Mom, I’m Scared to Go to School

My daughter couldn’t sleep last night. We had kind of a rough evening. After a strenuous two hour math homework marathon with my son,  I ordered a pizza, and the kids and I sat around the table discussing our highs and our lows of the day as we do every night at dinner, but I wasn’t engaged. I was irritable, the weight of the world heavy on my shoulders. I was short with both kids, not at my parenting best.

Rushed showers and stories and prayers, and the kids were off to bed. I poured a glass of wine and sat on the couch to lose myself in the lives of the Orange County housewives, watched the news, and then went to bed. Pretty uneventful.

Around eleven, my daughter came into my room half in a sleep walk haze and said she was scared. After the normal “Everything is okay. You’re safe here,” she fell back asleep.

This happened two more times in the night. I know it’s normal. I know kids go through times when they can’t sleep, and I know it will pass. I’ve been through all of this before, but I woke up tired and cranky, and when I went into her room to help her start getting ready for school, I forced myself not to show the irritation I felt.

I sat on the end of her bed helping her pick out a hat for “hats off” day, when she said it.

“Mom, I’m scared to go to school.”

I furrowed my brow at her. “Why, baby?” I asked with confusion thinking she was going to tell me about some kid being a bully and preparing myself to go all Debbie from This is Forty on him and hope that he too looked like Tom Petty. (Movie reference)

“I’m scared of the lock down drill.” Flashbacks to dinner last night when my head was far away from the conversation, and she mentioned something about it. Shame on me for not addressing it then.

My baby who is five years old, in her first year of school, a kindergartner, is scared to go to school because of a drill where fake bad guys come in and try to get into her classroom.

This is the world in which we live, friends, and it scares the hell out of me.

We spent the rest of the morning discussing the details and what she knew about the drill so far. Thankfully, my fourth grade son was around to help calm her nerves and told her it’s his favorite drill of all the drills (fire, tornado, BAD GUYS COMING INTO YOUR SCHOOL TO HARM YOU!)

She told me that if she’s in the bathroom and hears the alarm, she’s supposed to stop what she’s doing and stand on the toilet but keep her head down so nobody can see her over the top of the stall. “We can’t even flush, Mom. Do you think it’s okay to wipe?,” she asked, big blue eyes wide with worry. I shrugged my shoulders. How would I know? I never had lock down drills.

If someone tries to come into her classroom, the teacher will lock the door, and the students are supposed to find their hiding places.Kids are being taught to hide from bad guys in school.

As we walked to school, I told her that she need not worry, that we live in a safe place and that her focus today should be learning and enjoying time with her friends, and then I promised her a fun weekend. I walked away after kissing her goodbye knowing that I hadn’t been truthful.

Sure, we live in a safe place. We are in the heart of the suburbs where our biggest fear is a bobcat that likes to roam around our neighborhood.

But Columbine High School was safe. Sandy Hook Elementary was safe. Virginia Tech was safe.

Until they weren’t.

My daughter couldn’t sleep last night because this world simply isn’t safe anymore. Not even for a sweet little girl with a heart of gold in kindergarten.


Be brave. Stay safe. It’s only school after all.

30 thoughts on “Mom, I’m Scared to Go to School

  1. This just breaks my heart. Poor baby. I’m sorry she’s scared. I am sorry that there is a reason to be scared, even though we know the odds are nothing will happen to our children, sometimes things happen to our children.

    I love the movie reference. I LOVE Melissa McCarthy in the principal’s office with them. That is my favorite Melissa McCarthy moment of all times. haha

    Liked by 1 person

  2. Oh, Mandi, this tore my heart out. It’s heartbreaking and I’m so sorry your baby feels that way. Makes me wonder what mine thinks about it…she’s never said. How the hell do you explain this kind of crap to little ones who really just shouldn’t have to think about it? Give her (and yourself) a hug for me.


  3. At the gym. Missed my class so jumped on a. Ike. Forgot earbuds. Oh look, Mandi has a post! Yay! I’ll read that!

    Now I’m that lady who cried on the stationary bike.

    I know. The thought of either of my children, alone in a bathroom when that alarm sounds makes me shake. This is the world we live in. ❤


  4. I worry all the time, that despite our good neighborhoods, how can we keep our kids safe? But we can’t keep them in a bubble, either.
    It’s so hard to be a parent. Hug your little girl tight. I wish I had the answers to make her feel safe.

    Liked by 1 person

    • I remember “Duck and Cover” too, and in Second Grade during that drill looking out the East facing windows of the school room and seeing the smoke stacks of US Steel South Works, the largest steel plant in the world at the time, a mere eight block away, and thinking how utterly pointless that drill was. We have been schooled in fear for a long time. I can still conjure the imagined image of a nuclear flash in that view. These lessons do not go away, are not forgotten. They influence us life long.

      Liked by 1 person

  5. This breaks my heart – and is so close to home. We went through this with lockdown drills – she had her first one ever a week after moving back from the UK.

    My sweet 10yo feels all the pain, and recently we had to stop watching the news while they were home. Both kids were starting to get anxious, because all the venom that was spewing on the screen was too disturbing to process.

    I think Elaine has the right idea.

    Liked by 1 person

    • It’s something I’ve thought about, but the helplessness I feel in trying to protect them when they’re away from me is more than a little overwhelming. Their terror. That phrase alone.


  6. A little over a year ago my husband and I had the privilege of meeting John-Michael Keyes and his wife Ellen. We were in the process of writing an article and interviewing them for an article for our monthly magazine ( Ten years ago an intruder took hostages at a small mountain town high school (Platte Canyon High School). You may or may not remember this incident because there was one fatality, their daughter Emily and her last text message to her parents was “I Love U Guys”. Less than eight days after this tragedy the motorcycle community arranged a fundraiser “parade” from the Columbine high school (Yes, that Columbine High School in Littleton, CO) to the Platte Canyon High School in Bailey Colorado. Each year over 2000 motorcycles participated in the Emily’s Parade to raise money for the “I Love U Guys” foundation, with the final parade being held last year (2015). You may be wondering why I am writing about the “I Love U Guys” foundation on this post, well, it is because John-Michael Keyes is the person who helped to develop (along with local law enforcement, first respondents, schools and parents) the Standard Response Protocol. The very same protocol that your daughter is talking about, “Lockdown” is one of the parts of the SRP. He wanted to develop a system that would enable schools to be safe and if the horrifying prospect of someone attacking the school should happen, everyone (students, teachers, faculty, parents, law enforcement etc.) was speaking the same language and knew what to do. The best part is that the SRP is a constantly evolving process and changes occur when possible flaws are discovered.

    I do know one thing, their intention was NEVER to scare children or parents, but the opposite. To ensure that there was a system in place in our schools to ensure everyone’s safety! I encourage you to peruse their site for materials on how to talk to your daughter about the importance of the drill and help her understand that this is about keeping her safe. All of the documentation is free, you can download any of it and read it, use it etc. If you cannot find anything you feel helps, please contact the foundation. to see if they can provide additional information/tips etc. to help you. As I said earlier, the protocol is constantly changing and improving and they always welcome input.

    Our world has always been harsh (another person posted about duck and cover which I lived through as a child) and there are always things for children to fear. Please don’t let the SRP be one of them.

    If you would like to contact me personally, please feel free to email me at

    Liked by 1 person

    • Thank you. I should add that I am fully supportive of these drills. They, like tornado drills, are a necessary evil. Thank you for the resources. I plan to use the advice and positively reinforce that nothing happened today but I will also check out other ways to discuss these things with her and my son. I appreciate your taking the time to educate me.

      Liked by 1 person

      • John-Michael and Ellen are two ordinary people who suffered a devastating loss and turned it into something remarkable. I admire both of them and the especially the work that John-Michael does with the foundation. As I said in my post, the foundation is extremely receptive to input and questions. I encourage you to contact them if the materials that they provide on their website are lacking in any way for you or your children.


  7. I’m so so sad she was scared of the drill, and SO feel for you, because I think in those circumstances the best anyone can do is what you’re doing, and it’s really not enough. I wish there was a way to make all the kids safe, I really do, but I think the world is gradually changing (and I hope it continues to change) into one where people DO go out of their way to make a difference and that slowly the pendulum of terror will swing back into a more balanced place.

    In the meantime, it’s so hard to know their innocence and sense of security is being broken earlier and earlier in life.

    I remember very clearly when I was in infant school, I’d gone to the toilet during class time (I was the only one in there), and the fire alarm went off for a drill, and I just KNEW that everyone had left the building because it was burning up, and I was too scared even to wipe – I just sat there and cried and cried and cried because I knew I was going to die, burned to a crisp with my knickers down, and eventually one of the caretakers came and found me, and crammed into the stall with me and she stayed with me until the alarms stopped, and told me it was just a drill and I was going to be ok. I don’t remember if my parents were even told. But it was horrible.


  8. My heart aches for her, for you, for us all really. I have said those same things to my kids who are scared too. I often think about how we are living this ‘falsely protected’ mindset and I’m honestly terrified of the truth- as it lingers and haunts me deep within. NONE of us are safe. NOWHERE. Schools, movie theaters, malls, driving down the street… nowhere.

    Our kids know this. They are smart and intuitive. I feel that weight and burden every day to offer them what feels like a false sense of security in an unknown unpredictable world. I get it, Mandi. I’m right there with ya.

    I guess all we can do is continue to comfort our kiddos, guide them wisely, and cling to the safety of this moment- without fear taking over our joy and our peace. Knowing that each and every day we live in this place without danger hitting us, is a gift.

    Liked by 1 person

  9. It breaks my heart that our kids are growing up this way. They don’t know any different – how messed up is that?

    I don’t know if you remember the DC sniper about 13 years ago – two guys randomly shooting people out of the back of their car. My son’s preschool – PRESCHOOL – had us send in extra clothing in case they had to shelter in place. I ran in and out of the school as fast as I could, scanning for strange cars as I held his chubby little hand. He was too little to know what was going on, but now he doesn’t even mention lockdowns because they are a fact of life just like fire drills. I’m sure I’m more frightened of the possibilities than he is, but I won’t let him see that.


  10. As an elementary teacher, I definitely relate to this article a lot. I had one particular student who would come into school telling me of her lockdown nightmares she had around the time we started doing lockdown drills. It is sad to realize that this is the kind of world we live in. Beautiful worded piece!

    Liked by 1 person

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