Processing the Texas Tragedy as a Hudson Valley Parent and Educator
I can't believe this happened again.
That's all I managed to say as the alert popped up on the screen of my cell phone, notifying me, and the rest of the world, of yet another mass shooting at an elementary school, claiming the lives of countless innocent children and their teachers.
Remembering Back to Sandy Hook, 2012
I can remember it like it was yesterday, a 20-something-year-old living in Western Massachusetts, working at a state college while also doing radio part-time. I was scheduled to be on the air that night hosting a specialty 'Nights at the North Pole' on the radio where kids were able to call up and leave their Christmas wishlist for Santa. We would take the calls from local kids and I would pass the word along to the big guy and air their wishlists on the radio.
How could I go into that studio, take calls from children, children who just like them, got up, went to school, but never made it home to make the call to their local radio station, and leave a message for Santa? What would I say over the air, how do I turn the microphone on without addressing the tragedy that happened just hours earlier? I called my boss, his boss, they struggled just as much as I did.
The show was tough, it was raw and emotional, but at that time I was just trying to make sense of it all as a human, not as a parent - and now that has changed.
Fast Forward to 2022, What Do I Say To My Daughter?
I've been a parent for almost seven years, and I'm no expert, in fact, most days I'm questioning how to 'do this right' - but on days like yesterday, there's no right, no guide to parenting that can prepare you for that.
Last night was quiet in our house, there was no 6 pm news on in the background while I finished cooking dinner, no radio blasting while we were outside as she was riding her bike, all intentional. Text messages in our family group chat went back and forth; myself, my sister, and my mom all currently work in the field of education, my mom and I at colleges, and my younger sister as an elementary school teacher:
My meeting was cancelled tomorrow morning because the clinical staff is meeting for crisis intervention.
What do we say? How do we say it? Do we say anything at all? How can these kids, our kids, little ones, understand what is going on when we can't even understand it ourselves?
I Said Nothing.
My daughter knew something was off last night, she didn't have to address it and neither did I. Because I wasn't sure how to approach it, I didn't say anything at all, and I'm not sure if that was the right thing to do or not.
This morning she got angry with me just before she got on the bus, stomping out the front door and down the driveway, but I quickly walked behind her to catch up, grabbing her hand even though she didn't want me to. In the back of my mind thinking that what if one of those parents in Texas had a morning yesterday similar to mine today, where their kid got on the bus upset at them.
Parent. Educator. Media Professional.
I wear multiple hats daily, and none of them are easy to put on today.
First, as a parent, I still don't know what I'll say when my six year old, a first grader, gets off the bus this afternoon. I imagine that there was some sort of discussion at school today, in her classroom, on the bus, at the playground. I feel like all I've been doing is googling resources and looking for ideas to help guide a conversation. The National Association of School Psychologists has a really good reference sheet about talking to children about violence, and I'm going to use that as a starting point.
Second, my educator hat, working with college-aged students at a local university. Now granted, these discussions are approached differently given these students are in their late teens and early twenties, and sadly, have grown up in a world where lockdown drills have always been part of the curriculum. However, the topic itself, no, not at all easier.
Finally, in my role here, working in media, what do we even say? The tragedy can't be all we talk about during our shows, it's much too heavy, but are we talking about it enough, how do we walk that line? Not easy either.
While I'm not looking to get into any debates with anyone surrounding politics, or the what if's, or the moving forwards, I just wanted to take some time to say that if you're asking yourself some of these same questions, you certainly aren't alone. As parents, educators, and most importantly as people, it's important to know that there are others that are feeling so many emotions right now, confused, vulnerable, scared, and I know for me it's reassuring to know that others can relate.