Yesterday there was a school shooting at a high school just miles from my home. A student entered the office, shot at the principal, and everyone else was made safe thanks to the heroic act of an assistant principal who tackled the boy. Not long afterwards, every parent in our district received a call about the incident, leaving all of us with one question: how do I parent through this?
We live in South Dakota. Sometimes loose cows and “duck disturbances” make Argus911 tweets. This isn’t to say that heartbreak and tragedy doesn’t strike here. It most certainly does. But to think that our area would make CNN for the unthinkable is probably something most of us never imagined to be true.
What was once “out there” became our reality. I saw screenshots on Facebook of texts received from a daughter thinking the gunman was near her only to find out it was the police yelling at them to put their hands up. I saw tear-stained pictures of families reunited. I saw hate spewed on the news story comments.
What isolation must that child gunman have been going through? What fear do the rest of the students face now? These questions wrecked me as I awaited getting my own girls from their school.
I’ll be the first to admit that I failed in telling my girls in the way that seemed most fit. Rather than rolling through the drive like I usually do to pick them up I parked so that I could give them a hug and tell them I loved them. This was good. But, in my head, I wanted to give them time to be the things a kids day should be made of. To tell me about their day and play with their friends and go to dance and then have an eye to eye discussion at supper.
I didn’t get that time. Before I knew it they knew (a piece) of the day’s details. I shuffled off the tap floor to sit in a dressing room and confirm with my girls that this world isn’t always kind. I watched darkness mask their eyes and life rip out innocence. The fact that the words were exiting my mouth felt surreal. The fact that others within the same space were more directly impacted suffocating.
And yet there was a peace. An expansion of trust I didn’t know would grow within horror. “Ask us anything,” we said. And they did.
Many of their questions we could not answer. This world is an imperfect place with broken people, and that became our crux. People can speculate why and verbally vomit opinions, but this debate gets us nowhere. It doesn’t help a boy who lacked ability to express himself without violence, and it most certainly doesn’t improve the future for our own kids.
I am on fire for love and connection with these young ones. They don’t need to know the storm within the gunman’s heart. They need to better understand how to handle their own.
“There is a lot we can’t explain,” we admitted, “but here’s what we know. No matter what you face, or what questions you have, or what temptations present, or what problem you feel a part of you can come to us because if we don’t work through our feelings all of us will snap in one way or another and do or say something we wish we could take back.”
It’s a fight for their heart that I’m realizing now more than ever will take diligent awareness of when they are just being quiet and when there is more behind the mask. It’s an awareness that we care and want to hear them that I will need to continue repeating. It’s a prayer-filled journey that can’t be done any way than on my knees.
Go home. Love your family.
I’m praying with you all as you face unique discussions in your own home relative to your position in the event. There will be no one size fits all approach. Just a whole lot of prayer that we can wisely think on the fly for more personal discussion we never imagined having.
After bedtime I went into the girls’ rooms to sneak a final kiss. My 8-year-old was awake. “Why are you still up, sweetie?,” I questioned. “I’m scared about school.” And thus I entered into the most prized moment of the whole day. The sharing that was unfolding and the time that I needed to make. Suddenly the time on the clock had no value. I climbed up into her top bunk (a feat in itself) and laid next to her, taking her hand. We spoke about how we know her principal, and office staff, and teacher loves her. I shared with her the rarity of this event (although Oregon already made me liar) and the beautiful heart of educators. Love that drove one administrator towards a gun and the bleeding principal to an intercom system to let them know he was okay and settle into their spirit that they would be too.
Before her lids fell I whispered, “I’m so glad we got to have this talk.” Something I’m sure I would NEVER have imagined myself saying only hours earlier. Then I worked my way down the ladder and reviewed an email of gratitude I sent to our office staff and my girls’ teachers who, I know, love them like their own. Once you get your littles to bed I challenge you to do the same.
May God usher us all through the moments.
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