Disclaimer: This story includes mentions of gun violence that may be triggering to some.
“‘Mom. I need a phone. If I have one, I can call you if a shooter comes to my school.’ My daughter, Kaylan, rattled off all the reasons she needed a cellphone. This one earned her the phone. Life is different. Her childhood is different. My parenting is different. These moments are normal, and they are making Kaylan numb.
I never realized how numb until the Uvalde shooting. As the breaking news scrolled across my phone, I knew she would see it when she grabbed her phone from her locker at the end of the day. Her phone connects me to her. It also connects her to the outside world. She will know when she hops in my car that a shooter killed 4th and 5th graders.
She opened the door, threw her backpack in, and sat without speaking. I looked back and knew we had to talk. Pulling off and fighting tears, I said, ‘I know you heard about it. Let’s talk.’ I didn’t say the name of the city. I couldn’t call the act a school shooting. I didn’t talk about the AR-15 toting man. Speaking those words would make rivers flow from my eyes. I couldn’t mutter any of those awful words. I am not numb. This is not my normal. This is not my childhood.
My kiddo stared at her red phone covered in stickers of her favorite band. She looked at me and with no emotion said, ‘I mean. It just happens. All my life it just happens.’ My 11-year-old is numb. This is her normal. This is her childhood. It hit me. like a ton of bricks. We are failing our kids. Our kiddos are numb because WE WON’T ACT!
My 11-year-old is numb. She asked if the number of kids dying has stopped climbing. I told her no. She shook her head. She knows this is wrong. She knows the adults are failing her. She knows we will not act. Watching and hearing her shell-shocked numbness makes me angry. Why? How can we do this?
I was glued to the TV when we got home. I watched the number of victims grow. I stared at their beautiful big eyes and smiles. I cried as I watched parents talk about losing their babies. I don’t want another parent to have to do this. I fear I may have to do this if we don’t act.
I flash to a classroom full of terrified kids. I hear the screams. I feel the fear. My daughter sits with me. We watch, and I see the wall fall. Our kids care. They are numb because they have to go to school under this hopeless fear. Imagine going to school and noticing your teacher locks the door. You know it’s to keep bad people from hurting you. Imagine having a special hiding spot in your classroom in case someone brings a gun into your school. Imagine living that fear and panic. It’s either numb yourself or be overtaken by those fears.
All of the active shooter drills, the growing list of school shootings, and the bitter dialogue about gun reform bombarding our children are affecting them. This is not okay. My child is not okay. My 11-year-old is numb. The time to act is now. We need sensible ways to control the use and sale of firearms. While I fully believe in the 2nd Amendment, I don’t believe its existence should be used to sacrifice kids to gun violence.
It breaks my heart to know that as we end the school year, some parents will never hug their kids again. Kaylan had her last day of school today. We had a 5th-grade graduation party. I watched the kids be carefree. They ate pizza, played, and laughed together. I couldn’t help but think that they deserve to be this carefree at school all the time. At least I have this summer. We don’t have to think about her hiding behind her bulletproof backpack for at least a few months.
If America doesn’t act, we will be back here in August. Kaylan and I will shop for clothes, pencils, and a bulletproof backpack. We will attend an open house and meet her new middle school teacher. On the way home, I will casually talk about what our new escape plan will be as she enters a new school. If this happens at her school, I will be numb.”
This story was submitted to Love What Matters by Kenyona Sunny Matthews. You can follow her journey on Facebook. Submit your own story here, and be sure to subscribe to our free email newsletter for our best stories, and YouTube for our best videos.
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