I was a terrible parent yesterday. Not in the usual sense where I sometimes feed my kids Froot Loops for dinner or let them play video games before school or stay up during the summer until way past bedtime, their skin shriveled and their hair reeking of chlorine. Yesterday was a serious day of parental fuckery and I’m not proud of it. I don’t think I damaged my kids in any way, but I broke almost all of the rules the parenting experts say to follow when explaining the Boston Marathon tragedy to kids, how parents are supposed to act when something really awful and devastating happens in the world.
I had CNN on almost all day. When my kids came home, my teenager before his siblings, I was sitting on the sofa watching TV and crying. That is pretty much all I did yesterday from 3:30 until I fell asleep. I barely checked homework. I ate dinner with my children on the couch in front of the awful images flashing on my screen. I explained to them why I was so upset, but I didn’t remind them to “look for the helpers” and I didn’t turn off the TV and I couldn’t stop crying.
I’m lucky that my kids are past toddler stage and at the ages where they have developed a sense of empathy and they could understand why I was so upset. I should have done what most good parents did, which was turn off the TV and talk to their kids more and distract them with board games or books. I just sat there hugging my daughter until my arms were sore and my eyes were red and thought about all these people, people who came from all over the world to run, because that is where they find their joy, in running, people who saved money and trained and planned for this and who ran for themselves and who ran in honor of others who they have lost. People who ran the marathon with their loved ones and friends and an 8-year-old boy who waited at the finish line for his daddy to finish the race and who died. And we don’t know why.
And the numbers are worse today, the nine children, a 2-year-old with a head injury, a 9-year-old with a severely damaged leg. Something like 141 injured. These people who were all going to spend the day cheering on these joyful runners, these strangers, these family members, these people who had no idea that by the end of the day tragedy would forever mark what was supposed to be an occasion of joy. And we don’t know why.
My kids are getting to the ages where they can all fully understand that sometimes horrific and senseless things happen in the world, and that we can grieve during these times, and we can feel lost and sad and angry and helpless, and that our blessings are in these walls, in each other, and in those we love and care for, people we know and strangers alike on this great big earth. I can keep the TV off tonight when they are home, and I can get my shit together enough where I’m not crying. But like so many of you, I will have a hole in my heart for all those who won’t be with those they love, who will never be able to run again.
I have nothing for you guys. I should try and find something happy to write about, and I will, but until then, I’m here, for what it’s worth, and even though we can’t make sense of this and we have no idea why it happened, if you are also finding it hard to keep it together, whether by yourself or in front of your kids, know that you are not alone.