This morning, Maxi and Midi went with the rest of their school to the pantomime. Today, like many of the other parents in the village, I fretted about their safety. Tonight, like every parent whose happened to catch the news, I’ve given them an extra kiss and hug and whispered, “I love you” in their sleeping ears.
It’s hard to write about our little, mundane day, when so many young children have been senselessly killed in a school in Connecticut. But it’s impossible for me to write about the Sandy Hook shooting because I can’t process the enormity, tragedy and senselessness of what’s happened.
The children at the minxes’ school went on a heavily subsidised trip to the Pantomime today. It was at the nearest city, an hour’s drive away. Although Maxi is a veteran of 2 pantomimes so far, this was little Midi’s first. It was also the furthest she’s been away from the bosom of her clingy mother.
For the past few weeks some of us Playground Mums have been quietly admitting how nervous we’ve been feeling about letting our babies go on the trip. We’ve joked about our clinginess. Today alone I must have said to 3 or 4 parents, trying to reassure myself as much as trying to acknowledge and salve their fears: ”Oh these are high-calibre teachers – they’ve done this so many times before. And they’ll have thought of things that we won’t have!”, thinking about necessities like spare clothes in case of toilet accidents, sick buckets, spare packed lunches. I constantly reminded myself that for most of the teachers, they’re in loco parentis emotionally as well as physically, and that goes both ways. One of Midi’s teachers in particular obviously adores all her little charges, and is loved dearly back. Still, like a lot of over-anxious mums I gave the girls another quick revision on Stranger Danger, Procedures To Be Followed In The Event of Becoming Lost, and What To Do If You Think You Need Mummy.
I just read a news report allegedly from a child eye-witness in Sandy Hook saying that she had been in her classroom and heard sounds like pans falling. Her teacher had looked out into the corridor, come in, locked the classroom door, piled the kids into the classroom cupboard and kept them there, quiet, while a man banged on the door demanding to be let in, before going away. I wonder how many lives that teacher saved? How many lives did Lisa Potts save by stepping in front of a machete? I saw my mother spring into action plenty of times to help a child in the street. Parents, teachers, people just do, don’t we? We look after children, whether they’re our own or not. Worrying about leaving our children safely at school are irrational. Aren’t they?
The Boss and I made little packed lunches for the minxes that were full of all their favourite things (well, that were allowed! Sweeties for the bus were banned so Maxi pouted about being denied sherbet lemons). The Boss went out last night to buy some of their favourite sliced ham even though he’s ill and should be resting; I got up half an hour early to bake some cranberry muffins to fill their tummies with all the love I could bake into them. You do these daft things, don’t you? It’s maybe a way of quietening down the little dark voices that are only ever one listening-to away from becoming hysterical and panic-mongering. What if the bus crashes? What if someone tries to abduct my baby? What if my child gets lost on the way to the toilet? What if someone tried to hurt them? What if…?, filled with increasingly silly and ridiculously unlikely scenarios. But the horrible part of you knows that they’re still possible, however unlikely. So you blot them out by doing what little you can – slipping in a favourite drink that you normally wouldn’t buy, telling them how much you love them a few more times than usual, racing home from the doctor’s so that you can wave goodbye to them like a maniacal loon from the other side of the street as they set off on the buses.
As it turned out, little Midi screamed in terror at the first part of the pantomime, begging for me and being cuddled by her teachers, but had relaxed enough by the second part to have been laughing and dancing in her seat. She declared it, “Fun. Liked it. Can I have a chocolate treat now?” Maxi loved the show but talked non-stop on the coach home and I think tested the tolerance of her poor Buddy. She also managed to polish off her entire packed lunch (I’d packed enough for her entire class…) so went to bed after just a cup of milk, looking worn-out.
The pantomime also extended to the pick-up. I’d stood with some other parents at the side of the road, discovering that I, too, had not been one of The Few who’d been told to send their children’s packed lunches in poly bags and not to send them to school with school bags. Still, we had plenty of entertainment at the shenanigans on the road: some people thought it would be absolutely fine to park right across a minor T-junction, but effectively blocked the entire road. The 3 buses holding the children were biiiiiig, monster, luxury liners, with the turning circle of the QE2; they found it pretty hard to turn in a road lined on both sides with parked cars. One car came down the blocked T-junction and halted at the offending parked car. People are very polite in this village – anywhere else they’d have leaned on the car horn, but here they just gave a quiet and polite little flash of their lights. Realising that it was a bit rude to stand, gawp and giggle at the car pantomime (Where’s the bus? It’s be-HIND you!!!!), we walked over into the dark playground, where parents were clustering round the gate, preventing any kind of easy in-and-out. Och, it’s Friday night, it’s 3 hours later than we’d normally be here, we’re all tired, we’ve been fretting all day and we just want to grab our babies and get them safely indoors and in their beds. Tucked up, dreaming innocent dreams. Where adults can’t descent out of the blue to harm them or brutally wrench little souls apart from their tiny bodies. May they ever rest in peace.