I read this post, The Joy of Dadhood, on Nate’s blog several years ago. I remembered it, not just because it was funny, but because of the narrative that Nate is telling into his children’s lives.
So an otherwise quiet morning was interrupted by my wife’s report the Eli had discovered a monster under the bed in the guest bedroom.
Now I don’t know how y’all deal with your pest issues but we take our monster problems very seriously. Drwho took the boys off to seclusion while I suited up… boots… bastard sword… firearms… black cowboy hat. (please… everyone knows you need a black cowboy hat to fight monsters)
So… I head up stairs… slam the door… and being shoutin and hollering nonsense… it was a great battle indeed. Once the beast was slain…. I devoured it… then came downstairs, grabbed the spotbot, and proclaimed that no one was allowed to go back up until I gave the word.
So… while now its entirely likely that my kids really believe in monsters… they also know that if one ever comes around… daddy will kill it and eat it… and clean up its remains with spotbot.
The narrative is one of safety and security — one of dad’s protection. Yet, as they are aware of his preparation and battle, he also demonstrates to his kids, that they too will be able to actively slay the monsters in their futures and make the world safe again. As young children, it is dad who protects them, but someday, they will be the protectors of their own world. They will have a hero to emulate.
On my road trip to IUSB a few weeks ago, I listened to a discussion hosted by Audie Cornish on National Public Radio(NPR). The panel talked about lockdowns in schools that experience them regularly. It was during an explaination of the drill by first grade teacher Julia Gelormino, that Nate’s story came to mind — not because it was similar, but because it contains an important element missing in the narrative communicated to the children during these lockdown drills.
Ms. Gelormino explained that the game she calls hide-and-seek begins with an announcement on the school’s PA system that “Dr. Lock is in the building.” The game goes like this. All of her students line up in an orderly fashion and proceed to crowd into a small bathroom. On her cue, they crouch down and remain still and silent until the game is over. Since the specific event that Ms. Gelormino described was just a drill rather than the real thing, when one of them failed to be silent, she told the young children:
So right now, I don’t want to scare you but Lily(ph), if somebody was trying to harm us and you were making that much sound, guess where they’re going to go first? Here. So right now, you aren’t helping us to be safe.
Gelormino then led the class in a discussion about how the hide-and-seek game will keep them safe, when
… (crying) one of my kids asked what would happen if they shot through the door.
How do you answer that? “Just be quiet?”
My thoughts went to the feelings of helplessness that both the child and the teacher must be have been experiencing at that moment. And I wondered how much the narrative of the hide-and-seek game is affecting these children now and as they grow into adults. Does it make them feel not just personally helpless but also unprotected by the very adults whose job it is to keep them safe? Will their own life story be one of a helplessness-and-hiding worldview rather than one of actively facing down life’s monsters? Would it be a better to bring in elements of Nate’s narrative that show an adult actively doing something to make them safe? Would it be better to introduce a hero to the narrative?
I am not trying to be flippant in comparing these two stories. The school shootings that have occurred are real and terrifying. Yet, given that the probability of a child actually experiencing such a crisis is miniscule, the narrative affect should balance that slight chance against the lasting effects of the story being read into the young children’s lives.
As the powers-that-be work to implement the presidential action #12 of the 23 actions he released to the media in January to “Provide law enforcement, first responders, and school officials with proper training for active shooter situations”, I hope that they keep in mind the life long effects of these plans and practice drills on the children. I hope that they consider that the children’s physical health isn’t, in the vast majority of cases, the thing on the line. The greatest impact will be on the childrens’ emotional well beings and worldviews.