On Monday there was a school shooting in my community. At a middle school. A twelve-year-old shot and killed a teacher, injured two other students, and then turned the gun on himself. I only know these details through snippets I’ve read on Facebook because I’m too upset to read full articles.
Last night, I received an email from the school district with information about how to talk to your children about the tragedy, and with links to helpful resources. I suddenly found myself asking my son if he had heard about what happened at the middle school.
He had. And he became very upset at the reminder.
As he crawled into my lap to shed some tears, I found myself getting upset too. Not just about the shooting, but about the fact that somebody had taken it upon herself to discuss it with my child. A teacher who has known my son for two months decided it was her responsibility to tell him.
I don’t think that was right.
As a parent, I believe it is my responsibility to decide what news items should and should not be discussed with my son. I chose not to tell him about the tragedy at Sandy Hook Elementary, and I was not planning on telling him about the middle school shooting.
My seven-year-old spends many nights lying in bed worrying that a robber is going to come into our house and hurt him. I have had more conversations than I can count about how we live in a safe neighborhood, how we have neighbors who look out for us, how we have a security guard drive through the complex a couple times a night. I have had to remind him that yes, I did remember to lock the door before bed.
I don’t believe I am sheltering him from reality. He knows that terrible and scary things happen. But why should he have to lie in bed worrying about whether someone is going to come to his school wielding a firearm? It’s terrible enough that these things are occurring in our society; why should it take away from my son’s childhood and childish thoughts?
I thought about transcribing our conversation here, as I’ve done with other topics, but I’ve come to the conclusion that I’m not ready. The conversation was difficult enough. Even remembering it is causing my eyes to water.
I’m not ready to live in a society where school shootings are commonplace. I’m not ready to live in a society where first graders have to worry about being gunned down at their school. I’m not ready to live in a society where children have access to firearms, parents can’t be bothered to teach gun safety, and they are too worried about home protection to keep everything locked up. I’m not ready to live in a society where I have to teach my son what to do in case someone comes to his school with a gun.
I’m not ready.
And I’m not ready for my son to think this is the society he lives in. Can’t I just let him be little and innocent and a bit naive for just a little bit longer?