Yesterday I spent a few hours at my son's middle school in Brooklyn, NY. He's in the sixth grade and was selected to participate in their version of the Junior Olympics. Twenty seven kids (out of almost 500) competed in sporting events in front of their entire grade. They were separated into two teams, the red team and the white team. After almost two hours of high energy, lots of activity and some fancy footwork, the red team prevailed by a small margin. I was later told that this was the first time the red team has won the competition in all the years they've been doing the Jr. Olympics at their school, needless to say Wyatt was very excited about that! It was a great day. The kids were excited, there was a DJ spinning all kinds of great tunes and the teachers and staff were dancing around with lots of energy. The parents of the kids competing were invited to watch the festivities, and I was elated to see so many parents show up on a Monday afternoon to support their kids. It reminded me of the pep rallies we used to have in high school on Friday afternoons before the football games. Lots of chanting and singing and cheering. My heart was full.
Fast forward a few hours and the reality of world events slaps us in the face. I joke with my friends that I never hear from my husband during the day - we are not people who check in just to say hi. Maybe one day we will be but not these days - especially these days. His job is all consuming and when you work for one of the major news outlets, a lot of the time you're privy to information prior to the masses. When the information is something he feels like I need to know about (because let's face it, as much as I would love to have the TV on in the background while I'm working, I don't), that's when I get an email or a text. It could be a link to a story or a tweet or just a few words.
Yesterday was one of those days. "Do not turn on the TV."
I've gotten that text before, and then my heart sinks. That means it's too horrible. That means if the kids are home, they don't need to see it.
I of course immediately get on social media to see what was trending and that's how I learned about Manchester.
Hours earlier I was celebrating with a room full of Ariana Grande fans. A room full of hundreds of kids singing and cheering. I'm sure if Ms. Grande was performing in NY last night, some of them would have been at her concert. I still, to this day, cannot fathom terrorism. I will never understand murder. The idea that someone can use an airplane or a shoe or a backpack filled with nails as a weapon is not something that will compute in my brain, yet I've now seen all of that. I will never understand how one human being can willfully harm another out of anger.
As parents our natural instinct is to protect our children. What happens when we let them out into the world to experience all of it's goodness - spending time with friends, going to movies or to concerts and then bad things happen? I know all about odds - they're typically in our favor - until possibly they're not. I think I'm doing a good job by having a GPS tracker on our phones so I know where everyone is at all times - gold star for me, right? But is it enough?
Surely the conversations we're having with our kids about safety are resonating with them, right? But are we talking to them about acts of terror? About random violence? We're no longer teaching them to look both ways when they cross the street - we're teaching them to look, observe the people around them, step back from the curb (in case a car goes out of control), and make mental notes of their surroundings. It's exhausting. I will tell you this - we have had those discussions with our middle schooler for a few reasons:
- He lives in and takes mass transportation to school every day in New York City.
- His father works in an environment that fosters in depth conversation about current events around our dinner table.
- He needs to be aware and prepared.
Um, I remember being eleven. I was NOT being schooled on acts of violence, that I can tell you.
This world we live in is getting smaller as we become more advanced. Our children are losing their innocence at much younger ages. While we couch the conversations in hypothesis, we make sure the point gets across and the message is delivered. We would not be doing our parental jobs if we did not address these events with our children who are of appropriate age and maturity level. For as much as it eats away at our psyche, we know we have to educate and prepare our kids to the best of our ability.
For all the bad out there - I will still firmly believe that there is more good. My heart hurts for the parents who are grieving so profoundly today, yet I'm encouraged by the Manchester community. About the stories of the people who have opened their homes to provide refuge for the victims. About the people who ran to help and did not run away. It's for those reasons I will continue to teach my children grace and gratitude. To foster community and compassion. To act with kindness and humility. The world is full of good - that I believe.
photo credit to my friend Andrea Casteel Smith at http://www.scarredbeautiful.com