Not On The School Supply List...
I was on vacation -- away from the news and even from email while this tragedy played out -- so I didn't chime in with my classmates as they reacted on Facebook when the news broke. But once I checked in I found that though we were scattered across the country, my classmates went through similar emotions quickly -- surprise, grief, shock, shame, sympathy for the family -- even if mine were a week later.
However, perhaps most chilling to me, was the description of the parents banging on the gates outside the school, frantic to know if their children were okay, and one father's account where he said he had bought his daughter a cell phone because she had been in a lockdown situation due to a murder in middle school and he never wanted to go through that again, so now, at least, he had a text from her to know she was okay and not involved in the situation causing the lockdown at Gables High.
My God, I am still just adjusting to the fact that I am dropping my son off at Kindergarten, and now this is the kind of stuff I need to start thinking about? His preschool was at my church, a place I do some part-time web work for and have the keys to the building. It's still a big adjustment for me to take him to a building where I don't know every single adult and don't literally have the keys to the building. A place where it is actually against the rules for me to wander the halls. And now I have to wonder -- what if something really bad did happen, how would I know if my child were safe? Never before has anyone or anything been able to restrain me from seeing my son (just ask the nurses at the NICU), I can only imagine what it would be like to worry about him in a lockdown situation. Let's just add the fuel to the fire that I was a television reporter and I've seen a lot of the worst case scenarios of life -- it really doesn't do a lot for maternal sanity.My husband and I debate "When are we going to..." all the time. When will we take the kids to Disney World for the first time? When will we send the kids to stay with the grandparents without us? When will they be allowed to get a cell phone? Usually the questions are hypothetical and all in fun. Sometimes they are prompted by something a friend has said or done. But this news item that has hit so close to home really has me wondering -- is a cell phone closer in JavaBoy's future than I originally thought?
I have always thought a cell phone would come when I returned to the work force or if he ended up carpooling to afterschool activities some time in the distant future, but now I am thinking it may come sooner than I thought, if for nothing more than my peace of mind. He already plays around on mine, and he knows how to spell -- learning how to text a simple message to me would not be that hard for him. I've always been against cell phones for kids, but now I am beginning to see them less as gadgets and ways for them to talk to their friends and more as a potential piece of safety gear. In addition to being a communication device, I do like that cell phones can also be used as a GPS tracking device, you know, just in case...
The other day I actually had an opportunity to walk it the hallways of JavaBoy's school (wearing my visitor's pass, of course), and I noticed that they have vault-like metal doors that can be pulled to section off the school, I presume in case a lockdown is necessary. It made me both relieved and sad. I can see where that would be helpful in a sniper-like attack situation, but how awful that an elementary school would ever even need to consider that. And yet, in this day and age, if they didn't, they would probably be considered negligent -- it's a double-edged sword.
I wistfully long for the days when school supply shopping meant finding #2 pencils and knowing the difference between college-ruled vs. wide-ruled notebook paper -- not worrying about whether your child needs a way to communicate to you between bell rings and whether considering a bullet-proof backpack is over-reacting or simply being prudent.
This post is an original post for the DC Metro Moms Blog. When J.J. isn't obsessing about her children's safety, she blogs at Caffeine And a Prayer.
Photo © istockphoto.com/Iain Sarjeant