As many of the faithful know, I have three beautiful daughters. Sometimes, when I look at them, I am jealous of the ease of their lives. My own childhood was defiled by problems: parents who did not think it unhealthy to fight in front of the children, alcoholism, and at times, boredom. I was not protected from the harsh realities of life nor was anyone ever trying to make sure I enjoyed it.
However, I parent differently. It does not hurt that my husband and I are best friends. It is rare that we argue, but when we do, we always make sure that if it feels like it is going to escalate, we remove ourselves from the children. Secondly, it is difficult to be bored in this day and age. Technological advancements make it virtually impossible to feel like the only thing there is to do is watch paint dry, and thirdly, I like activity, so we are always on the go.
Yes, I think I have created a pretty good childhood experience for the girls. They are free from the extraneous worries of the adult world. They are free to live life and enjoy it for its intrinsic value, and that is why, days like yesterday are so difficult.
I drove home from work yesterday in silence. I do not know why. Usually after I call the girls to tell them I am on my way home, I like to get lost and process the day with the sounds of the radio. Yet yesterday, for whatever reason, I drove home in silence.
Thus, when I walked in, I found it odd to find all three girls in the livingroom. As of late, the three have not been getting along as well as they used to get along. At thirteen, ten, and eight, they all have variant interests and wants. While Carson wants to come home and bury herself in her room so she can Facetime her friends, the other two still want to be rambunctious and play. It is not uncommon for me to walk through the door with one of my daughters complaining about someone else.
Yesterday, though, it was different. I walked in and the house was virtually silent. I did not hear the squeal of laughter coming through the wall from Carson’s room. I did not hear the playful sounds of Maggie and Lizzie fighting over the remote or whose turn it was on Club Penguin. The only sound in the house was the hum coming from the television in the livingroom.
Turning the corner, they were all sitting together, gripped by whatever program was on the television.
“What are you guys doing?” I asked naively, unaware of the events of the last hour.
“Did you see this?” Carson asked with alarm in her voice. I turned the corner to view the television. Within seconds I read the headline and saw the initial images of the blast. “Boston Marathon Bombing.”
“Jesus,” I squeaked out as I took a seat on the couch with them.
The four of us sat together on one couch, and for a few minutes no one spoke. I was trying to figure out what was being reported. My daughters looked on in different levels of understanding. Lizzie was more confused than anything; Maggie looked scared; Carson, well her eyes made me the most nervous. She understood what had happened, and she is at the age where she can process the implications and feel concern for the safety of herself and others as a whole.
What do I tell my children? How do I explain the unexplained terroristic attack of any individuals– knowing full well that no matter who the culprit, foreign or domestic, that this was an act of terrorism? How do I explain the situation in such a way that they do not feel afraid to live their every day lives? Running a marathon is not out of the ordinary, just as going to work or riding in the subway, but we all know that the World Trade Center came down on what seemed to start off as an unadventful Tuesday, and the London Subway was attacked on a pretty typical Wednesday.
These are the situations where I fear that I do not know how to parent well. I do not want my children to be terrified to live, but yet, I need for them to be cognizant and sometimes suspicious of the world. All the same, I do not want their nighttimes to be plagued by nightmares, nor do I want their daytimes to be crippled with fear.
“Who would do this?” my middle daughter asked. I looked into her eyes, and I knew I needed to be the parent. I needed to put her mind at ease.
“I don’t know, Honey. Someone who does not have regard for others’ lives,” I said. I grabbed the remote and turned off the television for a moment. I wanted their full attention. “Girls, events like what just happened are scary. Innocent people are hurt, and right now, we do not know why. Right now, the only thing we can do is pray: pray for the victims, pray for the families, pray for some answers.”
I looked into each of their eyes. They are so young and innocent and good. “It’s okay for you to feel badly for the victims. It’s okay to feel upset.”
They all nodded in agreement. I decided to save the conversation about living each day to the fullest for a later time. They wanted for us to sit together as a family and just be. We turned CNN back on. We watched the images and heard the frightening details of the second bomb, and another probable explosive. We each processed it differently.
As a mother, I have a heavy heart. Every single victim is someone’s son or daughter, someone’s brother or sister, possibly, even someone’s father or mother. Why do innocent people have to endure the pain and hostility of others? Why is this unwarranted suffering thrust into these radiant lives?
What do I tell my children to help any of it make sense?