Congratulations on getting through the easiest part of your life?

Grads

The youth and I do not always get along well, it’s true. There are alot of things I just don’t understand about how they do their thang. Fake glasses with thick frames, when all I ever wanted to do with my glasses was get rid of them. All that eyeliner. High-waisted shorts. Man buns. Endless selfies under layers of filters. Texting each other when they’re in the same room. The strange popularity of obnoxious YouTubers. I will stop right there, as I don’t want to sound like a shirty old cuss. Now, if everybody will just get off my lawn and pull up their pants, I’ll get on with this rare post in support of young people.

It’s graduation season. All over the world, people are closing the book on one chapter of their life and moving on to another. Our darling Fiona is leaving the familiarity and security of her school of the past five years for highschool at Notre Dame. With the added fuss of end-of-the-year activities, including uniform fittings and a leaving ceremony (because apparently sixth grade grad is a thing), our June’s been ridiculously busy. She’s excited and nervous, all at once. Big changes are coming. Every spring, for several years now, my Facebook newsfeed contains at least one person sharing the following meme:

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It’s made me snicker every time, I admit. However, it’s not true. Being a kid is actually really hard.

Your personality is still forming – and so are those of your peers. This means that every day you make a conscious decision as to how to present yourself to the world, and that world consists mainly of people who are too immature to respect what you’re offering. Popularity occupies a disproportionate level of importance, and is based heavily on things that are beyond your control. Good hair. Clear skin. The right (i.e. trendy and expensive) clothes. Smooth moves. I’m pretty sure teenagers have not changed that much since my own teen years – which means smooth moves still elude many of them. You have strong opinions, but they are laughed at by many of your peers and dismissed by parents and teachers. What do you know? Talk to me again when you’ve been around the block a few times …. If you put out, you’re a slut – and guys like you while girls scorn you. If you abstain from sex, you’re a prude – and girls like you while guys don’t bother with you. If you’re queer, you face the heavy task of trusting people with that deeply personal piece of information – and they might not react well. Everyone probably assumes you’re straight. You’ve been alive less than 20 years, but people are asking you what you want to do with the next 30 or 40 years of your life. You are constantly being tested on what you know, even though alot of what you know is new – and there’s more of it every day. The results of these tests determine whether you can follow the career path you’ve told everyone you want to follow. You’re being evaluated by just one institution’s accepted metrics – yet you’re being told that you have to measure up or you’re going nowhere in life. You’re facing years of testing, development, uncertainty – and debt.

Not all of you are going to make it. Failure, bad choices, heartache, unintended pregnancy, mental illness, drugs, crime, and suicide stalk you like wolves. Your generation is the one that is most vulnerable to all of these things. If you’ve made it to graduation, fab for you – it wasn’t easy, and you should be proud of what you’ve accomplished. Here’s to your future!

 

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Happy day-after-Mother’s-Day to all the not-my-mothers!

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Yesterday was Mother’s Day. Unless you’ve been in a coma since stores started advertising pink stuff (right after they marked the Easter chocolate down by 75%), you know that. Hopefully, you took the opportunity to show your mother that you appreciate her. If you are a mother, hopefully, you felt appreciated. Because being a mother can be a tough task (if you’re doing it right, anyway). Those little angels start by wrecking your body as they exit, and they spend years metaphorically drinking your blood, sweat and tears – and, at least for the first little while – they can’t say thank you. In fact, until they’re about four, they don’t give a damn about you and wouldn’t say thank you even if they could. As far as they’re concerned, you’re like the sun and the moon. Up all day and all night, shining for them – it never occurs to them that it could be any different. Bridget expressed utter shock, and a healthy amount of skepticism when she found out, at the age of four, that I actually sleep. And children are expensive! The amount of money I’ve spent on wine and anti-wrinkle creams since becoming a mother could have bought me a yacht by now, I swear.

For years, Ryan did the heavy lifting when it came to making me feel good about being a mother on Mother’s Day. He still gives me a beautifully worded card, and flowers or garden trinkets, makes food and does housework – and, of course, brings home a big ol’ bucket of fried chicken for dinner because nothing tells this Beth she is loved like disgustingly, deliciously greasy food. Now, though, my girls are old enough to treat me well on Mother’s Day – and they do. They gave me fancy bath junk and flavoured teas, two lovely cards and a collection of homemade coupons for everything from dishwasher emptying and lunch-making to a spa day. I had a nice chat with my mother and my mother-in-law. I scrolled my Facebook newsfeed (yes, I’m back) and marveled at just how much people had to say about mothers. Boy, do we ever love our mothers! (Well, on Mother’s Day on social media, we do, anyway.)

Yesterday had me thinking about a different category of women, too, ones that I didn’t say anything about because I didn’t want to take Mother’s Day away from all the deserving mothers out there. I owe my mother alot. More than I’ll ever be able to properly repay. But she isn’t the only woman who mothered me. Over the years, my aunts have spent hours listening to what I have to say. They’ve offered comfort and advice and encouragement. They’ve put me up in their homes and generously shared their fine cooking with me. They’ve celebrated my milestones with me. Likewise, the mothers of my good friends. I ran in and out of their houses, grabbing snacks and making messes and staying the night more times than I can count. They schlepped me to Brownies and piano lessons and figure skating and youth group events right along with their own kids. They took the time to listen to me in a way that showed me they really cared about me – they didn’t have to, and they already had their hands full with their own family, but they did. Even their grandmothers knew who I was and welcomed me at their table right along with everyone else if I happened to be there at dinnertime. Sweet ladies who gave me a hug and kiss just as if I were their granddaughter. My mother’s friends showed up without hesitation when I called them for help (which I did more than once). My mother did the same for my friends. Many of them called her “Mom Two”, and she still asks about them when we talk. I have no doubt that if any of them turned up at her house she’d be thrilled to let them open the fridge, grab a snack and slouch on her couch like they did all those years ago.

I had a series of long-suffering babysitters. My energetic, mischievous, saucy arse surely made them question how badly they needed the money my parents gave them. Yet, they made me feel like I was one of their own children whenever I was dropped off at their house. They’re still cheering for me today, from miles away, complimenting my photos and asking about my vacations and saying “I remember you when”.

I had wonderfully involved female teachers – strong role models, all. They didn’t put up with any bullshit, but they encouraged me to think critically and question what didn’t add up and proudly express myself.

Fiona and Bridget are now benefiting from the same thing – aunts who listen to them, teach them things, make crafts with them, and watch movies with them. Their Auntie Di is even letting them use their baby cousins as test dummies on which to sharpen their babysitting skills. Great-aunts who spoil them from a distance with a little gift for every occasion. Friends’ mothers who kindly open their home to them, offering gentle discipline and encouragement and endless granola bars and popsicles. Friends of mine who rarely show up at our house without a treat for the girls, chat with them with genuine interest in their thoughts and lives, send cards and letters at Christmas and Valentine’s Day and Easter and birthdays. I am certain these friends would be there for Fiona and Bridget without pause, if ever they are asked. They have had wonderful experiences with daycares of various types. The women (and, yes, they were mainly women) looking after them treated them with a tenderness and concern and emotional generosity that made it clear that Fiona and Bridget were more than just a job to them. Their teachers, from kindergarten all the way to today, have been more than just educators. They’ve been carers. Channelling Fiona’s exuberance into positive change for other students. Reaching through Bridget’s shyness to draw her out of her shell and show her how strong she really is. Taking the time to make sure neither girl is ever left behind in any subject. Finding the best in each of them, and helping them polish it to a high gleam.

Yesterday was a day for mothers, and rightly so. But today I celebrate others. Hallmark has yet to come out with cards for some of these people. I have a few suggestions:

Thank you, sixth-grade teacher, for putting an arm around my shoulder and telling me I was doing just fine in gym class when I hadn’t made a single basket in four weeks of learning basketball.

Thanks, friends’ parents, for not throwing me out of your car on the side of the highway when I led the whole backseat in yowling “There’s a Hole in my Bucket” all the way from Robert’s Arm to Springdale and back.

Sorry for my sass. You didn’t get paid enough to listen to that.

Sorry I broke your stuff even though I didn’t live in your home, and won’t take care of you in your old age.

Thanks, Auntie, for picking up the phone every time, knowing you were going to listen to God-knows-what for God-knows-how-long.

And on and on. Maybe this is more of a Thanksgiving post, but my thank-yous were already long overdue – they couldn’t wait til October. Happy day-after-Mother’s-Day, not-my-mothers!

Your children need sex education – so get over your ick factor and let them have it.

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Because we are never out-of-reach of noise and fuss, I’m sure that you’re all aware of the province-wide flap over the new sex education program being rolled out in schools all over Ontario come September 2015. A whole lot of parents have shrugged and gotten on with their day. A sizable number of parents, though concerned about some of the program’s content, have somehow managed to keep cleaning their home and themselves, making food and participating in gainful employment. A small-but-very-vocal segment of parents are using this change in their children’s curriculum as the impetus to hop on the Crazy Train, and they’re riding it all the way to the end of the line …. Phrases like “nobody’s gonna teach my six-year-old about anal sex” and “teach math, not masturbation” and “what’s next, sex with animals” are appearing in angry letters-to-the-editor, and on placards and picket signs. I’ve read up on the new program, and given the whole issue considerable thought – and I honestly can’t understand why people are so upset about it.

In grade one, students will be taught to identify body parts – including genitalia – using correct terminology. Well, why not? Both Fiona and Bridget knew, long before they started school, that they have a vagina and boys have a penis. I remember drawing people complete with genitals when I was five (and fibbing about it, when questioned) . From a health perspective, if something’s wrong physically, they need to be able to make their guardian, and possibly their doctor, understand where it itches or hurts. To prevent inappropriate situations with other children – or worse, adults – they need to know that they own their body, and nobody else has a right to handle them in ways they don’t like. Part of taking ownership is a complete knowledge of what you own. Giving genitalia cutesy nicknames can teach children that these particular body parts are embarrassing, and therefore should not be talked about.

In grade two, the notion of respecting your body is expanded to encourage children to stand up for themselves against bullies, and to say “no” if they’re feeling uncomfortable about something. How could there be anything wrong with this? Teachers will build upon their knowledge of body part names to talk about how your body changes as you grow from an embryo to an adult. Children are observant. They see their siblings, both younger and older, growing and changing in various ways. They see how pregnancy changes their mother or aunts or neighbours. Why keep it a mystery?

Grade three discussions will center around the characteristics of healthy relationships, and how each unique personality contributes to these relationships. There will be some focus on the different kinds of relationships. At which, of course, some parents are already in a tizzy because their eight-year-olds might find out about gay people …. Know what? Your third-grader probably knows about them already. They probably have friends who have two daddies or two mommies. Fiona, when she was four, noticed two guys holding hands while walking their dog. We stopped to pat the dog. As we were walking away, she wanted to know why two men were holding hands. I said “because they love each other, like Daddy and me”. People who love each other are all over the place, and they don’t all look the same. Why not give our kids a foundation of appreciation for love in all its forms, and a language to describe it?

In grade four, children will learn about puberty and personal care. Again, I am confused as to why this could be anything but good for the kids. Kids reach puberty younger now than ever. There will be some girls in grade four classrooms who have already started menstruating – and some of them may not have anybody who will give them straight talk about it. Kids in grade four who have not reached puberty will be there any day now. Puberty can be a confusing and frightening time. Information is power.

Grade five students will see diagrams of the reproductive system, and learn to describe the processes of menstruation and spermatogenesis. Long words. Anatomy. Biology. Hardly subjects that will have the kids making out at their desks ….

In grade six, the students will have a chance to discuss things that happen to them during puberty, like wet dreams. I have never forgotten a moment from my year in grade five, sharing a classroom with sixth graders. We were learning about what our bodies were going through and our teacher mentioned wet dreams. Just to set the scene, she was so old she had taught my father when he was in grade five or six. She kept her money in her bra. She took her false teeth out and laid them on her desk to eat lunch. In other words, if anyone had every right to be a prude, it was her. But she wasn’t. This was a good thing for a sixth grader who worriedly confessed, with his face flaming, to having wet dreams. She put an arm around his shoulders and told him it was nothing to worry about, it happened to lots of boys, and if he ever had any questions he could talk to her any time. He relaxed visibly. Her frank, fearless manner took away his anxiety and made him feel normal. Sixth graders will also touch on masturbation. (See what I did there? Who says there’s nothing funny about sex education?) Any parent who’s ever caught their baby with his hand deep in his diaper can tell you that masturbation is not new ground for a sixth grader. There will also be some talk about the assumptions surrounding gender roles and expression, and sexual orientation – and how to challenge stereotypes. Learning to see others as fellow human beings, despite our differences, is crucial in a world filled with – well, differences! It’s not easy being different – but it’s alot harder if your differences are misunderstood or denigrated. Why shouldn’t we try to make classrooms as accepting as possible for all students?

Grades seven and eight cover establishing personal sexual boundaries and communicating those limits and comfort levels to potential partners, as well as the need for solid communication in sexual relationships. Also discussed are the risks of various sexual behaviours, symptoms of STIs, and the importance of using condoms and other forms of contraception if you become sexually active. Students are encouraged to consider the physical, emotional and social factors that impact their sexual decisions. The concept of sexual consent will be explored, as well.

For those who are squeamish at the thought of these sensitive discussions being held in the classroom, a reminder: thirteen-year-olds are the ones we hear about having rainbow parties, sexting, experimenting with alcohol and drugs. They are the ones who are trying anything and everything because, as adolescents, their brains are wired for pushing boundaries and risky business. Fifth and sixth graders are deep in the throes of puberty, and nature is happening to them, ready or not. Anyone who’s ever watched a group of third- or fourth-grade girls swing their hair and strut their stuff knows that these kids eagerly emulate what they see and hear, and they don’t have the personal discernment to help them choose the right role models – the right role models must come to them. Many of them have cell phones or tablets – or both. They have older siblings and cousins. Children who are confused about their gender identity or sexual orientation exist, whether parents want to talk to them about it or not – and if we’re not communicating with them, we’re not helping them.

We need to let go of the notion that we are spoiling children’s innocence by talking to them about sex – because, in most cases, that innocence is already being breached daily. Sexual messages get through to them, no matter how tight the parental controls. They see ads for perfumes, clothing and shoes that feature sexy models in sexy scenarios. They listen in on adults’ conversation. They listen to pop music, which often features explicit lyrics and is accompanied by explicit videos. Even if you keep everything PG all day every day, you have no say about the radio station their bus driver plays or what their friends show them or what they see on the street. I ended up in a birds-and-bees conversation for which I was completely unprepared just last year because Fiona and Bridget rode the bus with some foul-mouthed sixth graders who were asking all the girls (yes, all the girls – even the little ones) if they’d like to have sex. Last summer, I had to answer an exhausting collection of questions about sex-as-entertainment because we used a washroom in a gas station, which contained a vending machine selling coloured condoms and cherry-flavoured lube. Klassy. It’s a dirty world. There’s nothing I could have done about those incidents, and there’s nothing you can do, either – except control the conversation when you are given the chance. So take it!

School’s out! Or, if you will, Hallelujah! They kind of mean the same thing to me right now.

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Today is the last day of school until September, and I couldn’t be happier. No, not theyI. Alright, I suppose Fiona and Bridget will be happy, too – but not like me. I am dog-hanging-out-the-car-window happy. Toddler-allowed-to-plunge-dimpled-hands-into-the-toilet happy. Handel’s-“Messiah”-soaring-in-the-background-while-I-toss-hundred-dollar-bills-at-passers-by happy. Indeed, I could come up with descriptions of how happy I am for several paragraphs more. My joy at not having to deal with school for a whole two blessified months knows no bounds.

Before you roll your eyes and accuse me of wild exaggeration, here’s my list of reasons for being lifetime-supply-of-Cool-Ranch-Doritos happy …. (See? I could do this all day long!)

1) No more homework! Any parent who has ever stood wearily over the shoulder of their maxed-out son or daughter, doing the delicate dance of not feeding the kid the answers, while trying to ensure that the kid finishes the homework and goes to bed before we all lose our ever-loving minds, will appreciate where I’m coming from. Our girls are only in grades three and one – yet, Ryan and I have spent many miserable evenings patiently (and sometimes not-so-patiently) plowing through assignments that seem to have no roots in their classroom activities and are above their heads. We try to take a hands-off approach consisting of gentle supervision and assistance in the thought process, since the homework is not actually for our benefit – it’s for the kids. This results in two outcomes. The first is that the homework takes a long, long, long time to complete. The second is that the completed work is born proudly off to school, only to look deeply inadequate next to the work of some little twit whose parents obviously did the assignment themselves.

2) Got school supplies? Not enough school supplies! It doesn’t matter how well you outfit the kids in September, they will lose everything you bought for them.

“Mom, I need a pencil.” “But I bought you 835 of them just four months ago.” “I know, but I can’t find them. Can I use the pen in your purse?”

“I don’t have scissors, and I need them for this Friday’s art project!” “What do you mean, you don’t have scissors? I bought you scissors for school.” “I know, but I lent them to Madysonne / Mac’kenzie / Destinii, and she didn’t bring them back.”

Dear parents of Ms. Screamer’s grade two class,

Our classroom is currently out of glue sticks, erasers, kleenex and general happiness. If you could spare some to send to school with your child, it would be greatly appreciated. Also, we’ve noticed that alot of the children seem to have wet socks regularly. If you could put a pair of spare socks in the backpack to replace the ones you put there originally, which have mysteriously disappeared, it would make playtime more fun.

Sincerely, Ms. Screamer and her grade two class

I love shopping for school supplies in the fall. Fresh stacks of paper, bright new crayons with perfect tips, shiny scissors and oh-so-many glue sticks – plus new shoes and a fun backpack? I geek out on that. Buying it in February because it somehow wasn’t enough, for reasons that are never clearly explained, and it’s no longer in a colourful display with a big back-to-school sign hanging over it? Not so much.

3) Which leads me to money. Money for that new agenda, money for fundraisers, money for field trips, money for the book fair, money for pizza lunches – and all them fancy chocolate bars. It will be nice not to be asked for money for two solid months, either by Fiona and Bridget, who have been whipped up into a lather of excitement over whatever money-slurping endeavor to which they’ve been introduced, or by a letter from Ms. Screamer.

4) No more school bus! Any parent whose kids take the bus to school is aware that the bus is a jungle. (Isn’t that an awesome song? G&R = awesome-sauce. You don’t agree? I don’t care, remember?) It’s little more than a mobile holding pen for a wide assortment of children, from the meekest mice to the ones who could be voted most-likely-to-end-up-in-juvie by their class (and every other class). There’s only one adult present, and he or she is driving – unable to intervene, or even see half of what’s going on. The cherry on top of this unfortunate sundae is that Fiona’s and Bridget’s bus driver for the past year is, by all accounts, certifiably insane. He mutters and twitches, and yells alot. I don’t want Psychotic Psam to lose his job, and I might be just like him if I had to drive a busload of brats anywhere at all even for one day – but I really don’t think driving a school bus is his true calling.

6) Bye-bye, bullies! Ever since Fiona’s first day of junior kindergarten, we have had to deal with bullies. That kid who’s a foot taller than everyone in the class and can’t seem to keep his hands to himself. That kid who must be raised by people conducting psychological experiments involving isolation, cattle prods and food as a reward for being dispicable to your fellow humans. Fiona has always been friendly to everyone, and therefore she’s a target. Bridget was quiet and kept to herself, so she was a target. Now she’s outgoing and one of the class leaders – naturally, she’s a target. Neither of the girls has ever been the sole concern of a bully, luckily – but they’ve occasionally been at the mercy of a kid who’s nasty to everyone most of the time. Fiona’s class a couple of years ago included a boy who took things from her and broke them just to make her cry. He also stuck someone else’s finger in his pencil sharpener and twisted off a layer of skin. Last year, Bridget had a boy in her class who was, more or less, the spawn of Satan. To protect his identity, we won’t call him by his real name. We’ll call him Lil’ Shit. Lil’ Shit was rough. He elbowed Bridget, he pushed her, he hit her. Lil’ Shit did this to everyone. One day, he shoved her from behind. She fell hard on her hands and knees and ended up with four big scabs. Not long after that, she tapped him on the shoulder. When he turned around, she slugged him in the gut. She tearfully confessed this to me later. I experienced several emotions. I felt frustrated that every class has at least one kid like that and schools can’t do much about it, and kids are trapped in all sorts of situations with these little assholes. I felt sad that Bridget, who is not a violent child, felt like her only option was to sucker-punch Lil’ Shit. And, yes, I felt good that she picked up for herself – I cheered for her on the inside. Now that they’re a little older, the boys don’t bother the girls, but other girls do. When girls bully, though, it’s usually a quieter affair. Gossip. Cruel nicknames. Exclusion. There’s a trio of grade sixers who patrol the playground, looking for younger kids to pick on, and they gang up on their victims. Fiona and her friends have had to stand up to The Bitches Three more than once, which takes alot of courage if you’re three years younger than your tormentors. (And who does that? Who picks on kids who are three years younger? Can’t wait to see what gifts these beauties will bestow on society when they’re all grown up.) The girls’ daycare doesn’t seem to have as much of that going on. Maybe it’s because daycares have a clear set of rules everyone has to follow, laid out in a contract – and they reserve the right to kick kids out if their behaviour hurts other kids. Schools have to give everyone a shot, and you have to be really bad to get booted out.

7) I can put whatever I want in their lunches. For a while, Bridget was allergic to eggs. Have you any idea how many foods have eggs in them? (Answer: pretty much everything that’s tasty.) It was difficult to find things she could eat and enjoy, and it was even more difficult to find whole meals for our family that didn’t involve eggs. Parents of children with severe food allergies have my sympathy. However, there are few things easier to make and more palatable to a child than a PB&J – and I will be making alot of them for the girls’ lunches this summer. It’s also not as important to give them a meticulously measured amount of each food group when they’re not going to be using their brain all day. Cotton candy for the morning snack, a PB&J and a cheese string for lunch, and a Joe Louis for the afternoon snack? Why not? It’s summer!

8) It doesn’t matter what they wear anymore. I gave up on the battle for things that match years ago – but I still enforce some standards when it comes to what the girls wear to school. So does the school – no spaghetti straps, no short shorts. In the summer, though, all bets are off. Stains? Sure! You’ll stain it more at daycare anyway. Holes? Ventilation! And when there’s a heat advisory in effect, spaghetti straps and short shorts are practically survival gear! Also, while you can’t go to school wearing electric blue eyeshadow and fuschia lipstick that’s overshot your lips by a good quarter-inch, daycare don’t care.

9) It’s a break from the guilt. To hear Fiona and Bridget speak, you’d think that every parent of every kid is always at their school. The turkey lunch at Thanksgiving, the haunted house and costume party at Halloween, decorating gingerbread houses, the muffin breakfast, the field trips to the Museum of Nature, the Children’s Museum and Winterlude, Science-in-our-Schools, the school picnic and games day, the talent show, and the many assemblies and masses? Yep, everyone’s mother or father (and, in some cases, their grandparents) are there. This is, of course, baloney. Most parents have to work in some capacity or other. The ones who don’t have to work are not always free. I come to some things, skip others, and I’ve noticed that not everyone is there all the time. This doesn’t stop me from feeling very, very, very bad about the times I can’t make it. Daycare makes no such demands. By its very nature, it assumes that you won’t be there, because if you were you wouldn’t be paying them a bloody fortune to take care of your kids.

Welcome, summer! We’ve been waiting for you ….

 

The dangers associated with being alive are a fact of life – whether kids use backpacks or not.

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I thought I might write about dandelions today. Since there are so many of them around, it seemed timely. But the nodding yellow puffs on my lawn (and your lawn, and her lawn, and his lawn, and everyone’s lawn) will have to wait – because something else caught my attention: school security policies. A few years ago, a man with a sawed-off shotgun entered a school in Buckingham (not far from Ottawa), threatening to kill everyone. He wandered the corridors for about fifteen minutes, while the school was in lockdown mode, and the secretary called 911. The incident ended well, with nobody hurt and the gunman apprehended by police. This resulted in a change in security protocol at the school Fiona and Bridget attend. People used to be able to wander in and out at will. The doors are now locked at all times. There is a buzzer that you press to alert the secretary to your presence, and she unlocks the door for you.

According to this article, students at one Long Island, NY, high school will now have to carry all books and belongings in clear plastic bags – backpacks are no longer allowed. In addition to this, they are locked out of their lockers for the rest of the school year. For a little while, all but one washroom for each gender had been shut down, and students had to sign in and out to use the toilet. This restriction has been eased a little: there are now four washrooms open to the students (yes, four toilets for over a thousand students), which will be monitered, but nobody will have to sign in or out. These measures have been adopted in response to a recent rash of threats, including at least one reference to a bomb.

I read a blog post about it, called “You will understand why this high school banned backpacks”. Know what? I don’t understand it – and I wouldn’t accept it. It’s nothing but a placebo, a sugar pill to calm the screaming masses. As one commenter put it, it’s “security theatre”.  The buzzer on the front of my daughters’ school won’t stop anyone from entering. Mr. Coo-Coo with his gun and his plan won’t be daunted by having to press a button, and will probably be able to bluff his way in even if he’s questioned (which he likely won’t be until he’s in, at which point it’s too late). As for the Wantagh High School, banning backpacks and sealing lockers isn’t going to do a whole lot to make people safer, either. Kids can pack heat anywhere – not just in their backpacks. Why don’t we make them wear see-through clothes? How about x-rays and cavity searches before each school day? Oh, and an armed security guard in each classroom – and two in the gymnasium, of course. While we’re at it, why not re-think the concept of school altogether? Instead of making our precious lambs leave their bubble, why not have them take their courses online? Since it’s unlikely that we’ll all agree on a line, let’s not have one. Let’s just go all the way to Crazy Town, together, in a high-security, unmarked, windowless, peanut-free bus.

The thing is, there is risk everywhere. Leaving your house elevates your risk of being robbed, beaten, run over by a car, eaten by a bear, attacked by a dog or a rabid raccoon, stung by a bee. Driving around is dangerous. Walking instead of driving is dangerous. E.coli and listeria lurk in our bagged salads and deli meats. You could talk to other people, but what if they’re stalkers or sociopaths or sales reps for Tupperware or Avon or Lia Sophia? Escalaters, elevators, stairwells – tripping, falling and dying hazards, all. Shall we tear off the top six / eight / twenty-five floors of every building, and have everything at ground level? You could go to the library or a park to hang out, but germs! Never mind waterslides or amusement parks or ziplining – many parents don’t even let their children go to public washrooms by themselves until they’re into the double digits. Our society has become ridiculously risk-averse, even though we’re safer than we’ve ever been – and it’s disturbing.

Yes, terrible things happen – sometimes, with no logic or even warning. A bomb threat at a school reaches into every parent’s heart and strikes at their deepest, darkest fears. But we have to rise above our hysteria and really think about our response …. We cannot live like rabbits, frozen or running scared at every rustle and twig snap. How much freedom are we willing to leverage to feel safe? Because that’s really all we’re doing – we’re changing how we feel. We shouldn’t pour time and money into things that won’t help anybody just so that we look like we’re doing something. Doing nothing is better than that.

“Those who would give up Essential Liberty, to purchase a little Temporary safety, deserve neither Liberty nor Safety.”  – Benjamin Franklin