These Are The Days

Smart ~ Writer ~ Mom

Month: October 2015

What Do Pumpkin Patches, School Dances, and Active Shooter Drills Have In Common?

The answer is they are all things my school-age kids (and yours too) will participate in as “the norm” in school.

My little one will pick pumpkins at a local farm next week. She’s currently learning to trace the letters in her name, and she’s meeting local police and firefighters in our community this week. She’s four.

My older daughter will attend many school dances. She’ll join the debate team and eat stale pizza in the cafeteria. She’s eleven.

Both girls will also learn how to duck under their desks; follow their teachers to a safe spot or cram every body possible into a makeshift supply closet or restroom. And they will learn – God forbid – to play dead so the shooter will pass by their classroom.

Like you, I am heartbroken to hear of the latest school shooting. And hopefully like you, I am utterly disgusted that there is still no real, meaningful discussion and action to combat the stealth tactics of the highly influential gun lobby. Our priorities in this country are completely backwards. Don’t believe me? Just look at all the wasted time, money and energy spent on trying to overturn gay marriage. Shameful. Or how about Hillary’s email server? Or about Trump’s hair? Or for the love of all that is holy THE FREAKING KARDASHIANS? Perhaps if the Kardashians had an active shooter at their compound or wherever they graze, maybe then the conversation would start heating up.

I remember clearly the 2011 Active Shooter Drill at the community college campus in upstate New York, where I worked. We all knew it was coming. We all knew what we were supposed to do. But certain members of the campus community were pulled aside in advance – unbeknownst to everyone – and told to scream in the hallways, yell, pretend to be dead. Some were given professional makeovers to look like gun-shot victims. We heard shots. They sounded real.

It became painfully obvious to us all that certain “hiding spots” were woefully inadequate. I was to hide in our Marketing Director’s Office, which locked – but only from the outside and with a key. It also had a glass panel along the side of the door. Easy access for a shooter.

Our secretary was basically in a fish bowl, surrounded by glass and windows.

Some doors locked. Others didn’t. Some needed a key to lock. Some only locked from the outside. Too many details and not enough time when you’re under attack.

I’ll be honest, even though it was a simulation? It was still scary because we all knew that this was our new reality.

And of course, we all know what happened at the Oregon community college recently. One professor penned this fantastic letter. She is a writing professor, so of course it’s brilliant, but more than being a brilliant writer, this woman all out nails it.

Lawmakers are too scared to stand up to the gun lobby. I wonder if they realize their trepidation is nothing compared to the fear felt by kids and their parents when a gunman comes to their campus or their elementary school? School shootings have become the norm. THE NORM.

The answer is not more guns.
The answer is also not to take guns away from law-abiding citizens – I am not anti-gun.
I am anti-gun lobby. I am absolutely anti-NRA. And I am “anti-arrogant lawmakers who can’t see past their own money-lined wallets that the safety of our children is being compromised by their willful inaction.”

So what’s the answer? The answer is better regulation. Tighter security. And for goodness sake, the answer is to retro-fit classroom doors if they’re not already equipped to be locked from the inside. This is a simple fix.

An excerpt of the professor’s letter and the direct link to it:

“I could tell (my students) that your thoughts and prayers are with us. I could tell them we have your deepest sympathies. But I am teaching a class on argument, instructing my students on the importance of facts. So instead I will tell them the truth: They have to be prepared to hide out of the line of fire, and to fight for our survival, because you, our lawmakers, haven’t done your jobs. I will tell them that their rights, my rights, the rights of my 5-year-old, to attend school without fear of facing senseless slaughter by machine-gun fire, are not important to you, that we must be prepared to fight tooth and nail, stapler and whiteboard marker, because you refuse to fight the gun lobby in this country.

Blooming In the Mud

Here are the words I think of when you say Middle School.

Awkward. Weird. Lost. Pimples. Awkward. Lonely. Confused. Overwhelmed. Awkward.

Did I mention it was awkward? 

For me, middle school was “junior high school” and I didn’t actually go until I was in seventh grade. But my older daughter started this fall and it’s been an adjustment.

It’s all the stereotypes you can think of, but honestly, why did they all have to hit her at the same time?

My fashion queen feels out of place because the girls in our town seldom wear dresses or anything fancy. And by seldom, I mean NEVER. Picture day, she told me, was just a cacophony of loud complaints from the girls about the horrific outfits their parents insisted they wear. Ironically, she told me the boys are more fancy than the girls. No idea what that means.

Lunch has also been a bit of a nightmare. After finding a table with a few casual friends that she was making an effort to get to know better, a group of “popular” girls sat at the chairs at the opposite end.

You already know what they look like and sound like, don’t you?

They put their stake in the ground and loudly exclaimed that this was their table and my girl and her friends would have to find someplace else to sit. Now I’m not saying this happened to me when I was in junior high, but my reaction was visceral. When I asked her for names and descriptions of who these mean girls were, she just rolled her eyes and loudly sighed, “MOM…”

She and her friends stayed at the table and endured snickers and the side eye from these little bitches girls but the next day they approached lunch with a bit more caution. Which, of course, broke my heart because BULLYING.

Girls can be cruel.

Then there was a sixth grade school dance. No dates, just a chance to socialize and have fun. My girl came down the stairs dressed in a nice short sleeve dress. No make up. Flat shoes. Pretty hair. She rolled her eyes – but smiled – when I told her she looked adorbs. A hip mother, I am not.

I had a sneaking feeling no one else was going to be dressed up for this event. Unfortunately, I was right. She seemed to have fun, but she told me later that she felt out of place. As the caravan of cars inched my car closer to the pick up area, I could see her standing there. Alone. She called out to a girl she was trying to get to know better and waved to her. The girl half-heartedly waved her hand back.

Riding the bus is no picnic either. There is a girl down the street from us who is also new in town. She’s an eighth grader and the two of them seemed to hit it off, but the bus is separated by grades so the girls can’t sit together. Buses are stupid.

And the curse words she hears on the bus? She says they’re worse than what she hears me say. Which, when I stop to think about it, must be pretty bad. I’m trying to curb my language, but it’s hard man.

The two girls a few doors down from us are moving. These are the girls she befriended when we first moved in. They didn’t immediately click but they hung out a bit over the summer. They have very few things in common so I don’t think there will be any love lost there, but still. They move in two weeks.

She and I have had lots of talks lately and what I’ve realized is that she and I are very alike. She clicks better with adults than she does with kids her age. I always did too. She came with me to the eleventy billion birthday parties my four year old was invited to this summer (no exaggeration). All of the moms just raved about how grown-up / well-behaved / mature / smart / well-spoken she is. And that makes me proud. But she wants more.

I know that our job is to raise her to make good choices and be a good adult. And we make tons of mistakes, but overall I think we’re doing the right things. This move was hard on her, but she is a good kid and she’s trying to find her way. I just wish it wasn’t so difficult and muddy sometimes.

And then I got an email from her social studies teacher just this morning. It was a generic update to all parents, but I responded with a specific question about a project and she wrote back. She answered my question and then said, “You know, it’s a pleasure having your daughter in my class. She’s a lovely breath of fresh air.”


image from Pixabay

image from Pixabay



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