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Searching For The Words To Prepare, Not Scare

Last month I was at dinner with some great friends for a moms night out. I love these ladies and I feel incredibly fortunate that my daughter has become friends with their children. They ‘get’ me and I like to think that I ‘get’ them. We don’t carve out time to get together without our kids very often, but it’s always a fantastic evening when we do.

This night was shaping up to be just as enjoyable as previous evenings. We had already shared quite a few laughs and anecdotes by the time our entrees arrived. Frankly, I find any food not prepared by my own hand delicious, but this dish I adore. But then the conversation turned to, “I wonder when they’ll be doing the disaster drills at school this year?” And that was it for my dinner. Gazing longingly at my Bang Bang Shrimp, I put my fork down, my appetite replaced by this horrible pit and weight in my stomach.

Serious conversation ahead…

They have to do the drills, I get that. I’m actually glad that they do the drills. They have to prepare, even though I pray every single night that they never need to put them into practice. Of course, I remember fire drills and tornado drills from my own school days. In fact, a few years ago I was a guest speaker in a third grade classroom when there was a lock down that was not a drill. It was terrifying as an adult; I can’t imagine how much worse the class of 8-year-old kiddos felt. But it’s just plain and simple a case of denial for me. My preschooler is too young to be worried that some crazy person is going to try to harm her and her friends.  

And then the conversation shifted and I knew it would because I rely on these ladies and they could tell I was flipping out. They know how to talk me off the ledge. We started talking about how to prepare: having fire drills at home and having a ‘safe spot’ outside of the house as a meeting point. Um, I’m still in the mode of ‘keep her in the house.’ We have the doors child-proofed still, even though she’s 5. The garage is definitely not somewhere she’s allowed to play. So now what?

Bringing up the past.

The idea of the drills reminded me of an event from my childhood that 30 years later (ahem), I still remember vividly. It was in second grade. We were on the playground after lunch. Nothing seemed amiss until the teachers started freaking out. They rushed us from the playground to a set of bathrooms near the school cafeteria. The cafeteria was floor to ceiling windows and I remember hearing the kids inside yelling. Outside there was this terrifying swirling cloud at the front of the school. The teachers jammed us all into the bathrooms and locked the doors yelling for us to duck and cover.

I remember crying because I was never going to see my family again and I was going to die in a boy’s bathroom. After a few minutes, which seemed like hours to a 7-year-old, nothing happened. My teacher unlocked the door and we went back to class. She minimized the happenings that had just occurred. There wasn’t any damage to the school. Looking back on it, I’m pretty sure it was a funnel cloud and we can thank God it didn’t turn into an actual tornado.

But I didn’t let this event go. From that day on, every time we went out to the playground, I would watch the sky and worry. I wanted to prepare. My second grade teacher did her best to reassure me; my parents did their best to reassure me. It didn’t matter. I was sure that tornado was going to come back and this time we would not be so lucky. I was introduced to my third grade teacher by my second grade teacher as ‘The Worrier.’ It wasn’t the best nickname.

I have more questions than answers. How do I prepare my daughter?

This is where I find myself. I don’t want to say the ‘wrong’ thing to my sweet girl. She doesn’t need to be ‘The Worrier 2.0’.  Again I find myself trying to find the balance. This time I’m straddling the line of how to prepare her for a disaster without terrifying her. I definitely don’t have the answers. I think I need another moms night out. Not only to have another shot at that Bang Bang Shrimp, but to conduct a focus group for advice!

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