My son attended Virgilina Elementary School. It was a small school in comparison to others in the county. His father and grandfather were also students there.
Jim Gmitter was the principal at the time. It was 1986. Jim knew every child by name and their parents.
The fall of that year I put my baby on the big yellow bus with many other children and sent him out into the great unknown. I was a wreck that day pacing the floor and waiting until 3 p.m. to meet the bus at the end of the driveway, upon it’s return at the end of the day. I was full of questions to ask him.
I didn’t know these people that I was releasing him to. I was fairly new to the area and didn’t know anyone.
Brenda Fariss was the kindergarten teacher that year and I quickly grew to love her and Tommy did too. We met new friends and I suddenly realized that Virgilina Elementary was an extension to the family; unlike the schools I’d attended as a youngster in a large metropolitan area.
In the tiny town of Virgilina everyone knew everyone and their parents - sometimes even their grandparents.
I was asked to volunteer that year, so for three days a week I assisted by helping new readers hone their budding skills. It was fun and I loved those kids.
Back in those days the only security we had was a principal standing at the door every morning greeting the students as they entered the building. On warm days the door was left wide open for parents and visitors to come and go as they pleased.
There was never a thought of a lone gunman opening fire on our babies. Our children were safe in their little classrooms with their teachers. All was well with the world.
Somewhere along the way something has changed. Guns are no more readily available as they were back then. Children still played with pretend guns. I’ve bought a few Nerf guns myself. And we all loved a good cap gun.
Parents kept guns in their homes and the children knew not to touch them. They were locked away and kept safely hidden.
Last weeks tragedy in Texas seems to be happening more frequently now a days. In fact, there has been a rise in gun violence over the last 30 years. What has made our youth so angry and sinister? Why was an 18-year-old boy able to go out and purchase an automatic weapon? Where were his parents?
Certainly, these are hard questions to answer. Meanwhile, our politicians are arguing over trivial subjects.
My first guess, and only a guess, would be social media. Our kids are left alone with their computers to babysit them. Too much is at their fingertips to distract them from right and wrong.
I’m no expert, just a worried grandmother.
But I do know everything in our children’s life starts at home. Set a good example. They’re watching your every move. Set goals and keep them involved in activities they enjoy. Take vacations and be a family. Spend time in conversation with them. Keep the doors open for them to come and communicate with you. And know who they’re with.
These are hard times to be a parent and it really does take a village to raise a child. I’m thankful for the village I had while raising mine. I called it the “Mother Network.” It drove my son bonkers but I hope he appreciates it now.
He’s got two following in his footsteps. My precious grandchildren, the lights of my life. I’ve done my job now but it’s a good feeling to still be a part of the village in their lives.
As the song goes, Teach Your Children Well.