Parenting: Kindergarten Lock-down

September, 2013

On the way home from school yesterday, my five-year-old told me that the next day would include a “Lock Down Drill.”

“They are going to wock the doors and we have to hide and then Mr. A— is going to come and pretend he is a bad person and try to open all the doors. Wike someone who wants to steal our toys and games.”

I include his substitution of “W’s” for initial “L’s” because I want you to hear his sweet little voice. His sweet little voice saying, “We have to practice hiding while our principal pretends to be a crazed maniac with semi-automatic weapons, hell-bent on slaughtering children in their neighborhood elementary school.”

Yesterday as we worked on FJ’s homework with him at the dinner table, we remarked that we don’t remember having homework in Kindergarten. Pete said, “And I don’t think it inhibited our ability to become geniuses.” I’m not sure. Not about the genius part (we neither of us are, and that’s OK), but about the existence of Kindergarten homework in my past. My dim, foggy past. I don’t remember bringing home three-page, two-sided worksheets once a week when I was five, but I don’t remember a lot from when I was five.

I am pretty damn sure, however, that I didn’t have to submit to anything like a “Lock Down Drill.” I remember fire drills, where we all proceeded in lines out the door and into the playground across the street, divided by boys and girls. I vividly remember one girl in my line telling me I was in the wrong line. “I’m a girl,” I said. Yeah, that really sticks with me, but it wasn’t Kindergarten. More like third grade, perhaps. We worried about fire. Fire or tornadoes or other natural disasters. Not heavily-armed, demented vigilantes entering our schools and firing at will.

As Finn told me about the logistics of the drill, I felt a combination of anger and sadness threatening to manifest itself in tears as we walked the few short blocks home, but I didn’t want him to see that. I just told him that he needed to listen to what his teachers said and be sure that he did exactly what they told him to do.

After dinner, I related this to Pete, and FJ repeated his explanation of the drill. When he got to the part about his principal pretending to be someone else, I welled up. I managed to keep it from becoming a full-on weep, but I said to Pete, “I know it’s not necessarily the most rational response, but this makes me want to rail and rampage against the NRA.”

“You should,” Pete said.

“Yeah, mama. You should,” said FJ.

The end of the school year…

Prologue: A school in our community was slated for closure pending a school board vote. Recently in our neighborhood’s online forum, a member asked how we show our love for our neighborhood schools aside from showing up at a special meeting to discuss the closure. This forum is a bustling group of almost five thousand people, who will comment hundreds of times on a post about dog poop, but only twenty on a post about a school shutting down. It made me think about how we prioritize what matters in our lives and how we show love for the things we prize.

How do we show love for our neighborhood public schools?

We show love for our neighborhood public schools by enrolling our children in them.

We show love for our neighborhood schools by showing up at events and engaging the staff and the students.

We show love for our schools by choosing thoughtful and strategic action that benefits all our public school kids.

We show love for our neighborhood schools by having difficult conversations about race and class, and engaging in the tough self-examination that can help move us toward a more equitable culture.

We show love for our neighhorhood schools by building them into community hubs that are a resource for all.

We show love for our neighborhood schools by giving complexity the respect it deserves, understanding that we all want what is best for our kids, and many people work tirelessly for years to keep these vast organizations running.

We show love by taking responsibility, by not separating ourselves from the problems, by not placing blame, by offering practical and creative solutions.

We show love by caring all the time, not just when it’s exciting or popular but when it’s hard and ugly and boring, by working constructively when it’s uncomfortable and supporting families who need help.

We show love for our neighborhood public schools through intention; by listening to the harsh information with an open heart and mind; by recognizing allies and cultivating them.

We show love for our neighborhood public schools by voting for city council members, mayors, school boards, governors, and legislators who support public education and who will work to end the defunding of our schools.

But above all, we show love for our neighborhood public schools by enrolling our kids in them.