Thank you to all my friends, near and far. You guys have called and texted and messaged me all morning to make sure that none of us were shot this morning.
You read that correctly.
We live a couple of blocks from the “active shooting” situation of this morning in Houston. As I was chatting with my children at breakfast, I said, “Something must be going down because it sounds like there are a hundred helicopters out there and I heard sirens just a few minutes ago.”
Then, the phone rang. It was my sister. My sister and I talk all the time. But never in the morning. If I get a call from her in those nasty witching hours between the family waking up and everyone getting out of the door for the day, it is something Big. Big with a capitol ‘B.’
She said, “Where’s Stephen?” I told her he was at home; she sounded relieved. She said, “Get him on his radio. There is a shooting right near you.”
So, the hubs is a volunteer firefighter as well as a police and firefighter junkie. Since he was a teen he has listened to the police scanners; they’re always on. In our little neighborhood, we usually hear about cops pulling over drivers with missing tail lights, expired stickers, the occasional teen party getting busted. (When it comes to keeping traffic violations a secret, our kids don’t stand a chance; their father will hear about them getting pulled over on his radio as it happens.)
What happened next has already been reported on the news. The now deceased shooter fired at cars driving past on a street I drive down every single day. He fired at a car that contained my next door neighbor (she is amazingly and astonishingly okay). He fired at people headed to work and school. He fired at you. He fired at me. He fired at your friend and your daughter and your cousin. He fired at all of us. Because it could have been any one of us, driving down a residential street, on our way to the grocery store, to buy gas, to hit the gym, to make band practice.
My little neck of the woods was asked to shelter in place until his car, filled with ammunition, and the surrounding area was inspected and determined safe. The children in the neighborhood were granted an excused absence from the local elementary school, and we were all instructed to stay off the streets.
At mid-day, our Code Red has been lifted. I can now get in and out of my area, and I’ll soon hit the grocery store so we have more than just peanut butter in our lunches for the rest of the week.
But as I physically go about my day, my mind will be racing.
Among the many things I’ll be pondering is tonight’s conversation.
We are those people who, most evenings, have dinner with our children. We might talk about school or work or the weather. We might talk about lipids, the Boer War or diagramming sentences. We might talk about vacations, upcoming birthdays, board games, favorite brands of shampoo, or whose turn it is to unload the dishwasher. But tonight, we’ll talk about what happened down the street this morning.
I had a friend call me because her children’s school, at bit down the road, went into lockdown mode, delaying morning carpool. She asked, “I’ll need to explain this to them, won’t I?”
Yes. Yes, you will. And it will suck. Explaining to your young children that a man was randomly shooting his gun at cars passing by on a residential street in your very own neighborhood will be tricky and horrible and completely un-fun. But you need to do it.
~ If your child doesn’t hear it from you, you can bet he will hear it from someone at school. And that someone at school might be misguided, misinformed, or have a much older brother who provides him with more information you thought could come out of a first grader’s mouth. Usually events such as these also have a moral, ethical, or political component to it. If you want your children to begin to understand your family’s values, you have to talk about them.
~ Worse: if your child finds out about the event and then discovers that you knew about it but opted not to talk about it with him? It’ll crush your reliability. You won’t be seen as someone he can go to for hard conversations. And childhood – and, as I’m learning myself right now – young adulthood is full of hard conversations. You want to be their go-to person.
Unfortunately, appalling events do provide the opportunity for discussion. I’ve been meaning to remind my own children that if they are out in public and see someone carrying a weapon, they are to get the hell out of wherever they are. This is not an enjoyable conversation to have, nor is it something I think about, to be honest, all the time. But, we haven’t talked about it in a while and this serves as reminder to make sure they know. (You don’t have to agree with me on this. But my feeling is, no matter what the law states, if a person feels the need to wield a weapon in a restaurant or store that allows open carry, I don’t want my kids around that person. Period.)
So, tonight I’m using this nasty event to have the conversation. May as well. This stuff isn’t fun to talk about, but it can be hard to bring up over a family dinner at a random time. So, we’re doing it tonight.
And after we talk about the difficult and sad and disheartening stuff, we’re going to remember all that for which we are thankful. We will brainstorm ways to make this world a better place so that stories such as this one are less common. And we will hug each other tight.
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