I was half expecting to get a call on the automated school-alert system that classes would be canceled Monday at my son's elementary school. By Sunday night I did not receive a call and nothing ever changed on the school's website so I knew I would have to send my little man to school today.
I suppose it's better this way. Some children might not know and it would be hard to explain the sudden day off. I think a good portion of parents didn't clue their kids in. But Doodle Bug found out. Somewhere between Friday afternoon and Saturday morning he must have heard an adult conversation because he climbed in bed with me while I was napping Saturday (this pregnancy has me taking a dedicated hour long nap each day!) and asked me about "the shooter".
Holding back tears I tried to answer his questions as vaguely as possible, but he's a curious child and kept pressing for details. Eventually I told him that a lot of children and teachers had died because of an angry man with a gun. He seemed to take it all in stride, but asked why the man did it. We talked about how some people are "sick in their brains" and that they do things that don't make sense.
Doodle Bug was very concerned for the safety of his teacher and wanted to call her at home. I told him that it was her day off and she wouldn't like that. Instead, we drove past his school so that he could see that it was still there and safe.
This morning I was moving slow, cherishing our conversations over teeth brushing, lunch packing and shoe tying. So much so that he missed the bus. I can't say it was an accident. I was most definitely hesitating. Why? I don't know... perhaps fear of copy-cats? We live in a county with zero mental-health facilities and a lot of gun owners. If it can happen in western CT, I'm sure it can happen in western PA. My partner reminded me that I can't let my fears interrupt our son's day. I agreed and decided to drive him to school.
We scooted through the door just as the morning announcements were starting. Because my son is a special needs child, he is in a special wing of the school and I often walk him in. A lot of the staff know me and say "Hi" to my son. Today was only a shade different. The hall monitors and random staff members all offered a knowing nod and allowed through the hallways.
Doodle Bug lit up when he saw his teacher. She later told me that he was very attached to her today, but that she understood. Before I left, she pulled me aside to let me know that increased safety measures were being instituted and that I would have to sign-in at the front desk and get a visitors badge from now on before walking my son to his classroom.
We chatted for a moment, sharing tears for the lives lost at Sandy Hook Elementary and talking about how stressful the staff knew today would be. She shared that the principal had called an early staff meeting and that he had broke down twice while trying to make some announcements and cheer everyone up. Just before leaving his teacher assured me that in a situation like this, she wouldn't have minded a phone call from one of "her kids" and made sure I had her home number.
As I got to my car in the parking lot, I noticed a police car circle the lot and then stop near the flag pole. Three older children came outside to hoist up the American flag for the day. They raised it to half mast and then dashed inside. I noticed that the police man waited until the children were all locked back inside before he pulled away. Something about that made me feel a bit better.
When my son got off the bus that afternoon, he dumped his backpack like usual and I fished through it for homework, his empty lunch bag, and the communication journal that his teacher and I use to keep daily tabs on Doodle Bug's progress.
Today she wrote: "******* talked about CT often. He told me he wished 'the shooter woulded go to the doctor so the doctor could healed the bad guy's head.' I reassured him that he was safe here. He told me frequently that he missed me when he wasn't in school."
I'm lucky to be so close to Doodle Bug's teacher. I'm lucky that she feels a close bond with him and that he trusts her so much. It helps me to let go of his hand at times like this and I'm pretty sure it helps him too.
I hope your family is dealing with the repercussions of this tragedy in healthy ways and finding methods to cope and heal. Mine has been in avoiding news stories and, honestly, a lot of crying. Still. Every time I light a candle for this tragedy I end up sobbing. Maybe as a mother the loss of a child just hits too close to home. Maybe I'm 6 months pregnant and hormonal. Maybe I'm just human.