National Tragedies Make Me Question My Parenting

boston marathon bombingsWhen I was young with nothing to lose, I moved through life with reckless abandon. I didn’t watch the news. I didn’t pour over television coverage. I was blissfully unaware that I could walk out my door one morning and never come back. Then I met my husband, and suddenly my future was tethered to another person’s existence. I was nervous when he drove in bad weather. I made him go to the doctor when he was sick. I wanted him to call me when his flight landed. With love comes fear.

On the day the world heard Adam Lanza’s name for the first time, my husband and I were one day past due with our first baby. I sat on my couch, unable to turn off the television, and rubbed my huge belly, selfishly thanking god that my daughter wouldn’t draw her first breath on a day that would always remind us of the horror that occurred at Sandy Hook Elementary.

Days ago, a similar feeling of dread returned when my college roommate messaged me that “something was happening at the marathon.” Along with the rest of the country, I watched the story unfold on the Internet as I sent frantic texts and emails to family members and friends that were running, cheering, working, or going about their business in Boston.

It was reminiscent of 9/11, but on 9/11 I wasn’t a parent.

Today, I have trouble moving on from events like the shooting in Newtown, the rape of a 16-year-old girl in Steubenville, Ohio, and the pointless and tragic loss of life at the Boston Marathon bombings. Every face of every child that is lost or violated is my daughter’s, and I wrack my brain for answers to the questions she will inevitably have when she is old enough to notice the world around her.

Why would they do that? Why would anyone want to do that?

Tonight, I will sit in my four month old baby’s dark room and rock her to sleep while she takes deep peaceful breaths in my arms. And before I put her in her crib, warm and rosy-cheeked, I will fight the urge to walk her across the hall and into my bed, pull up the covers and hold her all night – because every night could be my last.

I’m afraid…and with fear comes hate.

I hate the people that punish others for their perceived plot in life. I hate the bullies, or parents, or abusers whose behavior turned that person into a monster. I hate the media and social media for providing 24/7 access to the horrors of our society. I hate myself for not being able to turn it off, and for not having the optimism, or courage, or common sense or I-don’t-know-what to push away thoughts like “I have it too good in this life… I am too happy….I am too lucky…I am too in love….something is going to happen.”

And then I look at my baby, and I realize I need to do better.

I don’t want my daughter to ignore her instincts when a situation seems unsafe, but I also don’t want her to feel threatened when a non-white person sits next to her on a plane. I want her to be vigilant and recognize that some people have dark intentions, without viewing every man as a potential rapist. I want her to be able to watch the ball drop in Times Square or climb to the top of the Eiffel Tower without asking herself “How would I get out of here if something happened?”

This balance, in a world where we are constantly reminded how fragile life is, seems unattainable. But I know that there is no hope for my daughter to strike that balance if I don’t first strike it myself.

(photo: Vorobyeva / Shutterstock)

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  • Eve Vawter

    I love this so much, and you made me cry. <3

  • Alex Lee

    “..wouldn’t draw her first breath on a day that would always remind us of the horror” I know that feel. My son was born 8 days after 9/11. I can only imagine the difficulty to have cake, presents, and really celebrate each birthday when the entire nation is in such a somber mood.

    In regards to terrorists, my kids, along with the rest of the planet, are asking “why” – my answer often boils down to “because they were stupid but you are not.” (don’t worry, my wife is better at filling in the details). And that’s where I place my efforts: educating my kids.

    Because I see proof in the 24/7 non-stop media that being smart *works*. Teams of smart people landed a rover on the planet Mars, discovered the Higgs particle, PARACHUTED safely from outer space, and gave us the Vidalia ChopWizard.

    Right now, alleged bomber #2 is in Beth Israel Hospital scribbling out answers to questions. I’m betting there’s not going to be much depth to those responses. In fact, I think I’m better off not-knowing the answers: I really don’t need to be inside that guy’s head anymore. I don’t need him to make sense of my world for me.

    Don’t lose hope. After 11 years of first-steps, first words, and report cards, I haven’t.

    • Zeus

      My 6 year old in Kindergarten doesnt need to be told anything about the Boston Marathon. .or Newtown…hes way too young ng. .to have this fear thrown at him!!

  • Sean Phillips

    the best thing to do is just not watch those 24/7 networks. they’re fearmongers and they are feeding on these perfectly understandable – and universal – feelings. read your news instead.
    and remember, these things wouldn’t BE news unless it was uncommon.

  • AP

    ” I want her to be able to watch the ball drop in Times Square or climb
    to the top of the Eiffel Tower without asking herself “How would I get
    out of here if something happened?”

    You should want her to have that in the back of her head, though. There are lots of run-of-the-mill emergencies where you should know the proper evacuation procedures. You want her to be one of those people who grows up to hit the deck at gunfire, not hit the record button on her iPhone camera. Preparing for emergencies is how we prevent them.

    • PSG

      Yes – mindful caution instead of paranoia.
      When we get on a plane, we look to see where the exits are for a very good reason.

      We can teach our kids to be aware of their surroundings, and self-sufficient, without making them afraid to leave the house.

  • LiteBrite

    I went to bed last Monday wondering just what in the hell I was thinking bringing a child into a world where disturbed teenagers gun down elementary school kids and deranged adults plant bombs at marathons and the only answer I have to it is “Sometimes really bad shit happens to good people.”

    But you know, often the wake of evil and just all out effed out craziness is where we see the shining good, like the people of Boston who brought out blankets for marathon runners who were still clad in light running clothes. Or the people who traveled to Newtown – including biker groups and Internet hackers – to block the batshit crazy WBC from picketing the funerals of innocent people. We saw it in the wake of 9/11. We saw it in Newtown and Aurora and Portland. We saw it in Steubenville. And recently we saw it in Boston. And in all seriousness, I think that good far outweighs the crazy and outright evil, and that’s what I really want my child to see.

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