“Are you in lockdown?”

An incident at school Wednesday, followed by a flurry of confusing text messages from my son, had me texting him this question:

“Are you in lockdown?”

IMG_2859I didn’t ask this frivolously. It was the only way I could think of to interpret the incoming messages. The only way I could figure out whether the incident he was describing occurred off school grounds or was happening in real time. And to determine whether he was in danger.

The magnitude of that exchange did not hit me until the next morning. This is where we are, folks. A place and time where I can text my child this question as a matter of course.

This is where we are.

Never in my life did I believe I would accept something so scary, so chilling, as a commonplace question. A practical means to an end.

Our kids are under siege. What the hell are we going to do about it?

As parents we suffer so many anxieties, worries, frustrations and fears. But that our kids will be shot in a school, mall or church? At a concert or movie? Seriously? That is not sane.

This isn’t a war-torn country. IMG_2858We don’t live in Somalia or Syria or Afghanistan. This is the United States of America. A country I still believe to be the greatest in the world. But a great country protects its future and we are not doing that. Why have we come so far and fought so hard if we’re willing to sacrifice our children to outdated and dangerous ideals?

I don’t have all the answer and I don’t believe this problem can be completely solved with stricter gun laws. But your gun vs. my kid? I don’t even have to draw a breath to respond to that one.

This is the real world where many of us live and I want you to see it and hear it. To think about the kid, my kid, who got THAT text and had to answer THAT question. To his mom. In the middle of his school day. And I want you to realize it could easily be yours tomorrow or next week or next month.

Lockdown isn’t normal. Active shooter drills aren’t normal. None of this is normal.

Please, oh God, please – don’t let this be the new normal.

 

Moon in the Morning

IMG_0597The day has launched itself in a typical fashion – a few schedule changes, an alarm clock not set. One child missed the bus, one didn’t have his homework done, the third misplaced something that doesn’t belong to him. It would be easy for me to fall into my typical everyone is out the door, what a relief, oh damn we’re out of coffee mood.

Missing the bus is a particularly painful circumstance. The drive to school requires more than the total time I usually have to shower, dress and get myself out the door.

For some reason, our high school was designed in a fashion that requires everyone to enter using a left turn. This is challenging by any account, but this is Minnesota so people wait patiently in the northbound lane until someone heading south stops all traffic in order to let them in. I kid you not. This waiting-and-pausing-traffic-unexpectedly is classic Minnesotan. Add to that the fact that a majority of the drivers entering the school are teenagers with varying degrees of driving skill and it makes for a traffic snarl worthy of a much larger city.

In addition, the drop-off area requires you to talk to a real person, a parking attendant, in order to pull in, drop your child and go. I wasn’t up for a chat with the nice young man since I was still in my pajamas. (Hey, I didn’t plan this errand, don’t judge.)

So I performed a parent cheat – dropped my daughter in an obscure area with the instruction, “Hike over to the front door. Have a nice day.”

As I maneuvered my way back out of this traffic jam, I could feel the day slipping away. It only takes one wrong move to start me down the slippery slope of slightly missed opportunities.

But as I headed west toward home, something caught my eye. The moon, round and full, features plainly visible, still hovering in the morning sky. Something about the way the daylight surrounded it seemed hopeful.

And then a bald eagle flew over my car. I’m sure it was a good sign.

Time to get my day on.

 

This is a Ready-Set-Done writing prompt from the Daily Post – ten minutes of free-writing. See other posts here.

What we learned in school this year

IMG_0664Now that we have a week of summer break under our belts, and the report cards have arrived with all their glorious news, I’ve taken some time to reflect on our school year and the valuable lessons we learned:

  • Physics: An object (such as a yogurt cup) when visited upon by a greater force (you sitting on it) will leak all over your backpack.
  • Band: It is generally advisable to bring your musical instrument home from school on the day of the band concert.
  • Shop: For best results, empty a pencil sharpener before you stow it in your backpack.
  • Health: Just because they use that language in the video, it doesn’t mean it’s appropriate for the school cafeteria.
  • Chemistry: If you leave fruit in your water bottle for three days, you can create alcohol, and on a related note…
  • Biology: A lunchbox containing food, when left at school for a week, will generate penicillin.
  • Literature: The Handmaid’s Tale is not an uplifting read, but you can get away with using profanity in your book report.
  • Technology: If you don’t keep an eye on your Instagram settings, your mother will make you spend an entire Saturday morning blocking all your followers.

That’s all today, class.

Online grades – or, ignorance is bliss

gradesWhen my daughter reached junior high, I was horrified to learn I could now view her grades – in real time – online. It presents me with a choice I don’t like. Do I micromanage the grades, or do I observe silently and let the kid learn lessons the hard way?

Well, truth is I can’t observe silently. It is not in my nature. This year, the elementary school grades are online, too, so the pressure ratchets up. Now I have the pleasure of viewing middle kid’s grades which is not nearly the heart-warming experience of viewing oldest kid’s grades.

But I do check the online grades, when I can bear it, and the result is either 1) A droning, boring speech from me about “not living up to one’s full potential,” or 2) A heated “dialog” that goes something like this (it is one-sided, me talking and the other party shrugging indifferently):

  • “Why is your assignment missing? I watched you complete it right here and pack it in your backpack! What happened to it between here and school?”
  • “Didn’t you study for that test? Why not? Didn’t you have a study guide? Where is it? Why didn’t you use it?”
  • “Do you know you have a (C or D) in (fill in the blank)? How are you going to bring your grade up?”
  • “How did you do so poorly on that test? I helped you study! You knew everything last night!”
  • “Cookies AND chips AND water? I’m not paying for water! What is wrong with you?”

Oops…sorry. That last one is what happens when I review the records of oldest kid’s school lunch purchases, also (most blessedly) online.

I admit, I’m the type of parent who prefers to meet with the teacher twice a year at the parent-teacher conference and nod and smile as they recount my child’s successes and transgressions. But I’m off to school conferences today. I may have a different opinion this evening.

What do you think? Is it an advantage to monitor your kids’ grades online? Or is it just another darn thing to do?