Matt’s eating sugary cereal, because Jon stopped at the store and got Cookie Crisp after practice last night. Mae is working on spelling words. “E-X-P…does it have an A or and O?” she asks. “Sound it out” I tell her. “Sound it out. E x p l oooo de. Explode. Say it a few times before you write it down.” I’m feeding the dog. Not sure if he pooped. He can poop later. The coffee is done. Jon pours his cup and he’s out. I’m working from home today. We have four minutes to get out the door. I’m driving them to school. We made the bus on the first day of a school and it all went down from there. I have that meeting about that video. I’m not prepared. We have to go or I’m going to be dialing in late. We rush out to my Subaru that has zero gas left. The kids pile in. “Everybody got their stuff? You got what you need?” They assess their belongings and give a collective “Yep!” We’re off. For a moment it’s silent and then Mae asks, “Mom, we have that drill. What’s it called? When the guy comes in and you have to run, fight him, or hide?” I look in the rearview mirror and say, “A lockdown drill.” I know they have a drill planned because the Assistant Principal sent out a message. “Yeah, we have to practice trying to think of where we would run, and then if we can’t run we have to hide, and then if we can’t hide we have to fight.” I’m watching her in the rearview mirror. “When is the drill happening?” I ask. “Next week.” Matt says. “How do you guys feel about that?” I ask. They are silent, thinking. Mae leans forward to catch my eyes in the mirror at the stoplight. “It scares me,” she says quietly. My stomach drops. I’m angry and sad. I wish I could pull over. “Why?” I ask, even though I know why. “Because what if the guy shoots everybody, or we try to throw something at him and he shoots us?” As she speaks, I keep thinking she’s only eight. She’s only been in this world for eight years. “I would throw my trumpet at him and then all of us would tackle him and punch him in the balls.” Matt says with a cautious confidence as he leans in to catch my eyes. They’re both looking to me for an answer, gravitating towards me, catching my eyes in the mirror. They want me to help them understand. Our drive to school is only three minutes. How can I say all I want to say to them in three minutes? I can’t. “It’s OK to be scared. It’s scary to think of that happening. But it’s good to know that you can beat the bad guy and there will always be more of you good guys than bad guys.” I tell them this and for a moment, I imagine them trying to fight for their lives. I stop the thoughts. One more turn and we’re already in the drop off line. I keep thinking of how young they are and how unfair it is that they have to see and know so many awful things. I hate how fast they can get information and imagery that can stay with them forever. I think of my time in grade school. The drills we had were fire drills and tornado drills. Even though we had plenty of preparation, I still remember when the alarm went off for the drill adrenaline and fear would flood my body. The thought of what a fire or tornado could do was paralyzing. It was terrifying. I think of my children dealing with an actual monster. A real monster come to life opening fire on their friends and teachers. I think of their thoughts and it’s so sick, and sad, and scary, but it’s a reality. I have an eight year old who believes in unicorns and she has to practice running, hiding, or fighting monsters. All I could think of was that they are surrounded by good people. That everyone inside their little school was good. “You are surrounded by good people that love you. Everyone around you in your life loves you. They’ll always help you.” I tell them this and want to go on and on, but I don’t know what else to say and I don’t want to make it more scary. We pull around to the drop off area and Mae scans the line of cars. “Cecila’s mom is a good guy. Mrs. White is a good guy. Mrs. Yee is good. That guy over there is a good guy.” Matt chimes in. “Mr. Cohn is a good guy and he loves Star Wars, so he would be good at fighting bad guys.” Mae continues her survey of the schoolyard as we make our way around. “My friends are all good guys. Doctor Conway is a good guy, and the bus drivers are good guys. Mrs. Blake is good and Mrs. O’Donnell is good. The lunch people are good.” Matt adds on, “Mrs. Sheridan is good and Mr. Smith is good at music and he’s a good guy.” We’re out of time. They gather their things to exit the car. I turn back and tell them how much I love them and to keep counting all the good guys.
And that’s how they start their day.
I drive away getting the sick feeling you get when you allow yourself to think the very worst; of something bad happening to them. Of anything bad ever happening to someone you love. I stop myself and think of all the good things in my life. Of all the good things my children have surrounding them. Of all the good things that are to come. Of all the joy and goodness they bring and that living has brought. I think of the good over and over and over again. Because let’s face it, if we all thought about all the bad things all the time, none of us would dare live.
You can always find the good, even in the darkest place the good guys are all around.