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Back to School After Sandy Hook

Micah Player

It’s the last day of Kaia’s holiday break. It’s been an incredible two weeks with time away from work and school, the joy of Christmas, lots of giggles, and lots of hugs. It’s almost been enough to make me forget what happened on December 14th in Newtown. Almost.

My phone rang tonight as Kaia and I were playing in a fort we crafted with chairs and blankets. An unknown number. I answered to hear an automatic recording from Kaia’s school. A woman’s voice explained the precautions the school district has taken in light of the tragedy. My thoughts blurred as details of police guards and extra security measures were calmly explained. Promises of safety.

I hung up the phone as the recording ended and swept Kaia into my arms. She buried her face into my neck and tickled me. Surely she was expecting the carefree laughter that has become so commonplace recently; instead I turned my head to hide the sadness in my eyes. I’m scared, I thought to myself. Scared to send my child to school.

In hushed conversations with friends, I’ve talked about the benefits of homeschooling, debated gun control and mental health, and cried over the loss of 20 first graders. Now, faced with the first day of school looming like a black cloud, I realize that all the talk doesn’t change the simple truth that our children are not safe. Adam Lanza’s assault on Sandy Hook was not just that, it was an assault on every parent in this country. He’s a terrorist. And he hit us where it hurts most: our children. I doubt I will ever send Kaia off to school in the carefree manner of days past. Now I know what can happen. I know she's not safe. And if she’s not safe at school, where? In my arms, the voice in my head, desperate to escape the fear, repeats over and over. What kind of mother sends her daughter out in the world where bad things happen?

Every mother. We do it every day, and as our children grow, we’ll learn to let go a little more. I’m scared, but I know that part of protecting her is letting her bounce out the door tomorrow with a smile on her face. I can control that. Because you know who’s not afraid? Kaia. She doesn’t know about the scary man with guns who killed 20 kids in the same grade as her. She doesn’t know evil like that exists. She feels safe. I doubt a day will go by where parents don’t think about Newtown and shudder. A bit of our innocence is gone. But our children? They deserve more time. So bounce away sweet girl, but know that your mama’s arms are waiting for you when you get home. 

*illustration by Micah Player of Lately Lily 

What do you think? Were you nervous sending your child back to school today? Leave a comment to let us know!