A season for reflection
Blew the deadline, saved the story

The kids are really all right.

The kids are all right - really!

April 12, 2016

By NATHALIE HARDY | Yamhill Valley News-Register

The kids are all right.

My baby was a few months into kindergarten when he shook me awake in the middle of the night to ask: “Mama! What do I do if there’s a shooter at school and we’re in lockdown and I’m in the bathroom? What do I do?” 

What? What? What?!

I don’t even remember what I said to calm him and get him back to sleep. But I know I didn’t sleep another wink the rest of that night and the next few afterward.

Even now, a few years after that shocking wake-up call, I can’t answer his question.

The best I can do is help my kids accept the reality that we don’t have all the answers, and that we can’t possibly be prepared for each and every possible scenario in advance. It’s just a limitation of being human.

But first, I had to really wrap my own mind around that reality. And then I had to figure out how to reconcile that truth with a core belief of mine that we cannot live well if we are constantly in fear of Something Bad Happening.

We now live in a world where children in schools, and many adults as well, are asked to participate in “active shooter” drills, in addition to earthquake drills, fire drills and the like. That doesn’t mean they have to live each night in fear of The Big One Happening, but it acknowledges possibilities dictating we be as prepared as possible.

And you know what? When Yamhill County took its turn in the national school shooting spotlight, it was for a threat being foiled rather than carried out.

That’s because kids did the right thing by alerting responsible adults and adults did the right thing by responding responsibly. Police and school officials worked collaboratively to ensure the safety of all, even though it meant taking heat for not being able to answer all questions immediately. 

Personally, I think Newberg’s recent brush with a potential school shooter situation represents a success story — at least in terms of awareness leading to a tragedy averted.

What breaks my heart is the presence of people so disconnected and disenfranchised they are capable of plotting and sometimes pulling off such atrocities in the first place. 

I can’t protect my kids from that, nor can I protect yours. But I can do my best to emphasize violence prevention.

I can talk to my kids about how their words and actions affect others. I can work with them on identifying issues they have with others and ways they can manage those conflicts. I can be honest with them about what is reasonable to expect from others and what is not.

My oldest son recently had to work through an incredibly awkward situation with a friend at school. In the course of that, I was told that he “had a right to always feel safe at school.” 

Well, I’m not sure that’s true, even though I dearly wish it were.

We all want kids to feel safe at school, and everywhere else for that matter. But I would argue it’s more important for them to know what to do, who to trust and where to go when they don’t feel safe.

I want kids to know who their trusted adults are. I want kids to know they aren’t alone in navigating the ever-changing terrain in the transition from child to youth to adult. 

Adults, hear this: They’re watching us very closely, even when they have their headphones on and their eyes seemingly locked on their cell phones. And get this: They care what we think. 

It’s disturbingly common among us adults to point fingers and find fault these days, both with the world in general and kids in particular. It’s common for us to pat ourselves on the back as we reflect on how we did things different and better, or at least “not as bad.”

To all of that, I channel my inner 15-year-old and say: Whatever.

You want to know what I see as today’s biggest problem? It’s people being so busy identifying what goes wrong that they fail to recognize and reward what goes right.

What our kids need, just like we did before them, and our parents before us, is people speaking truth to youth. They need to hear what’s right in the world, and that includes what’s right with them.

They need to know we believe in them and their capabilities. They need to hear us say, you kids are really all right. 

 

Hardy writes in the margins of her life raising two boys who understand deadlines come before dusting and juggling a fulltime job working with some pretty awesome young people all while breaking her “I don’t really like animals” rule to love their sweet puppy Scout.

 

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