“Call me if you’re going to be later than eleven!” Mom yells when I’m hopping up the stairs three steps at a time.
This morning I brought my oldest boy to school very, very early so he could get on a bus and travel to Washington D.C. with his eighth grade history club.
I am excellent at saying goodbye to my children, so I’m a little surprised at this low-grade anxiety I’ve been afflicted with since 6 am. It’s not that I’m afraid something is actually going to happen to him. He’s a responsible kid and he’s got smart chaperones looking after him.
He’s not traveling anyplace overtly dangerous. He’s probably not going to be mown down by a semi-automatic rifle. He’s probably not going to cower in a bathroom, surrounding on all sides by the stench of fear that’s radiating off young bodies that were moments ago grooving and drinking and busy with the business of being young and alive. He’s probably not going to send me a text that goes, “Call the police. He’s coming. I love you. I’m going to die.” I know with my entire body except for a little corner of my stomach that he’s going to have an amazing time on this trip with his best friends during their last week of middle school. I know this, but it doesn’t stop me from feeling…off.
Too many times, my boys and I have these conversations about things happening in the world. I try to tell them the truth as I know it, and it’s never good enough. “If you ever see anyone being hurt by another person, help them. Be the Swede,” I say. And, “If someone is drunk, that’s your sign to get them home safely.” And, “There are bad people in the world. Stay away from them and if you can’t stay away from them, work to defeat them. Always fight evil.”
“What would you do if someone jumped in the car and shot me?” asks the youngest. Not every day, but some days this comes up. And sometimes I have no answer for that because I’m trying not to show my scary-ugly crying face. But mostly I tell him, I would get help. And I would scream. And I would save you.”
I try to balance truthful answers with reassurance—I don’t lie, but I rarely tell the entire truth. It’s too ugly. I don’t want them defeated before they even begin. We need them, this next generation who will have grown up in a world familiar with mass shootings, to solve our problems. Because the current generations are all sucking at it.
I have to go. B is calling down the stairs for me to come watch a movie. I love movie nights. I wish all of us were curling up together to watch this one, tonight. But it’s just B and I. It’s a little lonely.