Wednesday, April 17, 2013

Parenting After the Blasts

I saw a post on Facebook yesterday looking for parents in Boston to talk about their children's experience with the recent attacks, and how we're dealing with them. So I responded, and got a call from a reporter. We chatted for a while, and as usually happens, I didn't think about what I was saying until the words come out of my mouth. And as I said them, the words made me sad.

HeyMama is a very perceptive kid. She picks up on offhand comments. And asks about them later. She can hear me opening a bag of peanut M&Ms on the other side of the house. And asks for one immediately. After the shootings in Newtown, despite our attempts at a media blackout, she came downstairs early while I was still in bed and heard about the attack on the clock radio. So I knew there was no way to avoid the attacks that happened in our town, just blocks from our church. I had to address it on my own terms.

BestestHusband alerted me to the tragedy. The girls and I had been napping when it happened. His news woke me immediately. I knew people running the race. I knew people who were going to watch. I've never been so thankful for Facebook as I was on Monday, as I was able to check in on people, mentally adding people to my "safe" list. 

When the girls were awake and playing, I told HeyMama the news. I reminded her of the race we were watching on TV that morning, the one with the super fast guy in the wheelchair. I told her that a bad thing happened, that someone used bombs to hurt a lot of people. I told her 2 people (which was true at that time) had died. I told her about the first responders, the police, the doctors and nurses who rushed in to help. I told her about the police and soldiers who were being called in to find the person who did the bad thing, so they couldn't do it again. I tried to draw attention to "the helpers", like Mr. Rogers talks about. Boston was full of them on Monday.

She talked about it a lot at dinner time. Our neighbor, Mr. Jason, is a Boston cop. She talked about how he was helping "catch the bad guy". It was an exciting concept to her. Bad guys are in books and movies. Mr. Jason was chasing a REAL bad guy! BestestHusband told her that the whole event was a sad and somber one. Real people got really hurt. We were very sad for them. It wasn't something she should be too excited about. 

Despite our attempts to keep the media coverage away from her, HeyMama is attracted to it like a... like me to chocolate. It's irresistible, and she can't get enough. And she manages to find it. Shame on the Wall Street Journal for their blood-spattered image on the front page of the paper. Since when was she so interested in the newspaper?! She found it hidden UNDER other sections! Even the tiny images on Facebook were enough to catch her eye. Sigh.

As I discussed with the reporter, this is just the beginning. She asked how HeyMama's perception of the event colored my own. I said that I wish it was as simple as HeyMama thought it would be. At her age, it's appropriate to know that people sometimes do bad things, and the helpers come help and then the bad guy can't do bad things anymore. The event is an isolated one, and when it's over, it's over.

But in our post - 9/11 world, that's not really true. It's another in a long string of senseless attacks designed to maim, kill, and instill fear. This week's was in my own city. Who knows where the next one will be. But as adults, we all know there will be others. There will be more violence, more sorrow, more grieving family and friends. More memorial services. More candlelight vigils. This was the realization that made me so sad when I said it. 

And each time another happens, we will have to help our children understand it. Their age and development will change between each one. They will understand more of it, but also understand less of it. And we'll struggle with helping them understand, because it doesn't really make logical sense to us, either. But we have to shepherd our children into a world where violence shows regularly on the news. And we have to deal with the fact that we can't keep them safe all the time, and we can't promise them that someone else will keep them completely safe, either. How is this concept supposed to make sense to our children? How are they supposed to feel safe? It's so hard for us to stomach, and we're 30ish years older than they are. 

It's times like this that I'm thankful for our faith. Our faith teaches us that sin is in the world, and as a result, there is evil, pain, death and destruction. It's inevitable while we live on this earth. Our only hope is in a Savior who will ultimately win over sin and death. We won't experience this while we live here on Earth. But in the meantime, we know we can find comfort and peace in our faith. Our faith won't keep bad things from happening to us. But we know that a steadfast faith in Jesus and his eternal salvation will allow us comfort when they do. Is there hope for true peace on earth in our lifetime? I don't really think so. But as sad as this is, it's not as devastating as it could be.

So this is how we parent after the blasts. In the midst of the turmoil and fear, we can teach our children to turn with us to our God. "On Christ the solid rock I stand, all other else is sinking sand." I just hoped they'd be a little older before these scary lessons needed to be taught.

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