It has been years since my son sat on my lap and cried. The fact that he was doing it now broke my heart. He was scared. He was terrified by someone at school. Who was the bully?
I'm going to back up here before anyone misunderstands. The school - teachers and principal - did exactly what they were supposed to do, and I am proud of them for that. If someone breaks a rule, I ALWAYS want the expected discipline to follow. Well, almost always. And even if I don't want it to happen, that doesn't mean it shouldn't happen.
Time to explain.
We have always had a house that was "gun-free." There are no real guns in our house; there are no fake guns in our house. The former is for safety; the latter is for posterity. Even in the days of Lego Star Wars, we reinforced that the characters only used blasters - make-believe weapons that only stunned people. When the kids asked why, we explained that life was very sacred, and it it wasn't ours to take away. We shouldn't joke around with it.
After upteen classes on my way to elementary education degrees, I had learned a little about a child's reasoning. At younger ages, the permanence of death does not make sense to them, so we didn't feel we needed to go to the depths of the "once a person dies, they aren't coming back" conversation just yet.
I'm sure we aren't the only parents to have ever discussed this with our kids. AND YET. Kids have pretended with fake guns - be they sticks, toys, pop tarts, or fingers - since before my grandmother's stories, I'd bet. Where on earth they get these ideas, I can't say. (I never did it as a child, but then I am not a boy.)
Suddenly, because of the reality of tragedy, schools need to crack down and enforce those conversations about why we don't pretend with guns. They now need to evaluate every make believe as a viable threat (or not) to another student. Can you imagine all the pretend cowboys that could have been on trial 50 years ago? Even 20 years ago, as a camp counselor, I could have taken those Power Ranger Wanna Be's to court for putting plastic swords to my neck with today's rules.
Why was my son so upset? He was called to the carpet, so to speak, while playing his game and the severity of his actions was discussed with him by the principal. (In his school, there are normally 4 steps until you go to the principal. He has never been past step 1.) Possible consequences for his negligence of others' feelings about his game were laid out. I think I can accurately surmise that the boy felt sick at that point.
It was determined by the school that my 8-year-old son will likely not be running out to find assault weapons to carry to anyone's doorstep. I would concur with their decision, especially after hearing the punishment he decided to give himself after our talk. (The talk that my husband and I gave to him, by the way, lasted all of about 2 sentences. It was all he could take in the shame of his wrong-doing.)
I'm crying, not because the school made my child cry. I'm crying because the world we live in has required it of the school. I am sad for the people who have lost loved ones due to the misuse of guns. And I am sad for everyone who has to suffer for it.
But with all this sadness and crying, I am thankful that mine was the kind of problem that could be solved with a long hug. And I'm thankful for a little boy who will still let his problems disappear in my arms.
Passion Under Grace,