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Today Zoe’s school had a lockdown drill.

They warned parents this would be happening, in a note sent home last week. So I told Zoe there would be a drill, kind of like a fire drill but different. She doesn’t know about what happened in Newtown. She doesn’t need to know. I told her the drill was in case there was an emergency. “Like a hurricane or a tornado?” she asked. “Right,” I said. She doesn’t need to know about shooters or terrorists or bombs.

For her, it’s scary enough to be ushered into the coatroom in your classroom, see your teacher shut and lock the door, and turn off the lights. Being told to sit very quietly and very still in a small pitch black room is pretty scary for a kindergartener, even if you have no idea why you might be having such a drill.

I asked her if she held hands with one of her friends while they sat quietly in the dark coatroom. She said no, because none of her friends were nearby. I asked if the teachers said anything. She said the teacher’s aide said “Shhh…” a few times, and that her teacher whispered periodically that they were doing a good job and there were only a few minutes left.

She said she almost cried, but she didn’t cry, and neither did any of her classmates.

On the way to pick her up from school I was listening to radio coverage of the explosions and casualties at the Boston Marathon. Wondering what kind of a world we live in where marathon runners and spectators are maimed and killed by bombs and where our schools have to practice in case a heavily armed and deeply disturbed person comes along, which no longer seems as unlikely as it used to.

So on the way home from school I asked Zoe if she wanted to learn something to help her be less scared if they had to do another lockdown drill. Of course I also thought or, if, God forbid, you’re actually ever locked down. But I didn’t say that part.

I taught her a modified version of the lovingkindness meditation I learned from Sharon Salzberg in a class Randy and I took years ago at the National Cathedral.

I told her that first she could try to calm herself down by repeating

May I be happy

May I be healthy

May I be safe

May I have peace

as many times as she wanted, in her head, taking deep breaths between phrases. Then I told her she could think of someone she loved, and picture that person, and say to herself

May you be happy

May you be healthy

May you be safe

May you have peace

as many times as she wanted, still taking deep breaths.

Then I suggested she could think of a person she knows but maybe not that well, and do the same for him or her. Then she could expand it to her class, or her school, or any group of people. And finally, she could think of wishing those things for the whole world.

May everyone be happy

May everyone be healthy

May everyone be safe

May everyone have peace

She liked this idea.

She told Randy about it at dinnertime.

We practiced it at bedtime. She sent lovingkindness to her brother still hanging out in my belly. To one of her friends at school. To her teacher. To me.

She seemed so relaxed and peaceful. I felt relaxed and peaceful, despite the horrifying events of today. Despite the stressful day we had yesterday in which many things went very badly and resulted in me feeling incredibly frustrated and disappointed in Zoe. Despite the past few weeks in which there has been a steadily escalating cloud of anxiety enveloping our house. Each of us in our own way has been freaking out to varying degrees on any given day about the imminent arrival of our baby boy.

How can you help but be a little on edge when you know your entire life is about to change irrevocably? Even if it’s changing in a way you’ve longed for for years. A good friend shared her insight that it made sense that we would be mourning the loss of our little three-person family even as we are thrilled for the person who will make it four. For six years we’ve been us and now we have this remarkable little girl who is so spectacular and loving and becoming so independent. And we’re starting over? It seems crazy.

So it’s been tense at times.

Thank goodness for lovingkindness meditation. While we were practicing tonight Zoe observed, “this is kind of like praying,” and I responded that yes, it’s kind of like that. To me it amounts to the same thing.

Amid a sea of uncertainty, I am grateful that I could give her this gift. And that in the process I can remind myself of the power of lovingkindness as well. I can always use the practice.

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