Here beside the news of holy war and holy need, ours is just a little sorrow…
-Ordinary World, Duran Duran
I try not to watch the news. Maybe I am a bit of an ostrich, but it truly is a survival mechanism. If I start putting too much thought into this scary world of ours, I fear that I will find myself in a state of never wanting to leave the house.
During our Holiday breakfast at work last week, I became engaged in a conversation about how different it is for our kids today, with less freedom and more worrying on the part of parents. Gone are the days of going out to play for the day with a pack of neighborhood kids and coming home only when the moms all called out from the stoops that it was dinner time. It’s a different world, we seemed to be saying.
Except it really isn’t. It’s just now, thanks to the media and the wealth of information at our fingertips, we are just so hyper aware of the potential dangers out there that we’ve ended up in a state of erring on the side of caution and keeping our kids where we can keep a close eye on them. Or two.
I also pointed out that we parents now have the added worry that someone may come along and arrest us for popping into the bank while our kids sit in the car alone for a few minutes. An older co-worker told a funny story about how she lived in a small town and how she had taken her son, age five, with her to run errands. He had been asleep when she reached the dry cleaner so she left him sleeping in the back seat while she popped in to the store and then went home only to find he wasn’t in the back seat. She frantically went back to town and when she arrived she found her son on the main street, quite happy, explaining that he woke up and she was gone so he thought he’d just go over to the toy store and look around.
Obviously, she had been beside herself, but all’s well that ends well, right? Yes, there are dangers out there for our kids. But there is also a danger in not allowing them a certain amount of independence and freedom. Otherwise, how will they grow?
And then there are dangers that we cannot prepare for; horrible tragedies perpetuated by evil people that we can neither prepare our children, nor ourselves for: a gunman opening fire on a movie theater, a gang fight breaking out and bullets killing kids playing nearby in a park, a terrorist group infiltrating a school and carrying out a mass killing.
Yet, these are things that happen, along with other less publicized, but equally devasting dangers to our children. Scary, awful, leave-your-light-on happenings in our world.
I don’t let my kids watch the news, which isn’t difficult because as I mentioned I try to steer clear of it myself. However, some issues are too omnipresent to ignore. While on the topic of following rules and consequences for not doing so, I found myself explaining the tragic deaths of Michael Brown and Eric Garner. We talked about how hard it must be to be a police officer. We talked about how easy it may be to make a mistake. And we talked about how while it is OK to question authority politely, and at the right time, that it is of the utmost importance to follow the rules, follow the law, and if you feel that you are being treated unfairly by someone in charge to keep your mouth shut, stay alive, and get a lawyer.
Yes, race may have played a part in these cases and maybe it didn’t. Maybe there was an abuse of authority and maybe there wasn’t. I wasn’t there. I can’t know. I do know that even though my sons aren’t black, I still felt it was important to let them know that when faced with a situation in which an officer of the law is telling them to do something, whether or not they are doing anything wrong, to comply. If their rights are violated, we’ll figure that part out after. As a mother, I can’t even fathom hearing that my hoodie-loving son, who is fairly argumentative and isn’t great at following directions, was shot and killed because a police officer thought he was threatening. I do believe it could happen regardless of his fair skin.
As a mother, I also cannot fathom hearing that a terrorist group targeted the school that my children were attending and opened fire on scores of innocent people. Just as my heart stopped and I wept for the children of Sandy Hook elementary school last year, just as I had a hard time sending them to school for days and weeks after that, I am having a hard time wrapping my head around the devastating news that the Taliban took out more than a hundred children in a targeted attack on a school.
Yes, I am extremely fortunate to be raising my sons in the United States. However, just as I don’t feel that being white is going to necessarily save my sons if they find themselves in an altercation with the law, I don’t feel that the privileges we enjoy from living in this country are going to save us from a senseless attack of evil. If 9/11 taught us anything, it should be that we are not invulnerable.
Unfortunately, other than thanking God for another day and hugging my children extra tight, I feel that I am helpless to take action against the horrible tragedies and injustices that befall children (and adults) throughout the world on a daily basis. It is overwhelming to think of all the people who struggle to survive in conditions of extreme poverty, violence, and oppression.
So, I try to model compassion. I try to explain how fortunate we are without making the world seem like the scary place that it is. I try to remind myself that I am doing the best that I can each day to raise my sons to be kind and brave, respectful and respectable, and that we should be grateful for the abundance in our lives because all it can all be taken from us in one act of senseless violence.
Tonight I pray for those parents who had their worlds shattered. I pray for all those who are suffering in this world and wish for peace and plenty for them all. And I pray for perspective as I get wrapped up in Christmas preparations and money woes and bemoaning the over-excited behavior of nine year-old boys as they wait for Santa this year.
We already have everything.