Overheard at the Elementary School

Every morning, when I drop Moose off at school, I stand outside with him until they blow the whistle signaling the students to line up. This is an entertaining time of day for me, because I get to hear what kinds of things the children are talking about it. This is especially amusing when the little ones, first and second graders, are walking by…you never know what to expect!

Yesterday, however, instead of hearing conversations that made me chuckle, I heard one that wanted to make me weep. You see, on Monday night, we had received a robocall from the school district informing us that there was going to be a heightened police presence at the schools in the district because there had been a “scary clown” threat made online. While I’m glad they take these things seriously, I wasn’t too concerned, because I figured it was most likely a hoax, and it appeared the threat was actually referring to a different school district in the St. Louis area in the first place.

Clearly, however, word had spread, and I heard a pair of children, probably first or second graders, talking about it. Very matter-of-factly, without a tone of fear or drama, a little girl said to her friend, “The police are here to keep us safe. But they [clowns] will hurt us at recess.”

I was stunned to hear a child discuss the possibility of being hurt in such a calm fashion. It made me wonder…have we gotten so used to tragic events in our country that a blasé attitude has filtered down even to children? If there had been a tone of excitement or drama, I suppose that still would have been disturbing, but understandable and age-appropriate. Children love to dramatize things, and don’t often understand why bad things are frightening instead of simply exciting. But these children seemed detached from the possibility of real danger.

I don’t know. Maybe that’s for the best. I certainly don’t want America’s children worrying about every bad possibility lurking around every corner. But it also scares me a bit to think that these things have become so routine that even children don’t think twice about them happening. I’m not sure either option is indicative of an emotionally healthy way to grow up.

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