Tuesday, March 29, 2011

Remain calm, it's just a drill

In case you haven't heard, practice sirens this morning around 11am, don't panic! 

This morning's activity: we are learning about emergency drills children around the world learn, earthquake drills in Japan and California, tornado sirens and storm cellars in the central US, tsunami warnings around the Pacific and my mother's childhood memories of nights sleeping in the shelter in World War II London.

From time to time throughout the year we play the siren game. I do my best wooOOOooo impression of a siren, and then time how fast it takes my 5 year-old to reach the secure room from different parts of the apartment while the toddler runs around after us giggling and excited at the noisy, busy game. 

The kids have a great time, it's a useful way to burn off energy when it's too hot or rainy to play outdoors and while I don't want them to obsess about potential dangers, I think it's better to know what to do just in case, to be familiar with these emergency scenarios as part of a fun game.

My oldest is a kid who really gets engrossed whatever she is doing, the kind of kid who can be so deep in a book that a live marching band could march through the living room accompanied by dancing elephants and a herd of gnu and she wouldn't even notice. There are two exceptions though: she's learnt that if she feels the flat shaking or she hears a warning siren she should rush to the secure room or dash under our sturdy dining table. 

I guess my mother's stories are my main influence here. She was around my daughter's age when the Germans attacked London with "doodlebugs" towards the end of WWII and her parents, not wanting to frighten her, turned the experience into a game - nights sleeping in the shelter were midnight sleepovers, tea-parties and other such adventures. They made their custom built shelter feel more like a playhouse with extra blankets and fun pictures cut from magazines. 

God Willing we'll never have to go through what my mother and her family did, but the idea of how to convey something so awful but so necessary made a big impression on me. I used to ask my mother for those stories over and over again,  and what stuck with me were not the memories of fear or disruption, but the fond coziness her parents created in the shelter, the fun of the games they played and the stories told and how to such young children it was more than anything some kind of role-playing adventure than a night terror.

I don't want to scare my kids, but we do live in a region where unpredictability is the only thing you can rely on, so it seems irresponsible to me to completely shelter them from what is happening a mere hour or so drive from our home. 

Air raid drill as mini-Olympic sport. It seems to work.

Hope we only ever need to do this as a game.

No comments: