I knew that school was going to come up immediately. I knew that I'd look down into my kid's face the day they were born, fall asleep for a quick nap, and wake up to considering their education, setting screen-time limits, dealing with sweets binges and wondering where the time went.
That nap is over. Iris is turning four in May, and I say goodbye to each day as she falls asleep, still in our bed, sometimes on the lateral edge instead of center. Right now, her face is turned into my thorax, her arms crossed over her belly and I see a drawing she did on her left hand of her friend Olive. I see the sheen of her rainbow stud earring. Her face still has the smoothness of childhood, plump and a little sweaty. Recently, she's rejected all clothes that aren't at the height of comfort. No overalls, no linen, no jeans. She's wearing soft slouchy pants and a matching sweater in a brown that might actually be green. It's called "timber." She measures in at the 25th percentile and for having a tiny, portable babe I am thankful.
Tonight, I go to sleep with mass shootings in my brain. Some days, Iris asks when she is going to be old enough to be able to go to school. For the last year, I've told her we do home school. I didn't know if that was honest at first, because the thought of having a break from her every day was a nice thought. I imagined myself packaging her up and sending her away and reconnecting at the end of the day. I began learning about the schools in our state. I considered how fucking glad I am to own a business so she can go to work with me every day, and then wondered if she would have as hard a time in school as I did. My brain moves quickly. I became bored easily. I skipped kindergarten, jumped into 1st grade and worked with a 3rd grade mathbook. I got in trouble frequently because I was bored. Some days, I think maybe I want her to go to a regular school. Other days, like today, I don't want her in school until she's in college. Our cultural treatment of adolescent males coupled with ease of weapons accessibility is going to continue to combust into mass shootings until gun reform happens. That might not ever happen.
As Iris gets older, my body feels greater pain for those parents whose first graders were mauled down, their small bodies slain to rest in puddles of blood next to their sparkly backpacks, their carefully bought school supplies, lunches from parents, scribbly drawings and six-year-old sprawling handwriting. I don't want Iris in a public school. I don't want Iris in public spaces. We leave anywhere and I immediately plan for what we will do if someone starts shooting. I go to a small, local coffee shop and think, "Not even here is safe." This isn't part of the conversation I imagined having with myself when I got pregnant.
Iris is three. She can read. She can write. She builds with legos. We visit museums. We go to the farmers' market every Saturday to work. She eats up facts and her vocabulary is not dissimilar to my own. She's got two moms. Her other mom is an engineer who works with surgeons, so Iris knows her bones. She knows her tools, how to use a drill. This kid is my favorite person on the planet and most days I think sending her to school would be a disservice to her learning, that if she stays home we get to keep doing what we're doing, and she will be old enough to go to dance class, nature camps, farm camps, science camps, museum trips, aquarium overnights, to volunteer at the zoo or the animal shelter, to have dedicated time with her moms to talk about problems in our community and what she can do to help. Days like today, I think sending her to school is instead risking her life. More dangerous than driving a car. Is it? What are our odds of being killed with a gun these days?
I don't want to post a single picture here. I don't want to scroll through my last three years and wonder what photo would be the most appropriate in a bit of writing where at the back of my mind is the thought of my daughter killed in a school shooting. If I think about this a minute longer I will start to visualize exactly which image would hurt the most. It's probably the image I don't have a photo of, the visual of my beautiful sleeping kid holding her stuffed crocodile as I type this and think these wrecking thoughts.
I'm so sorry.