How do I keep my daughter safe?
It’s a question I ponder a lot, and now I find myself thinking about it again with the unthinkable Newtown, Connecticut elementary school shootings that have left at least 26 people dead, most of them school children between the ages of five and 10.
I thought that today, on the eve of “PunditGirl’s” 13th birthday — firmly a middle-schooler — I would worry less about her than I did when she was a baby, a toddler, a preschooler. When she first started preschool, the Washington, D.C. area was terrorized with a series of shootings. Those sniper attacks changed the way all schools operated in our broad area, including Maryland and Virginia. Halloween pumpkin patch outings were cancelled. The always-open doors of the school our daughter attended were now locked during school hours. Those sniper shootings of a decade ago changed the way so many of us in our area thought about whether places were safe or not. I naively assumed that as our little girl grew older, we would worry less about her safety. But I’ve come to learn that the worries are just different.
To her great horror and seventh-grade embarrassment, her dad and I aren’t allowing her to walk alone with friends to busy shopping areas near our home, crossing extremely traffic-heavy avenues. I know every family has different rules and there are varying comfort levels depending on our respective life experiences when it comes to these decisions. But today it’s even more obvious that there are no guarantees that the places we think will be the most safe for our kids — like their schools — really are not.
The only lesson we have at this point from the Newtown shootings is this — we don’t know when or where tragedy or evil will strike. We can make the best decisions we can for our children and then we can only hope for the best. Like all other parents, we send our children to school each day thinking that’s the most safe decision we can make, and that when we get to the tween and teen parenting stage how we decide how much freedom we allow our kids depends on how safe we think they will be in various settings.
That has changed again today.
There are so many things that go into the mix when we each make decisions for our children and their safety. Today, there are two things that, even though they aren’t new, that need to be brought into the conversation again — access to guns and how we treat those with mental illnesses in our society. Conversations on both topics — and how the two intersect — get short shrift in our 24/7 cable, soundbite driven world. Will that change with the Newtown tragedy? Sadly, I doubt it.