Last But Not Least The New Normal

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Keep your children close and your smartphones even closer. These days, we feel the need to be constantly connected–and many times for good reason. The other day my daughter Paige texted me some frightening news. It read,”Someone was shot at my school just now.” The newsperson in me wanted every little detail; the mom in me wanted my child in my arms. Of course she is an adult and knows how to take care of herself, but it makes me wonder once again what the hell kind of world is it we live in when parents are getting texts like this. She is a law student in the Midwest at a very good university—a place we both consider pretty safe. But then, that’s all relative.

What really caught me was the nonchalant way she relayed the information via text. She wasn’t overly excited or blowing up my phone with calls of panic. She just relayed the information like it was just another day. I guess it was. This is our new normal, parents.

The text continued, “But, I’m fine. Just in case you hear it on the news.” Well, word had not travelled to my news world. So no, I did not know until the text came through. The next text came in and said: “Apparent active shooter situation but I think it’s under control. We get these alerts and stuff from time to time about crime. But I was off campus when it happened.”

I texted her to get to a safe place. She replied, “I am off campus.” Behind that one she sent the school’s alert which advised students to shelter in place and confirm that they had received the alert.

Her sister got the text too. Grace responded to Paige with a sad face emoticon. (I think she could have had some words at least.) The texting ended with Paige messaging about her near miss. “Today of all days I decided not to park over there in the garage.”  If I had been parked there, I would have been stuck there or potentially involved because I left right when this happened.” I replied, “Thank God.”

I finally spoke to her on the phone and learned that a young woman was shot in the arm, hit by gunfire as a person drove by and unloaded ten bullets from their weapon. I can only imagine how this has affected the young woman’s family.

Sure, I have been the bearer of bad news on many occasions when school shootings have happened here–and all I wanted to do was get information to parents so they would know their kids are safe. This time it hit me that these shootings have become so commonplace that news about them travels in very casual ways.

Many a parent has been challenged with wondering when to equip their children with cell phones. Paige got one when she was 12. Grace got one at 10. Both started out with pay-as-you go until I finally gave in to the iPhone. My children are not little anymore, but I can tell parents who do have little ones: it’s better to be connected than not. Smart phones allow parents to be connected in a way that let’s them keep tabs on emails, texts and more. Apple can even keep track of where they are. One of my girlfriends gave her ten-year-old daughter an iPad. As you begin to let go of the purse strings so your children can learn how to be more independent, these phones can be helpful. You can let your ten-year-old and a few friends roam the mall (while you are in the mall too, of course) and they can have their freedom—as long as they call you every half hour or so and let you know where they are or how they are. And, I must say, I am all for them taking the phones to school and camp. They just have to keep them off when instructed to. But when some crazy emergency pops up…they can be in touch and for that I am glad. It’s sad that the word has come to this, but I, for one, am glad we have ways to stay connected—as long as it’s not at the dinner table. BC

Lisa Robinson is a news anchor for WBAL-TV

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