As a parent of a first grader, I have been feeling very conflicted all weekend. Watching the news unfold about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary School on Friday was the most heart wrenching thing that I have ever experienced. I can’t even begin to imagine what it is like for the parents of all the children of the school, especially the parents of those who didn’t survive the vicious attack. I have been fervently praying for the Lord to be with them all weekend and as we are heading into a new school week I can’t shake the fact that this could have been any school, anyone’s children. How do we send our children off to school without feeling some kind of fear/anxiety about their safety? I keep telling myself over and over again that the likelihood of anything like that happening here, tomorrow or any day, is not probable. Then again, those parents sent their kids off to school on Friday never even beginning to imagine that this would happen to their children. It is nerve wracking that we live in a world where this kind of vicious attack is taking place. My heart aches for those families and for the children all over the world who live in fear for their own safety. I don’t want my child to have to know what it feels like to fear for her safety in any way.
I had originally intended on waiting to see if Gabbi would bring anything up about the attack today, and when she didn’t I had resolved at first to not say anything to her at all. The more I thought about it (and after talking briefly about with my mother – in – law, who also happens to be an educator and has worked in the public school system for many years) I decided that if she was going to hear anything about what happened Friday that it should be from me, and not some mouthy older kid on the school bus whose parents didn’t happen to monitor how much of the news they were catching this weekend. I didn’t want her to go to school being afraid, but I wanted her to be prepared for any comments that she might hear from other kids, to know the truth in a way appropriate for her age. So I went up to her room, crawled into her bed and began to explain to her just a small bit about what happened. I knew that she would ask questions, but I was unprepared for the level of questioning I received. What I had expected to be a short conversation lasted nearly an hour, with her asking questions like “If the mean person isn’t around anymore, do you think he is heaven?”, “Can you tell me how many people were hurt?”, “What did the parents do when they found out?”, “Why would someone want to do that?”, “How did he get in?”, mixed in amongst questions asking for details about names, ages, grade level of students and where the teachers were. I answered these as age appropriately as I could on the spot, and a lot of the answers I gave her were also a question like “I don’t know for sure how that part worked out, what do you think might have happened?” The conversation went great and she assured me that she wasn’t afraid to attend school in the morning. I was so glad that I had chosen to talk to her about it.
Then, after we prayed for all of the families that were affected on Friday and for the safety of all the students going to school in the morning, she laid one last question on me…
“Mom, you said that you knew I would be safe tomorrow when I leave in the morning. I know that I will be safe too. But, how do we know? How do we really know that we are safe all the time?”….
I sat back down and told her that in all honesty we can’t know all the time. I explained to her that no one but God knows what is around the corner, but that we can place our trust in Him to always know what is safe for us. She said that she was glad that God “had her back” (6 year olds…) and I told her that I was really glad too….
We want to protect our children all of the time, but the reality is that we just can’t. We can’t always know what is going to happen when they are away from us, we can’t even always know what will happen when they are with us. I am so grateful tonight that I am speaking to my child about what has happened, that I have her here to have this conversation with. I can’t imagine the grief of the parents in that small town in Connecticut tonight who are wishing that they had the same opportunity. To the families of Newtown, Connecticut, I pray that the Lord will be with you through this difficult time, that He will bring grace, comforting and peace to you as you begin to cope with what has happened.
I pray for the safety of all children as the enter in to the new school week tomorrow, and the safety of all school staff members as well.
Praise be to the God and Father of our Lord Jesus Christ, the Father of compassion and the God of all comfort, 4 who comforts us in all our troubles, so that we can comfort those in any trouble with the comfort we ourselves receive from God.
2 Corinthians 1:3-4
To all you parents of school aged children, how did you or how do you plan on handling this topic with your children?