This morning I took Sage and Sawyer to school, an hour before their classes began, for a flag ceremony honoring those who lost their lives in Newtown.
I have questioned myself since Friday, when I walked onto the elementary school campus – walked right on, as anyone can do. I stopped in the office to sign in, but I didn’t have to. No one would stop me from walking around, would question why I was there. Our campus is wide open. No one ever asks to see ID.
Kids eat lunch outside under a covered patio. That’s where I stopped first, to collect Sawyer.
“Wanna leave and go have lunch?” I asked.
We walked down the outside hallway – because in Southern California, schools are open air – and opened the always unlocked door. Sage and her classmates sat at their desks, still pushed together in the two big blocks we’d created for their Thanksgiving feast. They busily colored cards they created for their families.
My heart would’ve leapt through my chest. If it wasn’t already right in front of me, wearing sparkly jeans and shirt.
I couldn’t be without my kids that day. They asked why they got to leave early. And I told them, in the simplest words possible. Then we went to lunch and out for froyo.
I’ve questioned myself ever since. Should I have interrupted their schedule? Told them at all?
What happened in Newtown is difficult enough, impossible, for an adult to wrap a head around. My kids didn’t seem all that fazed. Because the reality, wasn’t, for them, and for that I’m grateful.
But should I have kept them sheltered? Did I need to share? I’ve seen all the posts, experts and parents weighing in on how to talk to kids about what happened. I’ve listened to other parents debate about whether – and what – to tell their own kids.
The things is, the way we process information isn’t at all how our kids do. We can ascribe certain emotions to them that we think they’ll feel, but it’s all through our own – adult – filter.
I don’t think my kids need a lot of details. But I don’t want to completely shelter them, either. Honesty without elaboration.
Sawyer and Sage were interested but not overly so. This morning Sage said she was glad it happened so far away and not here. And, in her mind, if it happened far away, then it CAN’T happen here.
What do I tell my kids to do if there’s someone shooting? Hide? Run? Play dead?
What do I tell them about living in a country where this happens? Where the unthinkable is, suddenly, knowable.
The flag ceremony was organized by the girls scouts and boy scouts. Sage is a Daisy. I asked the kids if they wanted to attend.
She got to help with the flag. A friend’s daughters came. The youngest, Sage’s age, stood next to me and I put my arm around her, needing to squeeze a young, beautiful child. In case she needed it. In case I needed it.
I went to first grade in the town right next to Newtown. We had a huge paper mache dinosaur in our room that had a recorded voice inside the teacher tried to convince us was real. I wasn’t fooled. But I loved that green dinosaur. That’s what I remember from first grade. What will my daughter remember?
The flag was raised all the way up, then lowered to half-staff.
We said the pledge.
We had a moment of silence.
A handful of teachers looked on. Parents. Kids. The principal and assistant principal.
And then it ended and we went back home for breakfast and packing lunches and gathering homework and backpacks.
Ready to start another normal day of elementary school.
But for me, nothing was normal.
Nothing at all.
Tags: talking to kids