September 28, 2016

A Conversation

"Baby, there's something I want to tell you about. You're probably going to hear about it in school tomorrow, and I'd rather be the one to tell you. Can you put your book down for a sec?"

"Sure, Mom. What's up?"

"There was a school shooting today, up near Greenville. Near Clemson."

"A school shooting? What's that?"

"Like...someone took a gun, and used it, at a school."

"Did anyone die?"

"No, baby. It looks like everyone is going to live this time."

"This time? What? It happened there already?"

"No. I mean, not there. Not right there. But it's happened before. School shootings, I mean. And it's always awful, and it's always sad."

"But no one died?"

"No, baby. No one died."

"That's good. I'm glad."

"Me, too. But it reminds me to tell you something. I know you and your friends like lockdown drills. I know it's a chance to get away from your work, and get to giggle with your friends. But that's something you should really take seriously, baby. I want you to take it seriously, especially since I bet they'll have one this week."

"Why do we have the lockdown drills, Mommy?"

"For something just like what happened in Greenville. In case a bad person comes into the school one day and wants to hurt someone. If that happens, baby...if anything like it ever happens, I want you to do everything your teacher says. If you're not near a teacher, I want you to run as fast as you can. As fast as you do when you're trying to score a goal in a soccer game. I want you to find a hiding spot and make yourself as small and as quiet as possible, and I want you to hide until a policeman or a fireman comes and finds you. Or until I come and find you."

"But what if I can stop the bad man?"

"No. No, baby. You're still just a little thing. If someone wants to hurt people, you can't try to stop him. You can only hide. You can't be a hero. Not yet. You have to save yourself."

"Percy Jackson was just a kid until he was a hero."

"Percy Jackson was also Poseidon's child. Alas, you're just a normal kid. Unless there's something you're not telling me."

"Mo-om. Be serious."

"I'm very serious. I mean it. Don't think about heroics. Think about hiding."

"But what if Callie's there, too. Can I save Callie if she needs to be saved?"

"I...yes...I mean, I don't know. Of course you can save Callie, but then both of you have to hide. Hide until we find you."

"Mommy, is the bad person going to come to my school tomorrow?"

"No. No, honey, no. They caught him. You'll be safe at school. He was just a sad kid..."

"A kid?"

"Crap, no. not really. Um, crap? An older kid, okay? A much older kid. But he's caught and he'll get help and the kids at the school are okay and..."

"He was a teenager? Why would a teenager do that?"

"Oh, honey, I wish I knew. Why would anyone do anything like that? Why do people hurt each other? They'll find out reasons, I'm sure, and maybe they'll be sad reasons. There are always reasons why people do terrible things, but that doesn't make the things any less terrible, does it?"

"No. Not really. What kind of reasons?"

"Oh, babe. I don't know. Just reasons. Maybe someone hurt him. Maybe someone called him a name. That's why I always want you to be nice to everyone you meet. You never know if someone's having a bad day, if maybe you say something nice....maybe it'll help? You never know."

"Mommy, what if someone else bad comes to my school tomorrow? Will they hurt us?"

"No. Remember all the locks on the doors? And remember the policemen in the hallways? Like Officer Steve last year."

"And Officer Chris this year. He's really nice. He scared my teacher the other day and made her squeal!"

"Yes. Like Officer Chris, then. They're there to stop any bad guys, to keep them from hurting you crazy kids."

"Mommy, I don't understand why anyone would want to hurt us crazy kids."

"Me, either, baby. Here. Here's a tissue. Stop crying if you can. This story has an okay ending, right? The kids he hurt are going to be okay, and maybe someday he'll be okay too. Right?"

"Maybe. I wish it didn't happen."

"Me, too, baby."

"I wish we didn't have to have lockdown drills."

"Me, too, baby. But it's the world we live in, and remember...I'm always going to do my very best to keep you safe."

"I love you."

"I love you, too, honey. More than anything. More than the world."

"Hug?"

"Always and every day. I will always have a hug for you. Now smile, love, and go finish that book. Let Mommy worry about the bad guys. At least for today."