“I’m not going to school tomorrow,” my daughter announced as she walked in the door last night. “There’s going to be bad clowns who will kidnap students and kill teachers.”
I had already received a notification from the children’s high school, saying that there had been a “non-specific social media threat” and that they were beefing up security just as a precaution.
I had two choices at that point: To feed the fear, or to help her move past it. The easy thing to do would have been to say, “Don’t worry, honey. You can stay home tomorrow.” That’s what she wanted me to say. What’s one day of school, after all?
But the more I thought about it, I saw a teachable moment. I dimly recalled an article I’d read on handling anxious dogs, how showing confidence as the authority figure helps them get over their fears. And while my daughter is much more important than a dog, I decided to see if a more confident approach would help her, too.
So, this morning I woke her up early and said we were going to McDonalds for breakfast (that always starts the day off right – she’s got a taste for Caramel frappes). As we drove past the school, I pointed out all the police cars and reminded her that no one was going to be allowed into the school without a badge. “And if at any point in the day you feel scared, you can always call me on your cell. I promise to keep it next to me all day.”
I saw her face soften. “Those clowns are terrorists! Bullies!”
I agreed with her. “And what happens when you let a bully win? Does he stop?” She shook her head. “That’s right. But when you ignore the bully and keep doing what you’re doing, when he sees he has no power over you, what happens?”
That was easy. “The bully loses,” she said. “Thanks, Mom! That helps. I’m going to go into that school and show the bullies I’m not afraid!”
Dear Jesus, I love that brave, sweet girl. Her brother, too. Keep them safe today.