The email subject from my daughter’s principal read Lockdown Drill PRACTICE. I saw the capitalized letters, but my heart had already dropped at the first word. Lockdown. My little kindergartener had practiced a lockdown. The tears were already forming in my eyes.
My daughter was safe. But I wasn’t there to keep her safe. My daughter has cried when our smoke alarm goes off. She has jumped when a public toilet or hand dryer is too loud. What had she done as her teachers ushered her into a bathroom and turned out the lights, telling her to stay silent? Was she trying to hold back her own tears as she followed the rules? Was she blissfully obedient, huddling with her new friends, seeing it as just another safety routine?
What had the teachers told her? What language had they used? Just how much did they explain about why this practice, very different from the outdoor fire drills, was even necessary?
My mind went back to Sandy Hook. My maternity leave had just ended a few days before. My daughter, then 4 months old, was safe with daycare providers. I remember crying. I remember the silence that filled the car when I picked my husband up from the train. He climbed into the back seat and just draped his body over our safe, innocently unaware daughter.
Becoming a parent changes everything. In high school, my best friend joked that I lived in Mariaville: Population 1. I was more than idealistic. I was ridiculously unrealistic. I dreamed of a world filled with peace, absent of weapons and wars. And if that couldn’t happen, I would move to the mountains to live amidst the rainbows and unicorns.
I cry because my head is no longer in the clouds. I understand why lockdown drills are necessary. We are simply protecting our children with reality. We can stagger what we reveal to our children about our unsafe world, but we must equip them with safety procedures. I cry because I trust whatever the school staff tells my daughter. I cry because I know the school will do whatever it must to keep my daughter safe.
My daughter is safe. She told me about how she held hands with a friend and a teacher, because she felt scared during the lockdown drill. And yet she recounted the details with no sadness or fear. It was another matter-of-fact story about her day. I’m sad that’s the reality, but she is safe, and that’s worth a good cry.