A plumbing problem? A computer system failure? Or a massive power outage that is somehow impacting their campus but not our home less than one mile away? What am I supposed to tell them about why their school is closed today? My daughters are only 5 and 7 years old. One is in kindergarten and the other is in 2nd grade. I guarantee they will be excited to have an extra day of play but are bound to realize quickly that today isn't what they'd usually call an "S" day (unless that "S" is for scary).
The fact is, no matter what I tell them, they are going to hear the truth tomorrow. There is no way for me to shield them from that.
A week ago I was concerned about a classmate who told my eldest that her parents are Santa Claus. While I think I covered that one up for now, it will inevitably come up again. I won't be able to preserve her Christmas magic forever. But how do I preserve the fact that my children should feel safe in their classroom during a history lesson, on the playground at recess or with best friends while eating their favorite snack? The bottom line is, I can't. Today is a stern reminder of that.
As Southern Californians, we are strongly encouraged to leave a personalized Earthquake Kit in our classrooms. On the list of items to pack is a handwritten note of support and encouragement. "Hang tight, sweetheart! Mommy or Daddy will be there soon to get you." There are a million positive ways to spin the message but somehow I've never settled on the right one. What if I don't get there? What if that message is the last I'll ever communicate to my daughter and I didn't say absolutely everything she needs to hear?
Humankind has survived so many great threats, plagues, wars. Those victories are the things I want my daughters to learn about in history lessons. I want them to learn about the forefathers (and mothers) of our beautiful country. I want them to learn about our biggest discoveries and most life-changing inventions while cultivating the knowledge and experience they need to make an amazing history of their own, no matter how big or small.
I don't want them to learn about terrorism or Al Qaeda or ISIS. I don't want them to learn about the failure of our government to keep us safe while simultaneously manufacturing lethal weapons without drastically changing our own laws to protect us from them. And I don't want them to learn the importance of paying attention during the same school safety drills that I laughed about as a child.
Then again, I need them to learn about all of those things.
Whether today's bomb threat is a credible one or not, the reminder I've heard over and over again is how it's better to be safe than sorry. I think that rule applies when getting to the movie theatre early so tickets don't sell out. It applies when throwing out cheese that may or may not have gone bad so no one gets a belly ache. It even applies when hiding Christmas toys outside the house just in case your Santa Claus cover-up wasn't nearly as strong as you thought.
Today I realized it also applies when keeping your children at home because of a terrorist bomb threat to their school and every other in your city of millions.
I just wish that were a lesson my kids never had to learn.