked about mental health and we talked about police officers.
"How do you feel about all this stuff, kiddo?" my husband asks.
"The drill. And about what happened on Friday. And about the other stuff we've been talking about tonight."
Luke took a few minutes to collected his thoughts. Finally, he said, "I feel sad for the people who got hurt at the other school."
"I'm proud of you. Me too."
Folks, I think we all still need to breathe in and out right now. I know it's scary. I'm seeing gun control petitions flying around this week that no one has even read through once for spelling and complete sentences before pushing send. I'm all for stricter gun control, but we can't write legistation this way. You can't lead with only your heart. We have to use our heads. This is complicated and it has to be carefully thought through.
And drills where the kids play dead on command? This isn't going to make our schools safer. It's a knee-jerk, emotional response to a jacked-up situation, and what it's going to do is make our kids scared that monsters are going to plow though the classroom door any minute in the middle of algebra.
There are pile-ups on the freeway, but we still drive to work. There are contagious viruses floating around, but we still shake hands. And sometimes the big bad wolf knocks on a door, but we can't hide on the floor everytime the wind blows. We get up and live our lives. Let's try to teach our kids to do the same.
In and out, everybody. Let's breathe deep. We'll get though this. And once we do, then we can talk about how to act.