Parenting Blog

The Safety of Math (But How I’m Scared I’ve Made My Final School Lunches This Morning)

Last year, a friend asked me about traveling to Europe. She had never been and desperately wanted to go, but was understandably frightened after bombings and shoot-ups in train stations and concert halls respectively.

I turned to math, as I’m wont to do, and made the sensible case that the odds are forever in her favor, that should something heinous occur while in London, Paris, or Amsterdam, chances are high that she wouldn’t be in or anywhere near the epicenter.

Millions of people, thousands of square miles. There’s safety in the math.

Math has long been a friendly companion of mine as I rationalize fears of plane crashes, terminal illnesses and, more recently, terrorist actions. The numbers of life and of death have provided comfort and the privileged confidence to keep going without much worry.

This morning, a mild, wet Thursday cloaked suspiciously in a dense grey overcoat, as I smeared low-sodium peanut butter onto two slices of white bread, cleaned the knife off on the third, and applied a layer of apricot jam for the teen and strawberry jelly, an organic variety without any ‘chunks’, for the tween, I found the numbers failing me.

Millions of students, tens of thousands of schools, hundreds of thousands of guns, an unknowable number of potential gunmen. There’s no longer safety in the math for me. I cannot find comfort in the numbers any more.

My friend was scared of traveling to Europe but she’s booked her tickets and come spring, will experience London, Paris and Amsterdam for the first time. I’m impossibly happy for her and said so recently, adding how proud I am that she overcame the fears and relied, in part, on the safety of math to see her through.

After Sandy Hook, after all the shootings since, and finally, after yesterday’s Valentine’s Day massacre at a Florida high school, I’m not so sure I believe in what I’ve been selling, to my friend and to myself.

I’m scared to death that those two PB&J sandwiches I made in the dark of morning today might be the final school lunches I make for one or both of my daughters.

safety of math school shootings

My fear is not misplaced nor is it exclusive to me.

The fear of having your child shot and killed while in their classroom learning algebraic equations or around a cafeteria lunch table chatting with friends has become a commonplace 21st century fear for American parents of school age children. Every other day, literally and figuratively, a gunman enters the sanctity of a school somewhere in this country and ends lives. Full stop.

I eschewed the reusable hard plastic sandwich containers for tin foil again this morning because my hands are cracked and dry and bleeding, and I didn’t want to have even a couple of extra dishes to wash later on this afternoon when I pick up my girls from school.

That last phrase is written with a shaky hand. That’s the fear that math is no longer washing away.

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