I started with these words:
I want you to know that you are safe.
Sitting on my daughter's bed with her door closed I talked to her about fire drills and lockdown drills. I told her how her school practiced these things because sometimes, so very rarely, but sometimes a school somewhere will have to deal with a real fire or a real situation when the children may not be safe.
I told her how some people are the kind of sick that they can't make good judgement calls. They can't tell real life from fiction. They can't handle their anger or their imaginations or their fears and they do a terrible, terrible thing. That happened Friday in a school in Connecticut.
I told her that he was dead now, too, and he can't hurt anyone else. I told her that the reason I was crying was because I was sad that there are mommies and daddies who awoke that morning without their little Brendans so she could understand what the loss of those lives mean in relation to her.
I told her I was not crying because I didn't feel she was safe or because I was scared.
I told her I was not scared.
I told her I knew we were safe. I was not going to be honest about that with her and I am comfortable with that decision. All she needed to know beyond what had happened and what other kids would talk about, was that she was going to be just fine because I said so. She would believe me at least for now.
Then she began to cry, too. I asked her if she was crying because she was frightened. She nodded, yes, and the big tears dropped on her blanket as she moved her head. I asked her if she was crying because she was sad. She nodded again and her Pajamas darkened with the drops. I said that those were feelings that made sense. I asked her if she had other feelings, too, and could see her inwardly ask herself that, and then she shook her head no.
I told her the reason I shared this terrible story I wished I never had to ever share was because children talk about what they hear.
I told her that she could not share this with a child. That she could talk to me and dad and teachers and the nurse and the principal- any adult she feels comfortable with, she can share this, but not with the children of her class nor with her brother and sister.
I told her she was older and knew things that the younger kids should not, not that I felt it was fair she should know this. It was just like when we talked puberty- other moms and dads share that information with their kids when they are ready and it was not right for someone else to do that.
I also told her that if other children talked about it she could say she had heard the news, but that there really wasn't any reason for her to say any more about it other than how she felt.
I told her I loved her and I hugged her and I hugged her again and told her, again, that I loved her.
I told her I could tell she was in a safe school and a safe environment and that I was so happy about that.
I told her that the Head of the schools even emailed us all to remind us how safe we are and she nodded at that because he was the man in charge and he felt good about it all.
My husband and I looked at each other with zombie eyes. We held our children more and we put our Kindergartener on our laps way more than usual as he laughed and drew pictures and breathed life.
My former First Grade assistant teacher and friend emailed me. We had been out of touch for a while, but this horrendous day threw us back together sharing a memory of working through 9/11. I don't know if that makes sense. But I felt that day's fear all around me and then she emailed me to say the same thing and I knew it made sense. The need to keep calm and shepherd children. But I cannot fathom doing that while hearing gunshots repeatedly in the next room. For the work day, we could just lower the shade to keep out the picture, close the window to keep out the smell, keep our faces clear as we handed the children to their parents as they made their way to the school.
But, I digress.
I wonder when her questions will start?
I wonder what they will be?
I can only hope I will have the right words. I will keep telling her that she is safe.
I just never thought those words could be a lie.