Every year, we spend the first two weeks of August with G's parents in Nova Scotia. This year, as we made our annual 1800km drive from Toronto to Halifax, we passed nearly a dozen sections of recently-twinned highways, their medians scarred and weedy but, almost always, with a few scraggly saplings of the fir that line the stretch of the TCH we've come to know like the shapes of ourselves. Soon, these trees that reach tentative fingers toward the sky will overtake those medians, providing a dense screen between the east- and westbound lanes that's nearly impermeable even to light.
On our last day at my in-laws', G and I spent some time chatting with my mother-in-law about our plans for elementary-years home schooling, and how some of that is coloured by the looming figure of school violence. While the realities of everything from bullies to shooters are of course alarming in themselves, what bothers me more is the normalization of the idea that kids as young as three need to be always prepared for the possibility that someone will come into their learning space to kill them. That's not knowledge a three-year-old needs to have; it's traumatic to them just knowing it. I feel pretty strongly that I won't expose my kid to it, and that the privilege to protect her from that comes with a responsibility to do so, both for her and for as many kids as I can. We have to judge the impact not just of the events themselves (which are great, even for kids who only know about it because of the news) but also the preparation for the events, the constant fear of them, fears that young kids aren't able to articulate, let alone cope with.
I won't say this has been an easy or uncomplicated decision, though it's one that feels like gut instinct. Because I believe in sharing resources and community investment, I think the idea of tax-funded public education is vital to functioning societies, and I'm aware of the costs to both my daughter and my community if we opt out. But at the same time, my first duty is to her, and while I know I can't keep her safe and I don't want to keep her sheltered from what's happening, I don't need her to start being afraid that it will happen to her before she can do a cartwheel.
It's tempting, always, to think it's too late, to say that we've passed the point of no return, that there's not enough movement on the issue to make a difference. But momentum takes time, and it's growing. In my more hopeful moments, I think maybe there's something growing on the horizon, something we can all keep encouraging and building onto, and even if the changes don't come from the places we'd like them to, there's still hope that we can find ways to make each other a little bit safer in our lives. I don't know; I can't know. Maybe it'll still get worse before it gets better, and we need to be prepared for that possibility, but I have to believe we can still make it better.
It's hard. I love you. Not everything will be ok, but we're doing the best we can. Catch a breath; fuel up; reach your fingers to the sky.
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