I suppose I was in a lucky generation. At school we had tornado drills and fire drills, but I missed the “duck and cover” drills that my parents had to do at school, and I missed the “lockdown drills” that my children currently have to do.
I was free to have nightmares about my house burning down without any added baggage of larger terrors in the world.
Like most parents, I have a lot of feelings about this practice. On one hand, I understand the requirement living in our present day and age. On the other hand, I wonder if it actually provides any more usefulness in an emergency than the “duck and cover” drills would have provided if the actuality of a nuclear bomb had occurred. There are so many different variables, so many “what if’s”, that this drill might not end up being much help if the unthinkable did occur.
This year, I was very worried about my new kindergartener who already has trouble going to school. I was afraid that he would just find a new (huge) reason not to want to get out of the car in the morning. Frankly these drills also have a bit of that effect on me. Luckily he was blessed with a loving and understanding teacher, who presented the situation beautifully. He came home telling me that they practiced what they would do if there was ever a “tornado of butterflies” coming through the hallway. As he laughed, he told me that they would do the same thing if some baby tigers got loose in the school. He found the whole experience quite fun, and I was relieved, even as I was sad knowing that this innocence will be temporary.
My third grader, however, had a different experience. She didn’t realize it was a drill. I feel sure that her teachers did emphasize that it was a drill, but she doesn’t always process important details, and apparently this was one of them. So she was terrified. She told me that she was saying, “I’m too young to die”. She said she felt so scared that she was frozen. She didn’t realize it was a drill until it was all over. She then told me that she knew that if she was in the bathroom when this happened that she was supposed to lock the stall and stand on the toilet, and then said there was a chance that she would have to jump out of a window and asked if I be mad if she had to do that.
There are a million occasions as a mom that I have dreamed of putting my kids in a safe bubble and never letting them out, but this conversation made me seriously consider the practicality of going through with it.
For several days after school, they have wanted to play “lockdown drill.” They take turns being the teacher and reporting the threat level. Then they quickly close the blinds and gather up together quietly in the corner. I’m trained in play therapy, so I understand the use of play in children as they try to make sense of big things in the world, so I let it play out without interfering, but it hurt my heart. It hurts my heart to watch them go through it again and again and to have to know that this is part of their formative childhood experience.
This is not the reality that I want my children growing up in.
Being a parent is so hard. It is hard in a million different ways. But for me, I think that the growing understanding that I have to continue letting go in thousands of ways as they grow has got to be the hardest so far. The growing understanding that I have to send parts of my heart, parts that feel as much a physical part of me as my arms and legs, out into this terrifying world shatters me.