I have to admit that I was anxious about taking my son to school today. I just wanted to grab him and run back out of the building, or stay with him all day. I prolonged our usual walk to the cafeteria where he goes before school starts. I hugged him once, went back for a second and third hug, and then turned around and hugged him for the fourth time while whispering in his ear that I love him.
For the first time today, I gave second glances to people I have not seen before in the school. I noticed how many doors there were, and wondered if they were locked. I imagined where my little boy would hide if he needed to. I wanted to ask about school security, evacuation plans, etc, but, I could tell the principal and teachers were all probably preoccupied with the same emotional anxiety that I was feeling.
I’m not the only one who felt this way today. Most of the mom’s I spoke to were ready for the hour to come when school was let out. I was anxious to pick him up, embrace him, and get him in my car. I kept up a quick pace from my car to the door, and just couldn’t wait to lay my eyes on him. After seeing him sitting there in line waiting for me to get him, my pace quickened, I called his name, and wrapped my arms around his shoulders while walking him out. He sort of gave me that “uh..mom…?” look, but I didn’t care. I wanted him out of the building, and back in the warm secure place that we call home.
I’m struggling a bit to not write about the shooting tragedy, or to keep it out of my mind. This shooting is no less tragic or no more tragic than any other violent act in our country, but this one…this one cuts right into the heart of us all. Perhaps, it is the age of the sweet babies killed, the way it happened, the lack of security in our school systems, or the lack of professional, affordable mental health services. Or, perhaps, and I say this with caution, it is the plethora of available weaponry on our streets. Maybe, it is all of these things combined.
As a professional in the field of social work, I have worked with mentally ill adults and children. I have worked with at-risk youth, adolescent sexual perpetrators, and drug addicts. I have tracked down homeless people, or those with-whom society doesn’t care about. I have been cursed at and threatened by angry clients. I even had a somewhat mentally unstable man, high on pain killers, pull a handgun from behind his back and show it to me while I was doing a routine well-being check on him.
When I was a new case worker, I was told that I should step aside when I knocked on the door of a potentially angry client so that if the person shot at me, he or she would miss. I was also told to always know where my exits are, and to never turn my back on someone. Just last week I read an article about a young social worker who was chased down after a home visit, and brutally stabbed to death by a mentally unstable client.
I keep hearing all this talk about “changing the way things are done”. If politicians really want to understand persons with mental health problems, at-risk youth, or the desperate struggles of parents and the “system” trying to heal and help these folks, then I think they should join us in the field sometime. I think they should have to listen to the screaming and cussing phone messages of angry clients left on voice machines. I think they should have to assist in finding a home for a youth who has severe mental health issues with violent tendencies. I think they should have to accompany parents who struggle to get their children the help they need because of lack of funding.
I say all of this to not lay blame for what occurred, or to turn this into a political issue. I don’t want to believe that this is only a gun issue either. It is an issue of a young man who may or may not have gotten the help he needed. It is an issue of a mother who most likely desperately struggled raising a troubled son. It is an issue of young persons slipping through the cracks, and desperately needed funding being slashed. It is an issue of safety in our schools. This is also an issue of the heart, and the lack of empathy or understanding for those on the outside of what is deemed as socially acceptable.
I think those in charge of writing policies, adding or cutting funding, and lobbying so passionately for what they believe in, should join social workers, teachers, counselors, and parents as they work tirelessly to fix the most complicated of problems. I’m certainly not an expert on mental health, gun laws, and politics. I’m just a mom who fears that my children are growing up in a less safe and more complicated world that I grew up in. I’m a mom who wants people that need help to get help. I’m a mom who yearns for real change, the kind that creates a world that is more loving, and accepting of others, to happen. The ones who lost their lives last week deserve for us all to ponder carefully on these issues with sensitive hearts and open minds.
Our children, and our children’s children, deserve it as well.