He reached out and put his little hand on my chest, feeling for my heart, seeking the truth in the pulsing. If he could feel the life pumping through my veins, he could believe me when I answered, “Mommy, am I safe?”
“Yes, my sweet handsome, ” I promised as I knelt next to his bed, pushing his soft blond hair from his forehead, watching his eyes hold mine. He waited for a blink and let his eyes drift softly closed when he was confident I wasn’t lying. “Are you sure?” he whispered, his lips not fully closing again, lulled by my hands on his face, his hand still holding fast to my heart, willing each beat to keep its promise.
“I’m sure.” I swore, knowing full well that hundreds of mothers before me have wished, have prayed the very same over their children, only to be proven wrong.
This child, my sweet, sensitive one crawls under the covers tonight reliving today’s school ‘Intruder Drill’: a painful, but now necessary step our schools must take because it has happened one…two…five…ten…twenty times too many and now? It isn’t simply law enforcement and our teachers who must know how to behave in case of this type of emergency, but our children. The smallest among us must now be told where to go, how to hide, and what to do in case someone intrudes, in case the school must go in to a lockdown.
It is no longer simply ‘stop drop and roll’, or jumping from your desk when the alarm sounds, diving underneath to cover the base of your skull and neck in case of an earthquake (my West Coast upbringing included that little gem courtesy of Mother Nature), but rather preparing for something, or what SOMEONE might choose to do. We aren’t talking about an accident, we’re preparing our children for the possibility of danger: a danger that has invaded our schools more than twenty times since Columbine.
I looked him in the face tonight and told him he was safe. But I have no doubt that parents of children at Santana High School, Red Lake Senior High, Sandy Hook or Sparks Middle School all believed the very same thing.
I feel as thought I’m walking a tightrope, caught somewhere between the idyllic, June Cleaver-ish, “Here? Oh my HEAVENS…that type of things could never happen here!” (which, in my brain, ironically seems to BEG for something awful to happen) and drifting to the other side – the panic of constantly looking over my shoulder and forever locking my children in a bubble to protect them from the world.
So, I surrender to trust.
I can’t and I won’t live in a state of fear, and I won’t allow it for my small dude either, but it breaks my heart that there is something in him, in my sensitive one that knows the drill falls in to a real life category. He allows me to placate him, to reassure him that he is safe, that the drills are to reassure him that his teachers are there to protect him, but I can read the questions in his eyes. His old soul bounces the ‘what-ifs’ around his brain somehow growing up so much faster than I want, but placing his faith in me, in his Daddy, in his school.
“Ok, Mommy. You’ll keep me safe, Mommy. They’ll keep me safe, Mommy.”
And yet, it was 5am this morning as he pushed his little body flush against mine, feet, stomach, hands, neck…all seeking comfort… finding it only in touch: “Mommy…. I had a nightmare….” refusing to tell me what happened.
I promise, Buddy…. I promise. I’m here. You’re safe.