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Columns

Tales from the Motherhood in Batavia: Channeling mama bear instincts when violence threatens

The one morning I curled up to read a book instead of perusing headlines online, I missed one. A big one.

“There’s a guy with a gun at my school,” Holly announced. Bummed she couldn’t go, because she’d taken extra time to curl her hair and was pleased with the results, she plopped down on my bed and reached for my TV remote in search of a news update. I put my book down and located the city’s alert on my laptop:

“Reported Unknown Male Subject with Rifle entering Batavia High School all Police units are on scene” – Yikes.

“No school for you today,” I said, as we searched for details. I was struck by how calm we both were, but this wasn’t the first time we’d scanned our social media feeds for an all-clear from authorities. There were no reports of any shots fired, but “Kids and staff at school early for practices were moved by SWAT team to the fire station across the street,” I read. Wow. It was hard not to imagine what their parents were feeling, let alone what might be transpiring inside that building.

“Holl, school’s not likely to open any time soon,” I said. “They’ll need to scour every square inch of it, and, besides, I’m thinking ‘no,’ anyhow. What’s the point? Let’s go for a walk.”

It was a gorgeous day, Daisy dog longed to get out there, and I still had a few hours before I needed to report to work. Yes, a walk would be good.

“No, there’s possibly a guy with a gun out there,” Holly replied.

Right. We live less than a half mile away from the high school. Seems my girl wasn’t completely nonplussed after all. Authorities had found nothing so far, the next update said, but Holly was right. So we tossed the ball for Daisy in the living room between glances at our news feeds, and an hour after school was to have started, Batavia’s Deputy Police Chief Shawn Mazza issued a statement.

It seemed, following a thorough search of the interior of the school, that nothing concerning was found. The citizen who’d made the police report, Mazza said, had “probably” seen what surveillance video showed was a student carrying a bag containing baseball equipment.

The school hadn’t yet determined when or if school would resume that day, but, I told Holly, if it did, “probably” wasn't reassurance enough for me. I trust my gut. This is my kid we’re talking about. My beautiful, kind, fun-loving kid, whose tuft of platinum blonde hair sparkled in the sun like spun gold when she was a newborn. Who graduates next month, whose whole future stretches out before her, and who’ll leave stretch marks behind on my body and heart when she goes. Nope, I wasn’t quite ready to pivot.

But she was ready for food. “I’m going to breakfast,” Holly said. “Zoe’s getting me.”

“You are?” 

“Yep.”

“Cool,” I said, watching her go. Get back out into the world, I thought. Healthy impulse. School, however, was another matter. When she returned from breakfast, though, she reminded me that it wasn’t actually up to me. She turned 18 last month.

“Can you move your car?” she asked.

“Why?” 

“I’m going to school,” she said. Ah. 

“You’re an adult, so it’s up to you,” I said, “but we haven’t yet heard that the person who made the police report actually viewed the surveillance footage and confirmed that the kid determined to be carrying that bat bag into the building, and the person reportedly dressed in black and carrying something that appeared to be a rifle, are the same person. This all happened so fast, you know?” She nodded.

I’m glad a conscientious citizen listened to their gut, grateful for our wonderful police force, and relieved all seemed well, but I’ve never hesitated to keep my kids home on days like this. If you’ve read my column for a few of the last 10 years (it’ll be 10 next month!), you know there’ve been a couple.

I’m a mama bear. I’ve never been afraid to rock that roar when things get muddy, and sing songs whilst making mud pies at home instead. What’s the rush? I like to let the air clear after a trauma. Maybe no blood was spilled, but a false alarm doesn’t mean no trauma occurred.

Imagining what might be unfolding in that school no doubt unleashed a collective tide of stress hormones in this town. And besides, people get all antsy and impulsive after stuff like this. Oh, and the news cameras reportedly trained on the kids who headed back in after the all-clear?’ Who needs it? Who wants to be in that mix when it’s not absolutely necessary?

Just let it all pass, I say. Let it pass right on by while we take a step back and focus instead on this beautiful day, I thought. I was glad to skip a day of suffering the wonders, and encouraged my daughter to indulge instead in some self-compassionate self-care. Yes, it was time for that walk.

“Listen to the birds,” I said, as we meandered with Daisy through our neighborhood delivering graduation party invites, the sun shining on our faces and enveloping us in her reassuring warmth. I suppose I yearned to restore some balance, and a dose of this spectacular spring day was just the thing.

We chatted with neighbors, and, nearby, the birds were industrious in their nest building. It’s hard work, that nest building, important work. New life is indeed upon us, and I’m savoring every bit of it.

Jennifer DuBose lives in Batavia with her family. Her column runs regularly in the Kane Weekend section of the Kane County Chronicle. Contact her at editorial@kcchronicle.com.

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