National Tragedies Make Me Question My Parenting
When 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.