From the moment my doctor placed my son in my arms after 28 hours of labor, my first thought was Whew! The hard part is over! (Yes, now I do realize that the hard part was just beginning. Like I said, it was my first baby.) It was then that I felt the first stirrings of deep, primal feelings. Maternal feelings. Among them, that feeling of protection. I looked into that tiny, brand new face and knew that nothing would keep me from doing everything in my power to protect this little person. Nothing.
Last week a student threatened the life of my son. Explicitly. To a teacher and the assistant principal. It was direct. Forceful. And very serious. This child stood in the office of the school, looked at the assistant principal and emphatically announced that he hated my son and was going to kill him. It was not in a heated moment or during a temper tantrum. But calmly and directly.
The only reason I found out about the threat was because I was calling the school to talk to the principal about a physical confrontation with this boy that same day. I was calling to express my frustration at the entire classroom situation. It was then the principal told me that by law she was required to let me know a threat had been made on my son's life. I will let that moment sink in as you imagine those words being said to you about your child.
In all my years as a mother, I have never before felt that deep primal instinct to protect more strongly than I did at that moment. And following close behind was a fear unlike any I had known before. Deep, gut-wrenching fear. That fear was kept at bay by the intensity of my desire -- my need -- to protect my son.
My first instinct was to question this principal and find out exactly what she was going to do about the situation. The only answer I could get from the principal was that the school was doing all it could to protect all students. I insisted that they tell me if -- at the very least -- this student would be in the classroom the next day. She said she was unable to tell me anything due to laws governing the privacy of students. In order to protect the other student, no one could assure me that my son would be safe if I sent him to school.
Is this a case of privacy over protection? Have the schools become the last place in this world to realize that sometimes in order to protect the innocent, we need to loosen up some of the tight laws on privacy. If you have flown recently, you know you have to take off your shoes to get into the terminal. You can be subject to intense searches if something about you seems suspicious. Yet, a mother cannot find out if her son will be safe if he is sent to school. It makes no sense to me.
At the heart of this is not anger or frustration. It is not bitterness or revenge. It is fear. Fear for my son. I wish I lived in "Leave It To Beaver" land where all is well with the world, but today there are bigger worries than Eddie Haskell talking smack to the Beave. We live in a land that is post-Columbine. Post-9/11. You cannot tell a mother that she has to trust that her child will be safe when there is no evidence of that and no one can reassure her.
When they first placed my son in my arms, I never thought I would be fighting to protect his life. Never imagined the fear that would keep me awake at night imagining every horror that could possibly happen to him. But you can be darn sure that I will move heaven and Earth to ensure that my baby will not be hurt.
It's deep and primal. It's a mother's instinct.
Jenn is a 36-year-old writer and mom who works from the Texas home she shares with her husband and three children.