How does a parent answer a child’s questions about school shootings? For instance: Why does this keep happening? Will it happen to me? If it does, will I be OK? Writer Meg Conley, a mother of three, describes the agony of not having all the answers:
After the second shooting at East High School, we started talking about homeschooling. It’s not the first time we’ve had the conversation. But my kids love lunchtime, talking in the halls, learning new things from new teachers, school plays and after-school clubs. Being separated from those things during the first year of the COVID-19 pandemic affected them in ways I still find frightening to contemplate. Forming community with people who are not part of their household is a vital part of their lives. There are just some things that can’t be replicated in the home.
One night in New York City, I sat in between my two oldest daughters as they watched their first Broadway play, Funny Girl. The play opened with Fanny Brice, played by Julie Benko, sitting in front of a mirror, looking at herself before she says, “Hello, gorgeous.” When she said those words, most of the audience knew what was coming, so they cheered. But my girls didn’t, so they politely clapped. I watched them watch the play, with wide eyes. By the end of the show, they loved Brice. They loved Benko. When she started to sing the reprise of “Don’t Rain on My Parade,” the girls understood what had been and what was coming. They cheered with everyone else. They became part of the community in that room.
We were wandering through the Met museum when my daughter got a text from another friend. It was just a link to a news story. Her middle school principal had gone to the media. There is a child at her school that was recently charged with attempted first-degree murder and illegal discharge of a firearm. That child doesn’t need incarceration; the child needs help. But teachers are not trained to give that help. The district rejected the school’s request that the student be moved to online schooling. Instead, the child goes to school every day and receives a daily pat down from untrained school staff before going to class. This student is on the same safety plan as the student who shot two deans before spring break. My daughter showed me the text and asked again, “What are we going to do?”
My two oldest girls went to see a preview of the new musical New York, New York with their dad that night. I stayed behind with their youngest sister. She’s too young for Broadway, but nearly old enough to be killed at school.