I have read and heard numerous remarks about the mass shooting at the midnight showing of "The Dark Knight Rises" in Aurora, Colorado. Most justly blame the shooter, an obviously disturbed young man. Others blame the guns, the weapons manufacturers, the NRA, etc. Since I don't want this to devolve into an essay on the rights of gun owners vs. gun control, I will just say that argument has no place here. What I want to address is my concern over the statements being made that blame the parents of the victims. Many have publicly decried the parents by asking, "What kind of parent takes their kids to midnight movies?", or "What were children doing at an R-rated movie?" This seems to be people's way of justifying to themselves that it would never have happened to their kids, because they would not have allowed them to have been present at a midnight movie or an R-rated movie. Never mind that children sometimes sneak out of the house to do things their parents don't allow. Never mind that children sometimes lie about where they are going. For these people, there is solace in the deniability that their children would ever be victims of such random acts of madness. (For the record, I don't know if any of the victims in the Aurora tragedy sneaked out of their parents' homes to attend or were present without parental permission.)
However, life is messier - and much sadder - than that, and casting aspersions or blame on those parents is beyond cruel. We can't surround our children in bubble-wrap and tissue paper. Children died at the Murrah Building bombing in Oklahoma City because it was 9:02 a.m., and they were in the daycare or with their parents and grandparents, who were conducting business in the building. Could have happened to anyone. Children died at Columbine (or any other number of school shootings) because they were there to get an education. Could have happened to anyone. Children died on 09/11/2001, because they were flying with their families. Could have happened to anyone. Children die every day at the hands of others, and it cannot be successfully predicted where, how, when, or especially - why.
Helicopter Parents whose only coping concept may be to isolate their child - no movies, home schooling, don't talk to strangers, etc., have it all wrong. You cannot prevent tragedy from striking. You can minimize risks, but until two days ago the biggest risk associated with going to the movies - even at midnight - was a theater fire. More likely, it was that your kid would spend a fortune on overpriced junk food and come home with a stomachache.
Even the boy in the plastic bubble longed to escape, although he knew the outside world could - and would - eventually kill him. The best we can do as parents is to teach our children that the world, while a scary place, is still amazing and beautiful. We need to teach them what to do when danger strikes, while balancing it so as not to strike fear into their everyday lives. It is a delicate balance, and I think more often than not, we all fall more heavily on one side or the other.
In the 1950s in the midst of the Cold War, school children were taught "Duck and Cover". Many made a game of it, although it was a a deadly serious game to the adults. Perhaps parents should devise a revised form of "Duck and Cover", maybe combined with "Stop, Drop, and Roll" (which you use if you are on fire), to teach their children what to do in case of an active shooter. After all, if we have fire drills to teach children how to escape buildings safely, why would we not teach our children how to protect themselves from other dangers? How much trouble would it be to begin teaching our children to be cognizant of their surroundings, know where the exits are in each room they are in, and what to do in any emergency?
The answer to each and every emergency is not "pull out your cell phone and call home" or "run for the exit". Sometimes running or pulling out that cell phone and talking could put your child in even greater danger. You wouldn't want them to alert a shooter to their presence and location. Instead, teach your child how to remain calm and not panic. if they took out their phone and dialed 911, even if your child remained quiet, it would alert the police to the problem. Your child should never stop to do that before they have ducked and secured adequate cover, though.
Based on my years of training when I was in law enforcement, I would propose teaching children something along the lines of this modified "Duck and Cover" as a learning tool: 1. DUCK - if there is a present danger, drop to the ground as quickly as possible, from here, quickly assess the situation - what is the danger, where is the closest and best cover, etc.; 2. COVER - Roll or crawl or scoot or whatever it takes to stay low, and move to find adequate cover to protect yourself. Only then should anyone reach for their cell phone to call 911. After those steps have been taken, then you can reassess the danger, whether you should stay put or try to escape, etc.
Remember, "Train up a child in the way he should go and when he is old, he will not depart from it." ~Proverbs 22:6. Lessons learned in childhood are often lessons for a lifetime. If such lessons can help save the lives of our children, should we not teach them?