I have several friends who are teachers and even more who are parents of young children. One of them told me she had been like, Ummm, how ‘bout we never send our kids to school? after what happened in CT. One of my teacher friends told me how she had to talk about what to do in case of an emergency with her students. We could hide in the closet, they suggested. When she pointed out the presence of shelves in said closet, they were like, Remove them. And so the solution was matter-of-fact and easy as pie for them.
How heartbreaking that kids have to make plans like this. And yet they do – it’s simply their reality now. Yes, there are lots of developmental toys and other things that weren’t around when I was a kid, but although I never carried a cell phone in my backpack I didn’t worry about violence when I went to school, either. No matter how much parents might try to shield young ones from learning about the horrifyingly sad things that have happened of late, these kids sniff the fear in the air and plan accordingly.
I am no stranger to contingency planning. My most recent contingency plans have focused on physical preservation in the event of something happening and my limited capacity not allowing me to respond in an immediately helpful way. E.g. I planned how to slow myself down if my wheelchair went down a hill too fast and I usually have wall radar now – meaning I’m always aware of where the nearest wall is and try to stick close to it in case I lose my balance.
In the past, though, I used to think about if something happened to Mom and Dad when they were travelling. This was not me just thinking morbid thoughts, it was a very practical concern that led my parents to fly on two different planes whenever they trekked to the Far East. One year they went to S’pore/Malaysia during tax season and Tanpo told me, This (pointing to a stack of papers on the breakfast table) is what you take to the accountant if anything happens.
I remember thinking, Ummm…do we have to be so doom and gloom? But then I realized that my parents’ contingency planning wasn’t “doom and gloom” – it was just their way of facing logistical reality. Once I realized this I gave some thought to what I’d do in the event that something did happen. I started mentally listing my friends’ parents who I knew would be at my doorstep as soon as humanly possible if I ever called on them. Once I told myself the third or fourth couple’s name I stopped – it was enough – I knew I was all set.
That didn’t stop me from praying for the safe and uneventful return home of my own parents, but knowing that I had so many loving surrogates I could “borrow” from my friends made me feel secure. I figure that’s all we can do for these little kids who are confronted with issues of life and death when they should really be concerned about their next spelling test or remembering their multiplication tables. We can’t make the children in our lives exist in a safety bubble (even though I know some of you are trying :)) but we can love every one of them who comes into our sphere of influence.