What Every Mother Should Know in an Active Shooter Situation

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  1. If you are lucky enough not to be killed or harmed immediately, there are a few strategies that might help save your kids' lives and your own life. 
  2. But mostly it's just luck. 
  3. It is frankly an unreasonable and cruel expectation for a mother to have to protect herself and her three young children from a terrorist with semi-automatic-converted-to-automatic weapons firing into a crowd with the intent to kill as many people as possible. 
  4. If we think we can save our children, we absolutely will try, and that's why it's so cruel, because now we think we can, think we must. 
  5. What parent wouldn't try?
  6. And yes, we expect parents to go above and beyond to save their kids. This isn't a complaint about having to guard our families, because we want to, and we will do our best regardless, nor is it a complaint that another mother wrote an article to provide parents with helpful tips for doing so. 
  7. It's a complaint that another mother needed to write that article, that our society finds it acceptable to protect guns and leave the protection of children from those guns to their also-vulnerable parents. 
  8. So we pick up this terrifying responsibility and put it in our stuffed diaper bags like a bomb, alongside all of our other, smaller everyday bombs, the ticking constantly there, constantly reminding us that we are expected to control what we cannot really control.
  9. The bomb cannot be disarmed. We can only buy more time. This is true of many of the little bombs we carry. The few we can disarm are simply replaced with another, the ticking all syncopated like a thousand racing heartbeats: 
  10. The birthdays, the ketchup running low, the shirt that needs to be clean in three days, the age-appropriate but honest responses to questions like, "Mommy, will you ever die?", the hand-washing to prevent the whole family from getting sick at the same time again, the locks to lock, the freezer door that has be shut firmly, the money we don't have and the sales we need to take advantage of, the shoes -- our own shoes -- that a child has moved and lost, the exaggerated risk of abduction but the steps we take just in case anyway like parking by the cart return so there's a "safe side" of the van, the library books that need to be returned, the ever-shifting exit strategy as the three kids run in three different directions at the park, the low gas tank, tomorrow's bad weather. 
  11. We are already juggling all the small things, putting out fires as they ignite, whack-a-moling through our days until that moment when the kids are finally asleep and we can remember that we are a body, not just a piece of furniture for climbing on or a getter of infinite snacks and water cups. 
  12. And when we remember that we are a body, we also remember that bodies can be harmed. And we think, "How can I be a body and a shield for my children's bodies?" 
  13. "No. I am a body. End stop."
  14. "Yes, I want to protect them, but I am a body end stop, so how do I protect myself?"
  15. Our society tells mothers to be a sacrifice. We are the noble bear, gentle and nurturing until her cubs are in danger, and then we can lift up cars, sprint through fire, maul an enemy. 
  16. If we fail to keep our children safe, we are not worthy of the name Mother. Because as mothers we are supposed to be beyond human.
  17. Is that why it's okay to expect mothers to protect our children against an active shooter?
  18. We are reminded to put on our own oxygen masks before we help others, but this is not what is actually expected of mothers most of the time. Even if it is, if we are afforded the worth of an individual person, we are supposed to protect ourselves first so that we can be more helpful to others.
  19. What every mother should know is that she is worthy of safety, just like her kids, and that, although she wants to protect them regardless, it is okay to be terrified of this responsibility and to hate the world that places this burden on her shoulders. 
  20. The same world that asks her to avoid getting raped instead of telling others not to rape. 
  21. The same world that suggests bulletproof blankets for schools instead of reasonable restrictions on guns. 
  22. What every mother should know is that the fear of an active shooter situation will terrorize her anyway, even if it never happens. (It probably won't happen.) 
  23. But because our lawmakers won't take responsibility for protecting our children, we are the ones who must consider feeble strategies and hope for the best luck. 
  24. That anticipation manifests as anxiety because that's what happens when we try to prepare for all the potential scenarios that could hurt our kids. And there are already so many as it is.
  25. How can we prepare if we don't live partly in the future at all times, foreseeing and attempting to control a million little things?
  26. Even though we cannot control most things. 
  27. But we are supposed to "cherish every moment." We are supposed to get off our phones, make funny fruit faces on their pancakes, dance with them like no one is stocking their own personal arsenal of high-capacity weapons somewhere. 
  28. We aren't supposed to intervene too often or coddle or hover. We are the butt of so many jokes about neuroticism. Our worries are mocked with memes about wine, which we turn on ourselves because if we can at least laugh at ourselves, maybe we're okay enough? We are too serious and too high-strung, and we're ruining our children with our anxiety, ruining society with what they'll become because of us. 
  29. Who is really ruining whom?
  30. What every mother should know is that she is held to impossible standards, whether it's part of the expected role of A Good Mother or a byproduct of living in a society that would point to other problems it is also unwilling to take seriously, like mental health and toxic masculinity, rather than really addressing our gun problem. 
  31. What every mother should know is that this is not acceptable to so many of us. 
  32. What every mother should know is that she deserves so much better.