Making Preparations That You’d Rather Not Make
My daughter started kindergarten this week. She could not have been more excited. Facing private school tuition, an intolerant bus service, and a subsequent change in both after-school care plans and our morning routine, my wife and I were decidedly less enthused.
Anticipation of the added pressure aside, neither of us were prepared for one of the forms that came home with her on the first day. The school requested that each child bring in a bag prepared with a shelf-stable snack, a bottle of water, and a reading or activity book for a SIP kit. SIP standing for Shelter In Place i.e. if the school is ever in active lock down, the children have to be tucked away somewhere on the premises. The bag keeps them distracted.
My daughter exudes happiness & sass in prolific quantities. She doesn’t have a single care in the world. She could not be more innocent in the eyes of the world. The thought of her potentially having to hide from, or fall victim to, a mentally ill person hell-bent on wreaking havoc and making the lives of her and her friends a nightmare was a thought neither my wife nor I were ready to have. And it’s something that no parent should have to think about… and certainly not prepare for. But we had to force ourselves to do both, because ultimately confronting the idea allowed us to prepare a bit and to attempt to make a hypothetical, terrible situation somehow better for our daughter. Which is why I tore the kitchen and pantry apart looking for a non-peanut snack that would potentially offer her some comfort. And it is why I shakily scribbled a coherent-to-a-five-year-old note onto the inside of a coloring book saying that, if she was reading it, she may be scared but she would be OK.
My wife just kept saying “We shouldn’t have to think about stuff like this.” But we do, uncomfortable as it is. We have to confront the uncomfortable to make a plan, so if it does happen we don’t make it worse by mishandling the fallout. A lot of folks get taken to the cleaners during a divorce because they never made a prenup. So many of them say, “We didn’t plan for divorce, because we didn’t want that possibility to enter into our minds.” But it does, so it should.
Dealing with disbelief by ignoring it affects us all. Several years ago, my grandfather passed away due to complications from Alzheimer’s & cancer. While filling out the forms to put my grandfather into hospice care, my grandmother stopped and said, “This wasn’t supposed to happen to us. This was supposed to only happen to old people.” At the time, she was 83 and he was 85. Things we don’t want to think about happen all the time, incredulous as we may think it. And they will continue. That’s life.
We held a workshop at na’BRASA last week. Amongst our guests was an older couple in their mid-to-late 70s. They had nothing in place for their money or their estate but, while they liked the information they heard and took copious notes, he didn’t want to do anything because he “just couldn’t think about that stuff right now”. His wife, who was a few years younger, said nothing.
We don’t want to think bad things can happen. We don’t want to believe that a lunatic will ever force their way into a school, that a marriage built on love can sour and dissolve, or that we will eventually age our way out. But we have to, because they do happen. And planning for the contingencies is really about the only way to make it through something like that without completely falling apart.
Even if that plan involves waking up a half an hour earlier so your child can make it to school at a time that still allows your wife to arrive at work early enough to claim the one good parking spot in the lot…
Five thirty in the morning is a quiet, dark, and pointless time of the day…