Friday, December 21, 2012

But What Do Cigarettes Have to do With Gun Control?

      I have recently gone back to graduate school.  As a thirty-something surrounded by mostly twenty-somethings, I am constantly reminded that I am old.  I was recently telling the story of how when I was in high school, our band director used to conduct with his lit cigarette.  My classmates were incredulous.  "But there's no way, you can't smoke in schools!  You can't even smoke on school grounds!" they said.  Ah yes, my children, there was a time not so long ago when you could smoke on airplanes, and in schools, and in restaurants.  You could go to Denny's, order coffee and smoke.  A local coffee house had cigar night.  If you went to a bar, you would leave reeking of cigarette smoke.  You could smoke in the workplace, any workplace, even if that workplace was a school or a hospital.
     So what changed?  People loved their cigarettes, in fact were quite addicted to them. Wouldn't we be liminting their freedom by banning smoking in public places? How do you get people to quit smoking or at least smoke less?
     Slowly they began to increase the tax on ciggarettes.  The price of a pack went from $2.50 to roughly $10.00 in just a matter of years.  They started to ban advertising to kids.  Joe Camel used to be as recognizable as Mickey Mouse.  Then they began to say no more smoking in schools, and then even smoking on school grounds became taboo.  They moved from having a non smoking section in restaurants to not allowing smoking, period.  And yes, this "they" happens to be our government.
     After this past year of shootings, maybe we as a society should begin to say I don't want your second hand gun smoke.  I'm not a 'gun owner/smoker', so why should I be subjected to to you smoke/gun fire.  I don't want you smoke/gun fire in my kids schools.  They, the government can affect change, they have done it before, in very recent memory.  Maybe if we stand up as a society and say this smoke is making us sick, we can make some simple but effective changes. Then hopefully there will be less Auroras and Newtowns and Trevon Martins.

Monday, December 17, 2012

What to tell your kids about school shootings

Friday, December 14th, 2012. Surely it had been “one of those days” for everyone–parents, teachers, students, the employed, the un- or underemployed. It was a busy, stressful day at the height of the holiday season, and when emotions were already high, tragedy struck in a place that could have easily been your town, your neighborhood.

Like you, I wanted answers. But with all my kids at home with me, I couldn’t exactly put on CNN. So I took the social media route. There were bits and pieces of a horrific story and a number of angry people assigning blame, but of course, no answers.

The next day, my husband and I created a bubble of cheer for our kids–games, Christmas movies, etc. I knew life couldn't continue on like that indefinitely, so I began to wonder what to tell my first grader, if anything.

Then I came across an article in the Albany Times Union: “What to tell, not tell, kids about shootings.” I read it because I thought it might help initiate the conversation. The link is at the bottom of the page if you’re interested or curious, though I wouldn’t necessarily recommend it.

Since the only advice I found was too vague to be helpful, I was on my own. Although I’ve been criticized for being “too honest” with my kids, I thought I should go with an age-appropriate version of the truth. When my son is about to make up a story, I always stop him and say, "Give it to me straight. I can handle it." And then he does. I should as a parent return the courtesy. He's an intuitive, rational kid. He too can "handle it."

Do I believe guns are partially to blame for this tragedy? Absolutely. Would I tell my kids this? Yes. I don't like guns and wouldn't want them in my house. I would hope, regardless of the law, others who have children or the mentally ill in their care would feel the same way.

I give a lot of credit to those who work with or live with the mentally ill. It's not an easy job (or an easy life). Even in an ideal setting-stable, loving household, good health insurance-some disorders are untreatable. Take away that stability and medical treatment, add a deadly weapon into the mix, and you can potentially get the Columbine, the Virgina Tech, the Aurora, Colorado, or the Newtown, Connecticut.

So back to my son, the first grader. Here's the message I hope to get across to him...

Sometimes people are broken. They need help, but maybe no one listens or maybe the people who love them don't know what to do. Then they might become to broken to fix. And if they want to hurt themselves or other people, they'll find a way...