Little Eyes and Ears

It’s April 16th, the day after Patriot’s Day, and I’ve been in a funk since yesterday when I learned of the horrific news of the “Boston Marathon bombings” as it will be forever known.

Six days ago, as my wife and I entered into our 4 night, 5 day trip away from home and after hastily assembling an awesome team of adults to care-take our 3 kids, our biggest threat was North Korea, so we thought. We even discussed it, over sips of wine while enjoying the ocean view, seated at our favorite bar in Provincetown, that if something did happen and missiles were fired, we would want to be home with our kids. Having  arrived home at 2:45 yesterday with no international incident, it did not take long for the news of the bombings to have our full attention and deepest sadness.

As I’ve watched the reports, seen video footage, still shots, first-hand accounts, blog posts, news stories, and have seen the outpouring of emotions on Facebook, twitter, and through my friends, I can’t stop thinking about the children. And I don’t just mean mine. I mean all of the children who keep hearing, seeing, and knowing about the increasing violence and evil in the world that seems to be getting closer every year, every month, and sometimes every day.

I know my own kids and how I deal with news and violence and how it affects them, but I still worry about the cumulative  effect that each tragedy brings.

My 11-year-old twins are in a play this week and were at rehearsal from before the time the news broke until 9pm last night. We didn’t talk about it, nor did I have the news on, yet even after putting them to bed, my daughter came into my room and as I muted the TV, she asked about some bombing that her friend had told her about on Instagram. OK, well, technically she was supposed to be going to sleep, but I did explain to her that “yes, there were some bombs that went off at the Boston Marathon and people were hurt. Three were dead and many were seriously injured. No, I didn’t know who did it. OK, goodnight!”

When I was a kid, I lived for my bike and the world that opened up when I was flying through the wind! No helmet was required, only occasional hand signals were used, and the few close calls crossing the street just made me a faster biker! I grew up to be a safe and savvy road biker not only because I loved it, but because it was required. At the same time, the worst thing I could imagine was losing my parents. I would lie awake at night worrying and tearing up over the possibilities and wondering how I would go on. My dad had Multiple Sclerosis and I was not immune to the progression of the disease, and seeing it firsthand and knowing the relentlessness of the form of the disease that he had, made me even more stressed. I don’t recall my parents talking about it in terms of his future,  but I sensed that it was a bleak one for my dad and it just kept getting worse. Before long, he was bedridden, totally dependent on others to serve him and even to speak for him if he couldn’t articulate well or fast enough. It was not a life that I would have ever wanted or would wish on anyone.

And here I am now, with three  not yet fully formed kids whose biggest challenge in life to this point has been nothing harder than to grow up in a 2-mom family, bring their dishes to the sink after each meal, and put their stuff away when asked. Sure, growing up is tough, but without any serious impediments or complications, their lives have been pretty easy!

One of my personal goals for raising  my kids to be strong  and persevering adults is to not totally shelter them from the wrongs in the world, the bad people and bad things that can happen, and the consequences of ones actions that can cause irreparable harm. They may be sick of my cautions, but they can be guaranteed to hear an endless loop when they go out biking:

“Always wear your helmet!”

“Don’t just blindly follow someone across the street on your bike-look both ways every time!”

“Don’t stop for anyone, including a car who stops to ask you directions, about his lost dog, offers you a ride-nothing!”

“Stay with your buddy!”

“Don’t just do something stupid because _________ tells you to! Think!”

And the list goes on…

As parents, my wife and I try to instill common sense, reasoning, know-how, but we can’t prepare for everything. Luckily, I’ve lived through 2 big girls reaching adulthood and I know it’s possible, but I can’t help but to worry  about the unknown dangers that still lurk in the shadows.

It’s the unknown person, people, or group that wants to cause pain unto random people. How to explain that to young minds without tainting their perception that any stranger, any person that they don’t know may want to hurt them. How long can kids even have any innocence?

I don’t want to be afraid to take my kids to a concert, or sporting event, or festival. I don’t want them to miss out on what brings our family together and strengthens our bonds to friends and community because of fear of congregating and getting killed. And, I don’t want them to worry that every time one of us leaves the house that we might not come back, or that next time something happens, it may hit closer to home and hurt someone we know and love. I don’t want to have to even talk about all of this with them, yet I do have to, and I will.

They are the future, growing up tougher and stronger than we may have had to be, but that is what’s needed to promote resilience instead of succumbing to the terror. They’re smart kids, and I trust that they will heed the cautions and stay as safe as they can, and,  as kids, they ultimately want to play, and laugh, and sing, and no one can take that spirit away from them!


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