As I woke up this morning, I checked my smartphone for the News, as I do every morning. “More than 100 children killed in an attack in a school.” I could not read beyond the first few sentences. It did not matter who did it, why they did it and what anyone had to say about it. It is barbaric to storm into a school and take the lives of innocent children.
Schools that were once considered a safe haven have now become a prime target of criminal attacks. Lockdowns and mock drills are as if part of the curriculum. It does not matter where you are on the map, Sandy Hook or Peshawar or even my neighborhood high school, it happens at all the places. The motives may be different, but the trauma is not. Security in schools may be heightened, but there is always a way to go past them.
Let’s accept it, our children today are more vulnerable and unsafe than we would want them to be. It is sad but it is true. We will also have to accept that we will not be able to protect them at all times. There will be situations beyond our control. So the question is how do we prepare them for it or should we not? Would it be too much for them to comprehend? Would it interfere with their innocence?
I have until very recently struggled with how much and what to tell my school going daughter, only a first grader. I have come to terms that it is a big bad world and a bit of self-awareness is needed. It is needed for her to deal with the situation if it were to ever arise. The school is doing its bit. My leaving her unprepared was doing no good to her.
It is very similar to how I had talked to her on what needs to be done if a stranger tries to take her away in a mall or a park or grocery store. A simple measure – She is supposed to scream her lungs out. I had shown her a video from a similar incident in one of the stores, where a stranger was trying his best to whisk away a very young girl and the girl screamed for help, thus attracting attention and saving a mishap. Ever since, if I am not in sight even for a split second in public, I hear in very loud decibels “Mom, Where are you?” I will admit, it is a whole lot assuring that way.
So this morning at the breakfast table over a bowl of oatmeal, I mentioned to her discreetly, without giving away all the horrific details, about what happened in that school in Peshawar. Some bad guys had come into the school and harmed little children, children of her age and perhaps even younger.
“I know what we need to do if that happens. Sit under our table and be quiet. Do what the teacher asks us to. The teacher would lock the door and shut the lights.”
As I mentioned earlier, the school has done its bit. It was my turn now.
“Right. That is what you need to do. You have to stay very strong. You may feel scared, very scared. But be brave. And then someone will come to help you and your friends very quickly.”
“But Mom, it CANNOT happen at my school ever. Right?”
The question came and hit me as a bullet. It was a tough question that needed an honest answer. “It can happen in any school though we wish it did not. Just like I taught you what to do if you ever get lost or hurt by a stranger in a mall or a store, the teacher and I are telling you what to do if something wrong happens in school. ”
The idea was not to set paranoia but to keep her informed. For if and when she faces it, she will remember this conversation and I hope she will stay strong and safe. I can only hope.
In my opinion, it’s time we as parents spoke to our children about what is there out in the world for them, make them a bit prepared. It is better we do so than the kids “Googling” for information out of curiosity or being completely clueless about things. Bullying is on the rise and we are talking to our kids at home, aren’t we? Crime is on the rise as well and it is time we coached our kids about that too.
Later in the morning, as I dropped my daughter off at the school curbside, I watched her skip and run to her classroom. There was a strange silent heartache within me. “Stay safe,” I said under my breath as I drove away.
Authored By : Piya Mukherjee, written a few hours after the terror attack and unfortunate killing of school children in a school at Peshawar.