Raising Kids in 2018
Childhood is at once magical and terrible. It is full of things that terrify and amaze, the world an endless place filled with happiness and hurt. I’ve been lucky, looking back there is more good, so much more, than bad. I’m privileged. That’s not to say I haven’t been hurt, that’s not to say I haven’t had me too moments because I have. I am marked in ways that are invisible.
But I look back at my childhood - playing in the summer until after dark, catching geckos, riding bikes miles from home, sleepovers and fights with friends, so many small and large things - and no where in any of that was there a school shooting. School, while maybe not always a haven or safe in the way my parents had hoped for, was never a scary place. My parents didn’t drop me off and worry that another child might have brought a gun.
Today I kiss my son and tell him to have a good day and a part of me worries that someone out there might hurt him. That worry is always there; I worry about his peers and adults, I worry that he’ll be emotionally as well as physically taken advantage of. But it wasn’t until Florida that a shooting become a solid worry.
I was pregnant when Sandy Hook happened. It was distant and far away. I didn't have kids in school and an experience like a school shooting seemed to be a never me kind of thing. But Florida made me realize that there’s no such thing as never me - it’s always us, always you, we are incapable of defending ourselves against that kind of tragedy.
Those children are my children.
So what do I tell my daughter when she asks why the American Flag is at half mast? We were walking into the grocery store the other day, I'm holding her and her little cheek is pressed to mine, and she pointed at the flag. She's only three but knows it's unusual. I glanced down at my five year old, walking beside me, listening. I told her that something sad had happened because I wasn't sure what to say. My son loves going to school and seeing his teachers and classmates. How do I tell my five year old that someone could come into his school and kill the children? He’s afraid of blood. He cries when his sister busts her lip. He worries that he’ll die when he scrapes his knee.
And that’s the problem. I can’t not tell him. I have to tell him something, even if it’s a small version, a version he can understand, because I need him to know that sometime in the future he might have to protect himself.
He’s living in a world of sexual predators and bullies, school shootings and addiction, and teenagers that eat laundry detergent. Tide is too expensive for that dumb shit. I should not have to get an automated call from my son’s pre-school warning me of the Tide Pod challenge in a world where kids bring guns to school.
So, how do I protect him against all of that? How do I shield him and teach him that there’s enough good to balance out the bad when I’m so scared? Because, I look around and see it. And I know it’ll be that much harder for my daughter.
I’m not the only parent doing this right now. I know I’m not the only mom looking at her babies and wondering, hoping, praying. I don’t want to raise a child that becomes that. I don’t want to raise a child that becomes a victim.
I write to understand the world around me but I don’t understand this.