As the news unfolded yesterday about the shooting at Sandy Hook Elementary School in Connecticut, my husband and I moved through our day in a state of increasing malaise. As more details emerged, the more sick we felt to our stomachs, and by mid day, we both had an overwhelming urge to drive to our sons’ schools and take them out early just so we could hold them in our arms.
Although we allowed them to finish out the day, we replayed in our minds the possibility of a dark, shadowy figure in fatigues shooting his way through the halls of our son’s elementary school, rolling through classroom after classroom in the building’s free-flowing, open-space design.
While there are doors to each entryway in the school, there are no doors on the classrooms and no way to lock down the school in an emergency if an intruder enters the building.
All it would take is for someone to blast through the front doors and it would literally be open season on those kids – just like on the ones at Sandy Hook Elementary.
It’s enough to make any parent crazy.
It’s also enough to put the fear of God in a child that going to school is no longer safe.
Birthday Parties and Santa Claus
On the way home from picking up our 8-year-old from school yesterday, my husband told me that he almost mentioned something to him about the shootings, but couldn’t bring himself to say anything.
“I asked Ian if he heard any news at school today,” my husband told me.
Our son answered his father’s question with another: “What do you mean, dad? News about a birthday party or something?”
I was relieved. Relieved that my husband didn’t say anything to him and relieved that the school didn’t either. Importantly though, I’m relieved – and grateful – that my son’s world up until this moment still consists of birthday parties and Santa Claus and not blood, bullets and scary men in black fatigues.
Still, there’s a good chance he might eventually hear about the shootings and ask us questions. And if and when that time comes, I pray that God gives us the words to explain to him why such gruesome things happen, even though we don’t quite understand them ourselves.
I know we can’t protect our son forever, just like we’ll eventually have to come clean on the whole Santa thing. But until that day comes, I will do my best to preserve his sweet little world of Legos, play dates and school days without fear.
Parents, what do you think? How much information is too much for a young child to handle?