September 20, 2012

A Reassuring Note for the Children's Emergency Kit; New Material to Keep the Parents Lying Awake


I put this on Twitter, and then I was like, "Self, why did you put that on Twitter? First of all, it took EIGHT tweet installments to say it. That is not the point of Twitter, self. Secondly, now it scrolls down and disappears forever, and then next year when you're thinking, 'Where is that thing I wrote about this??,'  you will search all your blog archives and be completely mystified because WHERE DID IT GO? And I will not be here to say, 'You put it on TWITTER, dummy.'"

So I will write it here again, even though this will be a bit dull for those who already saw it on Twitter already. We will all suffer together, but only briefly, and next time I will try to remember to write it here to begin with, so that we can write or read it ONCE.

Here is what happened: Several people on Twitter were talking about how their schools wanted them to write a reassuring note to their children, to pack in an emergency preparedness kit. Then we all died from the agony of facing that task. The end.

One particularly wrenching thought was that if it's a big emergency, this could be THE LAST COMMUNICATION YOUR CHILD EVER GETS FROM YOU. This is too much pressure for a note, I think we can agree on that. This just BEGS parents to start making lengthy, sobbing lists of everything they would want to tell their child if this was their last chance, and I think we can further agree that the resulting note is not going to be reassuring to a child.

So as I was lying awake night after night having horrified thoughts about this whole thing, I came up with two goals:

1. The note needs to reassure the child without going overboard/crazy, in the situations where it is mostly likely the note will be used: a bomb scare where there is no bomb, a tornado alert where the tornado does not arrive.

2. The note needs to still work if the child will, unthinkably, be treasuring this note forever.


Here is what I would write:

Dear Henry,
Hello from Mommy! This is the note they told us to write to you in case something scary was happening! We'll be there to get you as soon as we can. Be sure to obey your teachers; they will take good care of you while you are waiting. Don't worry, everything will be fine! I love you!
Love, Mommy


Then I would decorate with a bunch of cheery little drawings: our cat doing something silly; a picture of Daddy with a family joke written over it; hearts and stars all over the place.

I would rig a little plastic shelter over my paper/hands as I wrote, to keep the paper from being stained with DRIPPING TEARS.

30 comments:

d e v a n said...

Oh dear, that makes me sad inside just thinking about that task! Scary!

Amanda said...

I feel like this is a horrible horrible idea but that you have nailed it. I think any other way to go would be a recipe for tears and panic and sadness.

Oy what a task.

HereWeGoAJen said...

I think it is horrible that the schools are having parents do this now. And I don't think it is horrible of the schools or anything, I actually think it is nice that they've thought of it, but NO NO NO DON'T WANT TO THINK ABOUT IT.

(Your note is perfect.)

Saly said...

Thinking of writing such a note, nevermind the potential situations it could be used in, makes me STOP BREATHING. Dislike.

MomQueenBee said...

Holy cow. When did schools start doing that? It's among the creepiest ideas I've ever read. Plus, THE PRESSURE.

shin ae said...

What a thing to even have to think about. Well done, though.

Did the school mention what sort of catastrophe was expected?

clueless but hopeful mama said...

I have never heard of such a thing! My tears would definitely overflow the plastic tear-catcher system while writing such a thing.

I love your note, though I might cut out "everything will be fine" in my own. My 6 year old has already gotten suspicious when I say that, asking "How do YOU know?"



Lawyerish said...

Well! I need to find somewhere in my office to weep inconsolably now! I am SO glad that I had never heard of this practice until Twitter informed me of it, because if Felicity's school asked me to do that...well, I would be packing up for our cave that very day.

Your note is great, though.

Holly said...

My daughter is 2.5, but they always want a note in their kit too. I've never written one, partly because I figure she wouldn't have grasped that it was from her parents, and partly because I have no clue what I'd write. I never thought of it being a 'last thing I ever say to them' thing. Geezus.

metacognitivethoughts said...

I understand some of the reasoning behind having the parents write the note, but I think that if I were in charge of many children that belonged to other people and we were in a tragic/terrible situation I would not want to take the time to find the notes and hand them out. I don't think that I would be like "okay, everybody! Don't worry, your mommies and daddies wrote you a not in case something like this happened, let's see where did I put those, I thought I needed to put them somewhere safe and easily accessible, in this filing cabinet, nope, what about this one, Jimmy everything is going to be just fine, what about over here, no that's not it, oh here they are I found them. Okay everybody, when I call your name come and get your folder." I'm pretty sure that I would be having everybody play twenty questions or reading a book, something that had everybody sitting down where I could see them and count them over and over. Something that didn't require me to use a lot of brain power.

Clarabella said...

Possibly stupid question, but this is my first child and his first year in school: is the emergency preparedness kit an individual thing each student should have, or is it a kit for the entire school? I am a bit confused about that. If the former, they don't have them. I assume they are required to have some kind of the latter.
ANYWAY, I thought about this quite a bit when you posted it on Twitter the other day, and then promptly drove it from my head because...well, sad.
However, I know exactly what I would write in Dude's note. We have these little sayings we throw around in our house, such as "I will not lose," and "Big things," and "May the force be with you" (of course). These are things we say interchangeably with "I love you," and "Have a good day." So, I would write all our family calls/responses in the note. And I like you're inclusion of getting to the child. I would tell him to be brave and safe and kind. Sigh.
Now I need a tissue.

Charleen said...

This reminds me of the How I Met Your Mother episode where Marshall and Lily are writing "in the event of my death" letters to each other . . . only, you know, they made it funny because it's a sitcom.

(There was another episode in which a voice mail from Marshall's dad are his "last words" after he dies, which, while still funnied-up a bit, was a lot more moving.)

(I watch too much TV, I think.)

lillowen said...

I don't think I have ever heard of this before. Maybe they don't do it in Canada? At any rate, it is a good thing, because this is TOO SAD TO CONTEMPLATE. I love your letter, though.

Swistle said...

shin ae and Clarabella- Er, which leads me to the more ridiculous part of me lying awake at night composing this: I DO NOT NEED TO. My kids' schools don't do this. It was other people mentioning needing to do it for THEIR kids that put me into Action Mode. So I don't know any of the details, but I have a note ready JUST IN CASE.

The line about getting to the child was someone else's, and now I have forgotten whose, because EVERYTHING DISAPPEARS IN TWITTER.

Maggie said...

Rather than consider my mental state if I was required to write one of these notes or a situation in which use of the notes was deemed necessary, I will distract myself by instead asking just how they anticipate these things being used?

I mean, if it's a serious, heavy duty emergency, are they going to spend time finding and distributing notes from parents? I'd rather they focused on the emergency. Also, I'm not at all certain that my son at least would find such a note comforting. I think it might actually freak him out if he was not already completely freaked out.

Carmen said...

I had to do this for my one year old when he started in daycare here in Vancouver (earthquake is the emergency we're worried about here). We had to provide the note, an emergency blanket, a bottle of water, out-of-town emergency contact information and some food in a large Ziploc bag. The daycare had an emergency duffle bag near the front door that they kept all the kids' ziplocs in.

I can honestly say I've never cried so hard in my life as when I was attempting to write that note. It was brutal. I ended up writing something along the lines that you said here, then added in a few things about recent fun memories of family outings, then tossed in a few pieces of paper & a crayon to keep him busy. I also included a family photo.

Gigi said...

Oh dear God - people are doing this?! (apparently, I missed it on Twitter). There is absolutely no way in hell I could have done that when mine was small.....or today for that matter.

As it was, the letter I wrote for him as he was preparing for college took me a month to write and many, many, many tears.

Saranel said...

I cannot imagine writing such a note but my oldest is only 3 so I don't have to worry about it for awhile. Side note: I also have a Felicity! :) Mine is only two months old though.

Maggie said...

My husband wrote our note and he took it VERY SERIOUSLY which isn't to say that the note itself was serious, but it was LONG and DETAILED and I couldn't decide if it was sweet or might make her more scared I DON'T KNOW. I'm just glad he did it instead of me. And now I will go back to thinking no one will ever have to read it.

Angela/@antiangie said...

Our daycare/preschool requires that every kid has an individual gallon-size ziplock bag with things like a space blanket, flashlight, nonperishable snacks, and the aforementioned Note of Awfulness along with a family picture. If something like an earthquake happens, it could take awhile for folks to get there, so the note is supposed to be comforting in that instance. The other possibility is Not Discussed but of course it's where everyone's mind goes. Honestly, I'm kind of surprised to read that so many folks' schools don't require emergency kits!

Sarah said...

Oh my LORD what a freaking terrible task! I am so so glad our school and preschool have never required this... probably because we don't live in either hurricane or earthquake areas. Still. AWFUL. I'm the person who's still choking about finalizing the decision of who gets our kids In The Event We Both Perish, so, this would totally paralyze me. I do not like going to worst case scenarios.

Erica said...

I am so very glad that I will have your archives to refer to as my children get older.

Gwen said...

Sob Sob... Good note!

Lauren said...

I am so glad I am not the only one who was troubled by this task. My oldest started Kindergarten this year and we had to have an emergency kit with a note in it as well. However, I thought it was just because we live on a military installation. I didn't know others did it too. But it makes me feel less weird that they do I guess. I was having the same problem with the note. "What do I say?" Eeek! I don't want to make it sad, but I want to tell him I love him, yada, yada, yada. I ended up writing something to the same effect as your note to Henry. Sheesh. And the kicker is, there really is a possibility that it may be used. I mean, we're in a location where earthquakes are possible (not super likely though) or a security threat could shut down the whole base! What if he has to actually use the note!!? Ug, talk about pressure!

Jenny said...

Why didn't you sign it "See you in hell!"...?

Inquiring minds want to know.

Swistle said...

Jenny- Ha ha! No, that's just a Paul and me thing!

Magpie said...

because we are not all that far from a nuclear power plant (oh the joys!), we have to sign authorizations for them to give the kids potassium iodide (KI) in case...

but they have never asked us to write sweet tender little notes or have a kit.

i can't decide whether i'm happy to never have had to write that note, or deprived.

Hope said...

Do you think the teachers READ all the letters? Talk about a depressing evening! Especially because I'm sure not all parents would be as concise as you. Gah, I think I'd just write "Mommy loves you," and call it a day.

Shannon said...

I'm tearing up just reading this. Our school in in walking distance to the house but still. Ugh, they haven't made us do this yet but if they do, can I just wrote what you wrote? Now I'm crying...

Brea said...

Here is Idaho I , thankfully" don't haave to do this. But I remember hving one in my kit from my mom in elementary school in Seattle. For that giant earthquake they have been talking aabout for years. I will have to ask her how she did it. And if my sister and I had different notes.