In the 20 years that I have been a mom, I can honestly say that I have never been as frightened to send my kids back to school as I am now. I have spent a lot of time debating with myself on whether or not I should share my concerns about this with others and I came to the conclusion that it’s something that deserves attention and more conversation so the risk of negative feedback is worth it to me.
This year, I have one starting high school and one starting in a three year old special needs program. As the time for them to start draws near, I am increasingly becoming more anxious. On the outside I smile as I help them prepare for their first day, but on the inside I am drowning in my own desperation to find a way to protect them and I feel helpless.
Don’t get me wrong, I have always had some level of anxiety with the start of each new school year, especially during the elementary years. However, this year I find myself in new territory and with justifiable increased concern. My fears are two-fold really.
To start with, this is the first time I have sent one of my children to school at just three years old. It’s also the first time I have sent one of my children into a special needs program, the first time I’ve sent one of them to school without being potty trained, and the first time I’ve ever sent one to school who is still considered non-verbal.
I think any mom in this situation would feel extremely nervous, but with all of the stories over the past few years of abuse of special needs children in school and on busses, my fears have unfortunately been intensified.
My youngest baby has autism so he sees the world a little differently than others and he has some learning delays. My mind knows this program is what’s best for him, but my heart continues to remind me that he cannot come home and tell me if someone hurts him. He can not tell me anything that happens.
When it comes to school and giving my son the best chance that I can, I am counting on those who are with him during the day to protect him. It’s the only choice I have, but I have seen that trust broken with other parents more times than I should have so yes, I absolutely fear for my little one’s safety.
Then there’s the possibility of school shootings which has continuously become more prevalent over the passing years. Even with this continued threat and the extreme number of tragic losses from this horrifying problem over the years, many states and schools have not made adequate changes. Instead, stores are now selling bullet-proof book bags.
Imagine that. Instead of finding a way to prevent the deaths of innocent children in a place that they are required to attend per our own laws, our society is telling children that they are responsible for protecting themselves. This is our reality now.
My oldest is going to a much larger school this year which increases the risk of her being put in an active shooter situation. Just putting these words into writing makes my blood boil and my stomach churn with nausea. I asked my daughter last weekend to use a bullet-proof book bag this year for school instead of her preferred stylish bags.
My sweet and extremely intelligent girl, whom I have always taught to be herself and not let the world change her, looked into my eyes and said “Mom, that’s not something I should have to worry about.”
I had to look away to keep myself from breaking down right in front of her. She was 100% right. How did we come to this? How has this become the norm and the accepted response to the murder of our children in this country? As the adults we are supposed to protect them, but instead we are failing them.
Going to school is supposed to be an exciting, fun, and safe experience for our children. For those children who know what’s going on in this world, it’s not anymore. For parents like me, it has become one of the most terrifying places to send my kids. Every morning I pray for their safety and I keep my phone in my hand at all times throughout the day just waiting for that call that is becoming increasingly more inevitable with every passing year.
Sending my children to school is no longer exciting for me. It is frightening. If you are frightened as well, know that you are not alone. It’s OK to be afraid for our babies. It’s what makes us human and good parents. However, I have not given up hope that together, we WILL find a way to make our schools safe for our children. I have faith that you haven’t given up hope either.