By Tammi Pitzen, Executive Director of the Children’s Advocacy Center of Jackson County
Today, as I sit behind my desk, I am seeing sunshine out my windows and feeling gratitude for the spring weather that is soon to be here. I have learned to live in these sweet, private moments because they come too seldom.
I will admit to spending a few minutes checking my Facebook and checking the news sites to see what I have missed during the day.
As I read through the headlines, my heart sank. There, tucked in with all the political stories, was a story that seems to be unfolding on a shooting at a school in San Bernardino, in which an 8-year-old boy lost his life.
On the surface, it appears to have been a domestic situation that took out an innocent child and hurt another. The shooter turned the gun on himself. I am assuming, that means he killed himself. The teacher appears to have been the target and was also shot and killed.
This man followed all the procedures and protocols. He signed in at the office. No one saw a gun. He then went to his estranged wife’s classroom and opened fire. The child was not the target the article stated.
I am feeling such sorrow. School represents a safe place for so many children; particularly those children who are not safe at home. School is a refuge. Again, we are reminded, that no place feels safe.
I am, in addition to an advocate for children, a mom. The news will have ended well before I make it home tonight. I will not spend any time watching reports play over and over tonight, as all the major news stations cover the story.
I will, however, go into my son’s room, climb into the top bunk with him and hold him as close to me as I can. I will go in several times throughout the night and check on him. I will stand in the dark and listen to him breath. I will run my fingers through his hair. We all feel vulnerable again.
I will be thankful that he is still with me. I will be reminded not to take that for granted. I will brace for the conversation that needs to happen when he asks questions. No matter how I try to shield him, he always seems to know what is happening.
My husband I will go into screening mode. We will not watch the news with James in the room or where he can hear it. We will reassure him as he asks about his own safety at school and at home. We will listen to his concerns and gauge his anxieties by tuning into his behavior. We will spend as much time hugging, cuddling, and reassuring as we can.
I sat down to write my child abuse prevention/awareness month blog tonight. But it will have to wait one more day.
I have a favor to ask of you.
If you have children in your life – your own or through family, friends, or through your work – make sure to spend some time listening to them. Listen to their words. Listen to their actions and behaviors. Listen to their silence. If they hear about this tragedy and I suspect they will, spend some time restoring their emotional safety.
Do not tell them not to worry about it. They will worry in spite of your command. Help them to understand their feelings instead of dismissing them. If you feel ill-equipped to have these conversations, find someone in the child’s life that can—perhaps a teacher, counselor, or church leader.
Maybe I am over reacting. Maybe it will not be on the news for the next two weeks non-stop.
Even that brings its own concerns. If this moves on quickly, then on a national level we are not having the right conversations. Domestic violence happens. School shootings happen.