We don't watch the news.
We're not uninformed; no, quite the opposite. My husband is voracious newspaper reader and will seek out alternative sources (i.e. UK newspapers) to get alternate opinions on events. I listen to NPR every morning before the kids get up. Our kids, on the other hand, are blissfully uniformed and we intended to keep it that way.
With the current state of 24 hour cable news the stories coming through our TV screens are more frequently, live, unedited and graphic. Reports and opinions are flying out of mouths before people process it or have answers and cameras are rolling before something horrible even happens. I sometimes wonder what the MPAA would rate some newscasts if they were to be shown as a movie?
When 9/11 happened, I worked in an office building 3 blocks from the Sears tower. I happened to be off that day, going through the final fittings for my wedding. I sat in front of the TV and watched as the second plane hit, watched as the towers crumbled. Just typing those words makes my heart start to race and I get shaky. The fear and anxiety of those days creep back up; even now, 12 years later my heart races if I see a low flying plane. The fear and images cannot be erased.
For children, I think it's even harder. They have no concept of how large the world is. Boston, Newtown, Iraq? They could as easily be Pleasant Prairie, Des Plaines, and Lincoln Park. The other side of town and the other side of the world are just as far away from them. It's my job as a parent to teach them about the world, yes, but it's also my job to make them feel safe.
Two summers ago, our house got struck by lightning. One of my two kids was upstairs with me under where the house was hit and all the lights blew out. It was pretty loud and startled even me. Two years later and that one event has left a lasting impression. Both kids are still scared of storms and worry that our house will be hit again. My daughter frequently draws houses with lightning hitting them. To me, as an adult, it was a pretty benign incident. We lost a bunch of electronics, and the fire department had to come out, but there was no fire, and no one was hurt. To a young child, this was a life-altering event.
Fear and anxiety can be debilitating. I can see that at least one of my children leans towards anxiety and worry. Filling them with the fearful images of events that are out of their control and out of their realm of understanding. They're still little (5 and 7), they still look to us for guidance and to understand their world, and honestly I don't have the answers to give them to make them feel safe. I myself don't know why someone would want to hurt innocent bystanders, runners, children. All I can do is pray, and answer their questions as they come up.
There is a quote from Gandhi that is making the rounds on Facebook:
You must not lose faith in humanity. Humanity is an ocean; if a few drops of the ocean are dirty, the ocean does not become dirty.
I choose to show my children the vast beauty of the ocean, in hopes that they will not become hardened and fearful but that they may help spread and create more love and beauty.
Melissa is mom to 4 kids and 2 angels. She chronicles the sticky bits of motherhood at Peanut Butter in my Hair.
See more of Melissa's stories here.