We like to say that we live in a bubble in our little city 26 miles southwest of Houston. We laugh when our streets stay dry while all around us a storm is dumping inches of rain. We know a lot of our neighbors. We feel sheltered and secure.
But yesterday the real world smacked a crack in that cozy cover. And it got me thinking about the important responsibilities of parenting.
Last Friday a rumor was sent flying though texts, tweets, and Facebook posts about a threat against my son’s high school. A warning had been written on a bench in the girls’ locker room to the effect that everyone would die at the school on October 3. Then this past Monday, a letter came home from the principal confirming what had happened. The school that had been educating my precious sons for seven years might be under attack.
Sidebar: I figured out that the kid knew this was a serious matter when he told me he had the letter. Normally, I would’ve found it scrunched in the bottom of his backpack at the end of the school year.
In that note and a subsequent e-mail, our principal assured us that our high school would be safe yesterday. Plus anyone who chose to stay home would have an unexcused absence. Then the Facebook posts started among the moms: Who was sending their child to school despite the threat?
In the scheme of things, an unexcused absence means nothing when your child’s safety is at stake . . . even for those of us who have a kid with enough absences that we’ve already gotten a letter from the school district warning us that nine per semester is the limit (the kid is at six). Add to that a son whose severe school anxiety has caused him to miss all those days (although he’s done well the last few weeks, thank goodness).
What’s a caring, cautious parent to do?
Here’s what I did: I sent my beloved baby boy to school after assuring him that I would never let him go if I thought his life was in danger. I told him to be sure to be aware of his surroundings and listen to what other kids were saying. If he ever hears anything that makes him uncomfortable, tell a teacher, counselor, or the principal. Do not hesitate to rat out someone!
Then I sat in my office and Photoshopped a bunch of pics of kids from his high school who performed at last week’s football game on the field, cheering, or with the band and dance team. And I prayed that all our innocent students were okay.
When my son returned home, he basically shrugged off his day. He said there were police officers all over the school, and that some kids stayed home. He had felt safe, and that’s all that mattered to me. Well, that and the fact that nothing bad had happened.
When I made the decision to let him go to school, I strongly considered that the person making the threat had actually named the day the event supposedly would occur. That’s fairly unusual; usually the element of surprise is a key component. Plus I figured that this would be the safest day for our kids to be in school due to all the security.
So was this much ado about nothing? I don’t think so. For me at least it made me realize that trying to keep my sons safe is extremely important to me. As much as I’d love to trap them in their own bubbles, I can’t protect them everywhere they go. I already have one son in San Antonio; next year, the younger one will be away from home, too. All I can do is pray every night for their safety and hope for the best.
We can try to repair that crack in our community’s bubble as we hope the threat-writing culprit is caught . . . but it will always be visible for us to see. Stay safe, my family and friends.