Yesterday, my daughter’s high school investigated a shooting threat. It was the second one to happen over the last week in the district. That stuff chills a mama to her bones. It’s the stuff that makes you want to yank your kids from the classroom and set up shop as a makeshift teacher at the kitchen table. Homeschooling looks better and better every day. 

Sigh. 

I talk myself out of that. Because she loves school. She thrives there. And from the time she picked up her first instrument in band class, my daughter has adored making music. In the comfort of the music wing at school, with the scuffed up instrument cases and sheet music and marching band uniforms, she feels at home. It would break my heart to take her from the place that feeds the parts of her made for creating melodies. 

A mama’s heart is fueled by the small wins of each day. There’s no way to do it all and be all, so we take what we can get and celebrate even the tiniest of victories. The laundry that makes it from the washer to the dryer and into a basket. The baths that are taken, the homework that is finished, the teeth that are brushed. The groceries that make it home, even if they never get cooked. I search for these little things and nestle them into my heart as reassurance that we’re going to make it to the other side of raising kids after all. 

For me, every morning presents an opportunity for one of these small celebrations. My daughter and all her musical talent wake me up bright and early each day so she can attend rehearsal before the school day begins. I throw a coat over my pajamas and slide my feet into my husband’s slippers, shuffling toward the garage. Most of the time it’s still dark, the daylight not yet peeking over the horizon. In the still silence, the moon and sun mingle to create a gentle haze in the sky. I drive her the short block from our home to the school and whisper “Have a good day honey. Love you.’ 

Most of the time, I am met with her cranky, teen-soaked humanity. Despite her sincere desire to be there at the earliest of hours to play music, she is still tired and not quite ready to greet the day. My girl isn’t really a morning person. Sometimes I get a muffled return of affirmation. Sometimes it’s more a grunt. And sometimes, the worst mornings, she leaves in a huff, with a door slam for good measure. Still, no matter her behavior, I always take the same measured steps before heading home. I ease my Nissan Sentra forward just a tad, enough that I can look up at my rearview mirror and see her figure walking toward the front doors.

And I watch.

No matter how long it takes her to get from my car to the front doors, I wait and watch.

I want to make sure she makes it all the way inside. I can’t leave to chance who or what may be lurking outside that large building, however welcoming it may appear. In the day, it’s filled with wonderful teachers and dedicated administration and students with a genuine desire to learn. I believe with everything in me that they are seeking safety at every turn and my daughter has loved attending.

Still, I watch.

The adult parts of me that float to the surface often refuse to give way to fear, but I also know that there is wisdom and value in prudence. So I wait and I watch. 

And it’s ironic. Because these days, it can seem like that big building is a death trap, if the current news is any indication. I can’t help but notice the dichotomy every time I watch her make her way to the doors. I’m placing my trust in the thing that so many parents—too many parents—have to come to see as reckless, menacing, perilous. But I do it anyway. When the doors envelop her and she disappears from view, I breathe a sigh of relief and thank God that she made it inside safely. I tell that same God that all my trust and all my hope is in Him to watch over that girl I love so much. 

I don’t think she knows. Most mornings, my daughter is in a hurry to make her rehearsal and never looks back. But she’s counting on me to be vigilant and steady, to look for the things she might miss.  I’m just one of the millions of parents who send our children off to school every day, hoping against hope that schools really are one of the safest places for them to be day after day. We swallow hard the lumps that form in our throats, and will away the nausea that fills the pits of our stomachs, knowing we cannot begin to imagine the heartbreak that all of our parenting counterparts who lost a beloved son or daughter have had to bear.

So, I watch and I wait. My daughter, I’ll wait for you to get inside the door. 

Mande Saitta

Mande Saitta works in ministry in Omaha, NE. She's married to a good man and the mama to two beautiful daughters. She is a terrible cook, an even worse baker and a lover of sunsets. You can find her musings at handiworkofgrace.com.