I Miss My Second-Hand Immortality Complex

I’m not ready to not send my seventh grader to school.

It’s not that I have a problem with homeschooling. I’ve homeschooled her older sister and brother at different times, when they were younger. But I’m not ready to fear homeschool.

Yet.

But, God. It’s close.

I asked her the other night if she’s afraid to go to school. The Florida shootings had obviously unnerved her. She said that she’s not. And I wanted so badly to believe her — that I did.

And then she said: “I get worried when I hear kids talk about whether or not today is the day we’ll have a school shooting.”

I try to remind myself that the chances of Ruby being murdered at school are slim.

I try to remind myself that she’s more likely to die on the drive to school than as a victim of a disturbed young man with a gun while she’s in class or at soccer practice or at a movie with her friends.

I try to remind myself that she’s safe. Because she’s a middle-class white child in America — and she is.

I try to remind myself that of those things, but the truth is that right at this minute I’m acutely aware of just how fragile she is. And while we’re at it, how fragile her sister and brother are, even though they’re grown up.

My protective layer of invincibility has been stripped away. And it’s funny, because at 46, I’m way past my own youthful feelings of invincibility. But I’ve realized that I have a kind of vicarious immortality complex going on with regard to my children.

It’s like a varnish that coats my nerves. It’s what lets my brain and my nerves and my heart all be on the same page. And it’s been diluted. Or maybe worn away. Not just this week. This year.

That varnish is kind of necessary.

It’s what keeps me from devolving into a full-on helicopter mom who can’t let her kid go to school. The belief that my kids will be okay is pretty important to my well-being.

And my layer of varnish has been worn very thin lately.

I don’t know how to rebuild my second-hand immortality complex — except to just breathe through the fear and make myself take a minute to make sure that I’m not responding out of panic. News breaks help. Paying attention to how Ruby’s generation is rising up helps a lot.

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