Laura Yuen
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Be small.

Curl yourself into the tiniest ball. Stay quiet. Stay still.

As your mom, I've taught you to stand tall in just about every other situation in life. To be brave and kind. To look out for others.

Forget all that. Don't be the hero. Your mission is to come home, so that I may scoop you up and hold you and hug and kiss you again.

Run, hide, fight. Or is it hide, run, fight? You are fast, my boy. Run as fast as you can toward safety. But if you need to find cover, look for concrete pillars, brick walls or thick trees that may shield your little body from bullets.

Do you remember what you learned with your active shooter drills that you've practiced since kindergarten? Maybe your teachers haven't explained in precise detail what they've been training you for. You know to go to your "safe place."

But I'm telling you: If you need to, play dead.

It's maddening that I need to ask you, at all of 9 years old, to rely on your wits to stay alive at school.

Whatever you do, never prop open a door to your school with a rock. If you make that mistake, you may become the scapegoat for people who would rather blame you for the carnage of fourth-grade children and teachers, rather than, say, the military-style assault rifles and 1,600 rounds of ammunition that a profoundly disturbed person bought for his 18th birthday. Even if it's later revealed that you shut the door, your actions still might become the narrative.

Anything but guns.

In all honesty, I've never told you these things because you are too young to know about the full horrors that could unfold in your classroom. The truth is that many of us feel powerless.

To be a parent in America today is to assure you that your school is safe, that you have nothing to worry about, that today will be a normal day — and pray that fate or a higher power will allow us to make good on our promises.

Grown-ups who are my age in this country have been living with mass shootings in schools for decades, and for young people, it's always been their reality. I was a 10-year-old in the suburbs of Chicago when a woman opened fire in another school; she killed one boy and wounded four other kids. I was a college senior during Columbine. I was pregnant with you during Sandy Hook.

When I first heard about Sandy Hook, I was out shopping for your crib with my friend, your Auntie Janice. The newscaster's words piped through my car radio, and I turned up the volume. But Janice was already a mom of three little girls, and she told me to turn it off. It was unbearable to hear.

How naive I was to think that the slaughter of schoolkids would spur our country to strengthen our gun laws, to care more about children than our AR-15-style weapons. Before the 20 schoolkids and teachers were slain in Uvalde, Texas, men with these types of guns killed 17 people in Stoneman Douglas and 27 at Sandy Hook. (Not to mention the 10 people in Buffalo; 60 in Las Vegas; 26 in Sutherland Springs, Texas; 49 in Orlando. The list goes on.)

It's not getting better. It's getting worse.

Around the world, when mass shootings took place, other countries like Britain and Australia strengthened their gun safety laws, leading to fewer mass shootings. Gun-related deaths are now the No. 1 killer of children and teens in the United States. That sad fact is not fueled by these rampages alone, but from suicides, accidents, and the day-to-day violence in our communities.

These deaths are a policy choice, but we must not become cynical. People are writing their elected officials. They are demanding changes. Maybe they won't come with this Congress, but we'll keep pressing.

After the massacre in Uvalde, a mom whose daughter, Jessi, was killed in a 2012 mass shooting, recently said, "I have to believe we're going to be victorious, that this cannot be the way and the road that our country takes."

By the time you're old enough to become a parent, may you never need to have this talk with your kids.

If schools aren't safer for them, it will be our nation's deepest shame.