Trying to explain the unexplainable

Life Moments column
By Christine Bryant

This past week, I had a conversation with my daughter that many parents across this country had following the Parkland, Fla., school shooting.

It was a conversation I in no way wanted to have.

It was awkward, frustrating and difficult – and yet countless times through the five-minute conversation I had to remind myself that the discomfort I was feeling was far easier than what the families of 17 students were experiencing at that moment.

As my 6-year-old maintained eye contact with me, and nodded her head as I spoke, I thought that perhaps the words coming out of my mouth about what she should do if something bad were to happen at her school were resonating with her.

As a kindergarten student, though, there’s no possible way she fully could grasp my directions, which were shoddy at best.

I didn’t want to put the thought of a shooter in her mind. I don’t want to talk to my 6-year-old about guns and violence that could someday affect her and her classmates.

I reluctantly went down that path, however, not because I wanted to, but because I had to have that conversation with her. Like many parents I’m sure, I feel backed into a corner – that I don’t have a choice and that perhaps it’s not in any child’s best interest to look away and think that it could never happen here.

It broke my heart when her response to what I had to say was, “It’s OK, Mommy, if a shooter comes into the school, someone will just shoot the shooter.”

I don’t know what bothered me most – her naiveté, or the fact that in this day and age, her brain is already conditioned to think that a violent situation must require violence in order to end it.

I tried to explain that solutions to situations such as this aren’t that easy, and though help always comes, sometimes it’s not always there right away in the form of police officers and other emergency personnel.

There is other help nearby, however, as I explained to her. As my voice quivered, the best advice in that moment I could give her was to always listen to her teacher – that her teacher will protect her, and if her teacher tells her to run, to always run away from the bad sounds. If she can’t run, hide … in a closet or anywhere she can be quiet.

She replied with a simple, “OK,” and went back to watching her cartoon.

I left feeling even more helpless.

I can’t help but think about everyone who lost their lives Feb. 14, including the educators who gave their lives to protect the lives of their students, like geography teacher Scott Beigel.

Beigel was shot and killed after unlocking his door and letting students in to hide from the gunman. As he was attempting to re-lock the door, he was killed in the doorway.

Every teacher I know would have done the same.

Educators are heroes for many reasons, and we lost some of our heroes that day.

Though we can’t change what has happened, we can change what happens next. That begins with conversation – and a willingness to have that conversation.

It’s far too easy to hunker down in our beliefs, unwilling to waiver. It’s far more difficult to abandon what you know.

Our kids deserve that much.
Christine Bryant is a Messenger staff writer and columnist.

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