After Newtown Tragedy, My First-Grader Believes a Lie (and I'm Grateful)

Like many parents, I had a nearly overwhelming desire to go pick my child up from school last Friday. As the news of the horrific events in Newtown kept unfolding and the incomprehensible scope of the massacre became more clear, I kept thinking about how my son was -- right at that very moment -- sitting in a first-grade classroom much like the one in Sandy Hook.

The reason I didn't jump in my car and go grab my child from his school is because I thought ahead to the discussion we would have about the shootings. What sort of message would it send, I wondered, if I tried to reassure him his school was safe -- after I had arrived in a teary panic to take him home?

As it turns out, he hasn't shown any signs of worry that what happened in Newtown could happen where we live. It's partially because he's a young boy who can't fully comprehend this terrible tragedy, but it's also because he believes a lie … one that I'm happy to support.


We chose to talk to our 7-year-old about Newtown over the weekend. We presented facts, we talked about looking for the helpers, we talked about his school's safety measures. He absorbed the information and seemed to understand. He didn't ask many questions.

I wondered, though, if there were any undercurrents of anxiety we weren't seeing. Eventually I gently asked him if he was worried about anything bad happening in his own school, and he said he wasn't. "I'm not scared, because we do lockdown drills," he said. "I don't think other schools do those. We close the doors and cover the windows and we all sit in a special circle on the carpet and no one can make any noise, and that keeps the bad guys away."

Well. To be honest, my first inclination was to correct him. Not to frighten him, but … I don't know, I can't really explain it. I guess it felt almost disrespectful to not acknowledge that the children and teachers of Sandy Hook had surely done plenty of lockdown drills, and yet that didn't magically stop a deranged killer from doing what he did last Friday morning.

When I picture my child's classroom, I see a wooden door with a large glass window that opens to a hallway. I see the other side of the classroom, which faces the street -- it's all windows, including a glass door that leads outside. If a door were kicked or shot open, there is no place to hide inside the classroom itself. No cubbies or cupboards a child (much less all 20+ children) could fit into. No bathroom. Nothing.

But he believes that the lockdown drill the school does every so often -- the lights that go out, the windows that get covered with paper, the children that huddle together in one group as they wait for the all clear -- means that they'll be safe no matter what. He believes that his school is special in this way. And who am I to tell my sweet, trusting boy anything different?

How does your child feel about lockdown drills? Do they take comfort from doing them?

Image via tedeytan/Flickr

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