Did You Talk to Your Kids About Sandy Hook?

On Friday morning when I heard the news coming in on Facebook and Twitter about *another* school shooting, I honestly tried to pay as little attention to it as I could.  The first 24-48 hours of the news cycle on these events seems to be filled with lots of speculation rather than facts.  I get angry at the constant photos shown of the shooter.  I get emotional at the constant photos of the victims.  And I get zero answers, as if answers ever really come of these events.

When a friend on Facebook wrote that this was not the high school or college shooting massacre of the past but aimed at school children, I lost my emotional marbles.  I couldn’t grasp that someone would deliberatly go to an elementary school to murder children.  I was so tempted to drive to my son’s school, here in the Bay Area and thousands of miles away from Sandy Hook, to pull him from school.  I was tempted to live in the delusion that he’d be safer with me.  As if I had magical parenting powers that would keep him sheltered from all the bad things in this world, including mentally ill murderers.

Staying off of the television was an easy task on Friday afternoon after school pick-up.  We currently don’t have cable (or even consistent internet) as we just moved.  I tried my best to stay off Facebook and Twitter, but through out the day I’d find myself taking a quick peak and then ending up in a puddle of tears.  When stories of teachers protecting their class of children by hiding them in closets and bathrooms started to hit the media, I lost it yet again.  Without thinking, I started talking about it in front of my eight year old son.  Of course, he asked who was killed. What was I thinking???

I had no time to prepare a speech.  No time to think about his potential questions.  No time to make sure that I shared information without making him scared to go to school.  So I said the first thing I could think of:

“On the other side of the country, far away from here, a man who was very sick went to a school and shot some teachers and kids.  The man wasn’t sick like how you and I get a cold.  His was sick in his brain and he needed help.  But he didn’t get help in time before he hurt people.”

That was apparently more than my son needed.  He said “That’s sad,” and then went back to playing with his little brother.  I asked him if he had any questions; he said he didn’t.  The conversation was over.  He kept his innocence, I learned to keep my mouth shut in the presence of my children.

Later that night, when my dad came to pick up my kids for an impromptu sleep-over, I pulled my son over to me in a warm embrace.  And I whispered into his ear, “If you ever see a person with a gun, you run.  You run fast.  You run far.  If you can’t run, you hide.  You hide so well that no one can find you.  Do you understand?”

He nodded his head into my shoulder and squeezed me once more.  So much for preserving his innocence.

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