PERSPECTIVE: The tornado warning that brought a small parenting lesson

Lately it’s becoming increasingly difficult to drop my kids off at school without saying a quick prayer that they’ll be safe all day and the staff will protect and love them as if my children were their own children. I realize that’s a tall order to ask of teachers who already have enough on their plates, but let’s be honest — every parent wants that.

What choice do we have, though, but to hope for the best when our children aren’t in our care? We can’t quit our jobs and hover over them every step of their childhood to intervene when any obstacles come their way. I’m not saying I wouldn’t do that if I could — just that I guess it’s not a totally healthy option if my goal is to turn them into independent adults who don’t live in my basement.

So we parents drop our kids off at school, watching their images get smaller and smaller in the rearview mirror, as they clumsily carry their backpacks and lunches … and … we … breathe.

My young children attend Oakview Elementary in Kettering, and when there was a recent tornado warning with loud sirens going off, my first thought at work was, “I bet my kids are scared. I wish I were there to comfort them.”

I didn’t do the smartest thing, and I left work, got in my car and headed straight for the school where they go to after-school care until I get off work, not stopping to consider that if I got injured I’d be of no help to my kids — but sometimes my mama-brain takes over and self-restraint goes out the door.

When I got to school, the skies darkened as one of the teacher’s aides hurried me inside and directed me to a secluded room without windows as she said, “They’re all in there.” She remained by the door, on the lookout for more worried parents who would inevitably be coming in with the same undeniable protective instincts I was giving in to.

I was bracing myself for my sensitive kids to be crying in a corner, scared and confused, so I made a mental note to slap on a smile before going into the room.

I walked in and saw the other teacher’s aide sitting with the children while the librarian was calmly reading a book to all the kids, acting out the voices and asking the kids questions about the book. The kids were sitting on the floor under a large desk, raptly attending to her words and the story. No sign of fear lived in that room.

I sat down next to my kids on the floor, kissing their heads and breathing in the peace and calm of the room as I listened to a story about an energetic housefly and the antics he and his friends get into.

I saw firsthand that the instinct I pray every morning will be in the school’s staff, to protect my children as their own is, in fact, alive and strong.

The teacher’s aides and librarian weren’t doing this for any public attention or praise or any likes on Facebook. They were just doing their jobs as they do every single day with heart, soul and pride, putting my children and your children at ease not because they have to but because they truly want to. You can’t fake that.

They say it takes a village to raise kids, and it’s true. I’m grateful my village is full of folks who genuinely care and put my mind at ease that my kids are in not just good hands — but amazing hands with a ton of heart.

There are no guarantees in life, right? We hurry our kids out the door in the morning, juggling practice and lessons all with work and getting a decent meal on the table every night. We go through the routines and go to bed exhausted with the hope that we’re doing it right, wishing we could shield them from any danger and fear.

We aim at doing our best and putting our trust in others whom we hope will do their best too when we pass them the baton every day. We can’t be everywhere all the time, and every morning when I drop my kids off at Oakview and say a prayer they’ll be safe, I can count on every last employee in that building doing their part and more to love my children as much as I do.

I couldn’t be more grateful for that.

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Rebecca Rine, a regular contributor, is a writer living in Kettering with her two children. Her work can be found at JaggedJourney.com.

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