A First-grader’s Account of a School Lockdown Drill

I wrote the following Facebook post last night, and it sparked a discussion that I’d like to continue here:

At dinner tonight, here are the sad, inevitable, horrifying words that spilled out of my first-grader’s mouth, four days into the school year (being a writer, I couldn’t help but discreetly take notes as he talked). I’m sharing them because I think they’re important–whether your own child says them out loud or not:

“There’s one thing about my school that makes me not want to go back. It’s this thing called a hard lockdown where in case there’s a bad guy in the school who wants to take a child or has a gun we have to go into the bathroom. And we have to be quiet for like three hours. Well, sometimes it might just be ten minutes but sometimes it might take a lot of hours. And we have to face the bathroom door and sing a quiet song so he doesn’t hear us.

“But our teacher said he’d have to get through her first. And we have like 19 kids in our classroom, and we could tackle him, too, couldn’t we? Kids can tackle adults. There are 19 of us. We could do it, right?

Photo Credit: BRETT MYERS/Youth Radio

Photo Credit: BRETT MYERS/Youth Radio

“I was so good and happy in school, in kindergarten and the first part of first grade, until they talked about the hard lockdowns. I thought that it would happen.

“But I guess it never happened in kindergarten and that was a whole year.”

When my son finished talking, I told him: “Just like they need to prepare you for tornadoes and fires, they need to prepare you for this. And just like with tornadoes and fires, it’s very unlikely it will ever happen. There are some bad people in the world, so we need to be prepared, but there are many, many more good people.”

The Facebook discussion brought up a whole host of questions: Why weren’t parents told about the drill? What is the right way to prepare children for the very rare possibility an armed nut will enter their school? How do we talk about it afterward with our children? What role do parents play in school drills? What details do children need to know? Should it even be called a “lockdown”?

Please join the conversation and let me know your thoughts in the comments below–has your child had a similar drill? What is your school’s policy regarding parent notification? What words do you use with your child when talking about it? Does your school have a discussion with children after the drill?

Counting Change

There’s definitely been something about this year.

I don’t know if midlife crises find us, or if we find them through several culminating, transforming experiences.

Either way, I think I’m in one. Though CRISIS is the wrong word. Much too harsh. Maybe it’s a Mid-life Growth Spurt. Maybe I’ve finally become an adult and this is what it feels like. I thought it happened when I had my first child, but maybe that was just the dig that set it all up—the planting that’s been watered and sunned over the last six years.

This year–I’ll use the school year in this sense–started with my daughter transitioning to a Big Girl Bed and leaving her crib behind. The ends of things have always saddened me, I wrote at the time.

Then my son entered kindergarten. There were times I couldn’t wait for my children to enter school. This, in a nutshell, is the cruel joke of parenthood. I am now, and forever will be, in a constant struggle for space and independence, coupled with lonesomeness in the moments I find it.

I’ve never seen the movie To Gillian on Her 37th Birthday, but I thought of that title several times over the last year. Thirty-seven was a big one for me. My year of changes, of feeling older, of seeing the end of the road. That sounds exaggerated, over-wrought. But it’s true. I see that there’s an end to this. I never could before, in that wonderful way of childhood and young adulthood, invincibility and joy. Now, I see that time does indeed fly with great big wings. I know when I am seventy I will look back on today and see softer edges, illuminated by the glow that the past inevitably holds for me. And I will think, “Man, that went fast.”

I turned 38 in February. Unfortunately, whatever black magic 37 possessed did not disappear instantaneously.

It was in that mindset, in April of this year of change, that I found out I’m BRCA positive–I have “the cancer gene,” the BRCA mutation, whatever of the various names for this relatively new diagnosis. I therefore have a much greater chance than the general population of having certain types of cancer, namely breast and ovarian. But also pancreatic, skin, and possibly lung and cervical. And who knows what else; it seems so new and good studies are long and slow, that nothing feels solid. Then again, I’ve been in a bit of denial and I’ve pushed it all off, which is unlike me. But I was diagnosed two weeks before my first book was published and I was determined to keep it at bay until after I could celebrate for awhile.

Well, my book tour is over so now’s the time, I suppose. (Though let’s be honest, there’s no way I’m putting my book too far in the background when it’s less than two months old; it still needs some motherly love.) My sister, also positive (which is actually misleading because in our cases, we don’t even have the gene; it’s missing from our DNA), dove in and learned all she could about the gene and our options. I had a “meeting” with her the other night to get up to speed. I felt slightly numb the entire time we talked, as I have pretty much since I found out.

Once in the car, though, a simple sight broke me: I drove past a father and daughter playing softball in a field. The father pitched to the daughter and she swung the bat  just as I passed and I could have sworn it was me and my father twenty-five years ago. And then time and motion and adulthood and childhood and joy and melancholy converged, and I cried all the way home.

There have been light moments—my sister and I laughed today as we talked about getting double mastectomies together and found ourselves saying things like, “December, maybe? I don’t know, when’s good for you?”

My mother and aunt are also BRCA-positive. Meanwhile, less than 1% of the population are BRCA-positive, according to ABC News. I’ve also heard it’s 2%. Regardless, we really represent in my family. We come to the table. Once your parent is BRCA-positive, you have a 50/50 chance of being positive yourself. So the women in my family flipped a coin four times in a row, and four times in a row we got BRCA-positive. I wish money was involved.

I hope to write about our experiences here; after all, it fits right in with the theme of this blog. But over the next few months, I might not be around a lot, and this is my explanation–to the readers and writers whom I usually visit and comment and correspond with. In this year of changes, there are a few more to come.

DNA

Author Road Trip, Day 5 & 6: Bend to Portland

In Bend, Oregon, we stayed with my uncle–the same uncle who has appeared in several of my posts. (Click HERE for one, or the previous sentence for another.)

My husband on my uncle's deck in Bend. He gets to see this view every day.  (This is the same uncle who has appeared in several of my posts.)

My husband on my uncle’s deck in Bend. He gets to see this view every day. I was jealous, too.

With my uncle.

With my uncle

The Deschutes River, Bend

Took a hike along the Deschutes River

We drove north from Bend along Rte. 26.

The pine forests were so magnificent, we pulled off to the side of the road to stare at them.

The pine forests were so magnificent, we pulled off to the side of the road to stare at the trees.

Vineyards in Hood River County, near Mt. Hood

Vineyards in Hood River County, near Mt. Hood

We crossed the Columbia River and drove in Washington for awhile. Despite the rain, the views were magnificent.

We crossed the Columbia River and drove in Washington for awhile. Despite the rain, the views were spectacular.

View of downtown Portland from the Pittock Mansion in the West Hills

View of downtown Portland from the Pittock Mansion in the West Hills

Reading at In Other Words, Portland

Reading at In Other Words. I got to meet some of the other women in The PDXX Collective, a group of feminist writers based in Portland.

Me and my good friend and writer, Melanie Coffee, outside the bookstore

Me and my good friend and writer, Melanie Coffee, outside the bookstore

We made it home Tuesday afternoon, and on Wednesday I traveled two hours away to the lovely town of St. Joseph, Michigan for a reading at Forever Books. It’s a wonderful store; stop in if you ever find yourself in the area.

Me with store owner Robin Allen

Me with store owner Robin Allen

The town is right on Lake Michigan.

St. Joseph is right on Lake Michigan. Sorry for the dirty car window.

Next Wednesday evening, I’ll be in Milwaukee. If you’re in the area, I’d love to see you! Click HERE for info.

Have a wonderful Memorial Day weekend!

Author Road Trip, Day 4: Boise to Bend

As you know if you’ve been following, I’ve become lax about posting pictures during the road trip, partly because Internet connection was spotty, and partly because I was having too damn much fun.

Here are photos of Day 4, the drive from Boise, Idaho to Bend, Oregon.

I learned several things about Oregon on this trip: eastern Oregon is surprisingly the most unpopulated place we traveled; Oregon has enormous crows (can’t tell you how many times I pointed out the car window and said, “A hawk!” only to discover it was another crow); you have to pump your own gas; and the drivers are extremely friendly to pedestrians.

I learned several things about Oregon on this trip: eastern Oregon is surprisingly the most desolate place we traveled, Oregon has big crows, you have to pump your own gas, and they are drivers are extremely friendly to pedestrians.

IMG_0494

There was so little to look at, I started taking pictures of my feet:

IMG_0502

 

A person!

IMG_0503

IMG_0497

Nearing Bend, Oregon, and the Cascade Mountains:

IMG_0507

 

Author Road Trip, Day 3: Boise

I put my husband in charge of taking pictures during the book party at my in-laws, and therefore I have no pictures of the event to share. However, I do have these, of our day in Boise – enjoy!

Hiking near my in-laws house in the foothills

Hiking near my in-laws house in the foothills north of downtown Boise

Top of the hill

Top of the hill

Lunch at Front Door

Lunch at Front Door

Popped into this bookstore in downtown Boise and they had my book -- a fun surprise.

Popped into this bookstore in downtown Boise and they had my book — a fun surprise.

My niece, a pretty spectacular reason to visit Boise

My niece, a pretty spectacular reason to visit Boise

On to Bend!