By Sylvie Griffiths:
“I am afraid to go to school Mommy,” my youngest told me with a tear-streaked face. He had been complaining of a stomach ache every night since the school shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Even though I know someone directly affected, I had tried my best in the past week to not speak of my friend and his daughter (a student who was on campus during the horrific events) in front of the kids. However, I was constantly on social media last week, like so many of us were, feeling less and less great about my children’s safety when at school.
I vividly remember my oldest going to kindergarten. I was a mess and she was excited. I was not the only parent who was dismissed by their child. There were several of us; embarrassing overbearing parent snapping photos on their phones. Back then, I honestly never thought about my kids being unsafe at school. I worried about them getting strep throat when it was going around. I worried they would befriend the wrong kids. But never did I ever worry about them being shot at school. Today I received a copy of the video all children in my county will be viewing tomorrow about a “threat” at their school. I never had active shooter drills in elementary school, but my children have had them the last few years. They do not call them “active shooter drills”, by the way, but what the scenario involves. All four of my children, at some point in their academic lives, have been in a situation where their school was put on lock down due to a threat to their safety while in an educational environment. Again, this did not happen during my childhood.
When my youngest, Jake, said his stomach hurt, I was confident it was from worrying. He was diagnosed with anxiety just like both his parents recently by his therapist. He has a therapist ever since coming out as transgender. A major concern with transgender children is anxiety, it is more likely a child who identifies as transgender will have an anxiety diagnosis. But his gender identity played no part in these stomach aches. He was and is scared to go to school. He cries just talking about going when he is anxious; it’s heartbreaking as a parent because it is mirroring how I feel. What do I say to my child without lying? How do I hide my own fear about the situation? And do I lie to put his mind at ease?
I have decided to handle this day by day. I think at this point, everyone indirectly has been affected by these shootings; it is the terrible new norm in 2018. But do I want to live in fear and inspire my children to live a small, sheltered, fearful life? Absolutely not. I hope they travel. I hope they try new things and live life to the fullest. I hope they have long, love-filled existences within their lifetime.
After the safety drills and evacuations this week, with the viewing of a video detailing what to do in a situation involving an active shooter, Jake seems to feel better. He said a girl in his class cried during the drill because she was scared. He told me that he comforted her and told her what I told him, that this was to make sure they were safe. I was proud he made his classmate feel better and that his fear has subsided a bit. As parents, we often find delight in viewing the world through our children’s eyes; this is the first time I have shared the same fears as my children honestly. But as my heart breaks for the lives lost, and lives impacted, I try to envision a world without school shootings. Perhaps our children will be the generation to change the world and this is what gives me hope and perspective in such dark times.
About Sylvie Griffiths:
Sylvie is a happily married mother of four who enjoys writing, people and chocolate.
She is an Evaluation Associate and has a Bachelor’s Degree in Behavioral Healthcare-Adult Community Concentration, from the University of South Florida. She holds more than ten years of experience in performance assessment and behavioral health services and is currently enrolled as an MBA student at Springfield College, School of Professional and Continuing Studies.