This morning I had to drop off my 5th grader’s homework. Because, mom-life. And as I left the school I suddenly felt an overwhelming dread for my friend, Miriam who volunteers in the office. Miriam’s daughter and my younger son have been in school together since ECE. They are buddies, attend one-another’s birthday parties, and like to play together on the playground.

I thought about the button I just had to push to gain access to the school, the fact that I stopped into the office to grab a visitor’s badge even though I’d only be in and out, said good morning to Miriam and our amazing secretary Teresa, and saw the sweet little faces of all the kiddos settling in for the morning. And I thought to myself, What if Miriam had buzzed in a visitor who didn’t stop in the office for their badge, and when Miriam stepped out of the office to ask the visitor to come check in, he turned around with a gun. What if just for being a great mama and community member, sweet Miriam’s girls lost their mom, and a husband lost his wife, and parents and in-laws lost their daughter, and the hospital lost one of their best new nurses.

When our kids first started school I was horribly nervous about the “lock-down” and “lock-out” drills that had become the norm in schools across the country. As a kid we had fire drills, for sure, but this scary new world of drills was foreign to me and I didn’t have many tools to help my kiddos navigate what they were being drilled on. Their early teachers were great about telling a story to the littles about being quiet tiny little mice who have to hide and not make a peep until the teacher said the magic word. As they grew older, of course, they were exposed to more and more reality as well as the reality of what they were hiding from and why they had to be so quiet. Then one day, after a drill, my sweet young boys came home and said they were scared, what if someone came to their school with a gun? What would happen?

My answer was swift and full of confidence because it’s my job as their mama to be the rock for them, to let them know that it’s going to be ok, I’ll always protect them. I told them that they never had to worry, ever. Because I would find out about it right away, the news would get to the parents immediately, and all they needed to do was follow the instructions of their teachers and to know that mama was on her way and I was coming to get them, and there is no one I would let stand between them and me. I told them they didn’t have to be afraid, because their mama would be there and they could know that I was coming.

Truth is, I can’t protect them. I can’t protect them, or Miriam, or Teresa, or Ms. Brown, or Coach Howard, or their friends. I’m helpless against the nonsense and the violence. I have to pray that the drills prepare them from (heaven-forbid) the real thing. I have to leave them in the care of amazing people who have dedicated their lives to preparing the nation’s future, and cross my helpless fingers that it doesn’t happen here. Or at my niece and nephew’s school, or at my friends kids’ schools, or at my coworkers kids’ schools, or any damn school.

I’ll always tell my kids that they don’t have to be scared, because all they need to know is mama is on her way. And heaven knows I will be, but there’s nothing more than my vote that can actually help or protect them, and as far as I can see it, that has done nothing to help.

And while I tell my boys not to be scared, because mama is on her way and nothing can stop me. Truth is, I’m terrified.

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