When I was growing up on the farm Mom suggested more than once that we “Go outside and Play.” We were bugging her and she wanted us out of her hair. Most of the time we wanted to go play outside, inventing games and running in the green grass and hiding out in the trees. My Mother never told us to make sure to put our masks on, stay six feet apart and wash our hands when we came inside. This is where we are today. I don’t understand how we got here, but we are here. Do you remember those posters showing germs as ugly little creatures to teach children to wash their hands and cover their coughs and sneezes? We need this poster plastered on billboards, Facebook and Instagram for visual learners like me and most of us. It is tempting to say if we can’t see it, it doesn’t exist, but then the body bags should be a clue. Can we really “protect” our children from the catastrophes of the real world.
Baby Boomers, remember the Atomic Bomb drills from elementary school? We were taught to crawl under our desks and cover our heads. This later came to be known as the “…bend over and kiss your ass goodbye” drill. I worried about the atomic bomb and wondered if the cement walls in our basement would be a good bomb shelter. I believed adults when they told me this would protect me. The nuclear arms race was really a children’s game with deadly consequences. Are you out of snowballs or not? We agree the game is over, we have no more snowballs and won’t make anymore. It was trust, but verify, then, as it is now. Snowballs are not nuclear war heads, children may understand this better that adults.
Vietnam and “….our boys come home in a box.” Still not men, 17 and 18 year old boys died in the jungle. They were our sons, brothers and friends and we were in shock that death came to claim our young. Young bodies and minds were permanently disfigured, the trauma of war still claiming victims even today. Children saw their Mommas cry when their older brother returned home a double amputee. And the anger that tore this country apart left children with questions that couldn’t be answered.
We had fire drills but we never had active shooter drills in elementary and high school. Certainly worrying about getting gunned down in the halls of my school was not a fear I had. Talking about who was dating who and how much fun the weekend party was were my concerns. Sandy Hook happened when I was in my forties and everything changed. How do you protect first graders from bullets? How do you protect students with no where to run, maybe hiding under their desks? Children are afraid to go to school and must practice what to do if someone is shooting at them. We hope active shooter drills will at least help children feel they have actions to take in the face of fear—a tiny sliver of control.
Childhood innocence never lasts very long. Reality comes in and steals it away. Is there hope in the face of catastrophes that define our lives? Read the sidewalk chalk for notes of solidarity during the Covid 19 crisis and count the Teddy bears in the windows. Neighbors checking on each other, feeding each other and comforting each other. After this virus passes, when we are able to put our lives and hearts back together, my hope is we will have learned to stand together and love thy neighbor. Then let’s all go outside and play!